A few cases recently have led me to consider the real cost of free Employment Law advice. At LincsLaw, we speak to all our clients and discuss whether their matter is something we can help with. We make no charge for this initial advice as we don’t want anyone to spend their money unless we believe we can help. However, we are always clear that free advice over the telephone is never a substitute for a proper assessment of a client’s situation. Further, without that proper assessment potential claims and compensation can be missed.
A recent matter has really emphasised the above for me. My client had been dismissed by his employer after working for them for 18 months. He began ACAS Early Conciliation and was offered a few hundred pounds to settle his claim. ACAS told him that this was a good deal. They stated that as he did not have two years’ employment, he would not be able to bring a claim at the Employment Tribunal in any event.
He telephoned to ask me what I thought of the offer. His friend had been a client of mine and had badgered him to contact me before agreeing anything through ACAS. During our discussion, I became concerned that all was not as it seemed and we agreed to meet for a Fixed Fee Consultation. During our meeting I took a full history of the situation, reviewed all the paperwork from his employer and assessed his claims. What became clear was that the reason my client had been dismissed was connected to a number of issues he had raised about health and safety at his workplace.
I explained that his circumstances would not require him to work for his employer for two years in order to submit an Employment Tribunal claim. I also commented that I believed his claim had real prospects of success and that he should not accept the offer his employers had made through ACAS Early Conciliation.
I issued an Employment Tribunal claim on behalf of my client. Swiftly after the claim, my client’s employers began to make significantly increased offers. In the event, my client accepted a financial package equivalent to a year’s salary.
He explained that he had started the ACAS Early Conciliation process because it was free. He had been worried about instructing a solicitor because he thought it would be expensive. He fully appreciated how much it would have cost him had he accepted the offer ACAS recommended and that the free advice he received could have been very expensive.
If you are thinking of an Employment Tribunal claim or perhaps your employer has made an offer to you through the ACAS Early Conciliation process, call 01522 539501 to discuss your situation. For more information about LincsLaw solicitors including what we do and how we do it, please visit our website at www.lincslaw.co.uk
Specialist Employment Law Solicitor
LincsLaw Solicitors, Lincoln
One of the first issues many of my clients are concerned about when considering whether to start Employment Tribunal proceedings, is how much it will cost them. I agree this is a very important issue and so I give clear guidance on funding options during initial client consultations.
One of the most common ways of funding an Employment Tribunal claim is by using something termed “legal expenses insurance”. If you have got legal expenses insurance this could mean that all of your legal costs from the point of issuing a claim will be covered. This type of cover is therefore a real asset and can save clients thousands of pounds.
Legal expenses insurance can usually be found as a benefit attached to home insurance. Some of my clients have had no idea that they have this cover in place because their insurer makes no charge for it. Other insurers may only charge a nominal sum for the benefit of between £10 to £30 a year. For this reason, the cover can easily be overlooked.
I always advise clients to check their home insurance to see if legal expenses cover is available. It is also important to check any other insurance policies held, such as car, contents, credit card, bank accounts etc… to see if the cover is included. Don’t be deterred if you can’t immediately find the words legal expenses insurance, it could be that the cover has been termed “family legal protection” or words to that effect. If in doubt, just call your insurance provider to get a clear and definitive answer.
If you have got the benefit of legal expenses insurance, or family legal protection then there are certain steps that need to be taken to access the cover on the policy. I am always happy to help clients through this process and I appreciate it can be a little daunting dealing with the paperwork.
Generally speaking, most insurers will require a summary of the key facts of the case, an assessment on prospects of the case succeeding, a valuation of the potential compensation, an estimated timeframe for the case to reach a conclusion, and the likely costs associated with pursuing the case. As I have said above, I am always happy to help clients provide this information to their insurers.
If on receipt of the above information the legal expenses insurer is happy that the claim has reasonable prospects of succeeding and it is proportionate to pursue, then they are likely to agree to cover all reasonable legal costs and disbursements. Cover tends to be available from the point that proceedings can be issued and so this would be after any internal procedures (such as grievance or discipline) and after any ACAS early conciliation.
At LincsLaw Solicitors, I am regularly instructed to represent my clients under the terms of their legal expenses insurance. This means that my clients get the benefit of a local specialist employment law solicitor, who they can see on a face to face basis as and when necessary, but without any personal cost to them.
If you think you have been treated unfairly at work, I want to help. For further information about the services I offer visit www.lincslaw.co.uk or call me for a free telephone consultation on 01522 539501.
I recently assisted a client with a Settlement Agreement. She had been in dispute with her employer over her employer’s failure to make reasonable adjustments for her disability. Matters had come to a head and her employer offered her three months’ salary to give up her employment and sign a Settlement Agreement waiving her right to bring any claim against them.
She booked in with me to, in her words, “check through” the agreement. When we met, I went through the background of her situation and explained the purpose of the Settlement Agreement. Particularly, that if she were to sign, her employment would end and she would not be able to bring any claims at the Employment Tribunal against her employer.
I then went through the claims I believed she had and how much I thought they were worth. She had repeatedly asked for assistance and gone through a whole grievance procedure to try and get modest changes to her hours of work and inexpensive equipment to assist her. Instead of helping her, her requests for reasonable adjustments as a disabled person had been refused by her employer and she was being threatened with a formal performance management process.
I was very concerned that for a few months’ pay she was considering ending her employment and losing her job security. Also, as part of the Settlement Agreement she would be giving away all her Employment Tribunal claims and giving her employers the security of knowing she could not take action against them. During our appointment she was very distressed, she hadn’t understood the strength of her position and had believed the company’s HR Adviser when they said she was getting a good deal.
She did not want to return to work and instructed me to renegotiate her Settlement Agreement. Several letters and emails later, we had a new Settlement Agreement package equivalent to a full year’s gross pay. Her employer also reimbursed her legal fees so not only did she get a substantially increased compensation payment, my work didn’t cost her anything.
If you have been given a Settlement Agreement, make sure you are being properly compensated for the rights and claims you are agreeing to give away. Please call Lincs Law Solicitors on 01522 539501 to discuss your situation. As specialist employment law solicitors, we can advise you where you stand and help you make an informed decision about your offer. For more information about who we are and what we do at Lincs Law, please visit our website at www.lincslaw.co.uk
Specialist Employment Law Solicitor
Lincs Law Solicitors, Lincoln
Employment Tribunal Fees Refund Scheme
The Employment Tribunal Refund Scheme is now OPEN TO EVERYBODY to apply for a refund if they paid Employment Tribunal or Employment Appeal Tribunal fees since they were introduced in 2013.
Just as a quick reminder, from July 2013 until July 2017, fees ranged from £360 to £1200. The imposition of these fees resulted in a significant drop in Employment Tribunal claims being issued (almost 80%). As a result, in July 2017 the Supreme Court ruled that the fees were unlawful and now a process is in place to allow anyone who paid these fees to recover a full refund.
The process for obtaining a refund is not yet being widely publicised. In fact, we only discovered that the scheme was open to everybody because of our subscription to Daniel Barnett’s Employment Law Updates (www.danielbarnett.co.uk).
What do you need to do?
We are writing to all our clients with details of the refund scheme. However, for readers of this post, you can apply for your refund by visiting the following website and following the online instructions.
Need more help?
Sophie Goodwill, Associate Specialist Employment Solicitor
The Ideal Christmas Gift?
Over the last 12 years I have noticed a trend that starts around this time of year and lasts right up until Christmas Eve. The trend is a significant increase in clients coming to see me with Settlement Agreements from their employers.
Receiving a Settlement Agreement just before Christmas is not in most cases the ideal gift. Losing your job at this time can cause financial uncertainty and anxiety. However, with the right legal advice on your side, it is still possible to have a Merry Christmas.
What is a Settlement Agreement?
A Settlement Agreement is a legal contract between an employer and an employee. There are lots of reasons why Settlement Agreements are offered to employees. They could be offered as a means of providing an enhanced redundancy payment, to resolve a grievance or misconduct dispute or even at the request of the employee. Unlike other times of the year, I have seen Settlement Agreements offered just before Christmas, simply because employers want to start the New Year without a particular employee. This clearly gives employees a strong negotiating position.
Whatever the reason for the Agreement, the important thing to remember is that once it is signed off by the employee and their independent legal advisor, the employee will be prohibited from pursuing various claims against the employer.
Important Settlement Agreement Considerations?
Compensation. As I say above, once an employee has signed a Settlement Agreement they will be prohibited from pursuing employment law claims against their employer. For this reason, it is hugely important that an appropriate and fair amount of compensation is being paid. I always assess what potential claims the employee has, what compensation an Employment Tribunal would be likely to award for those claims, and give advice on what a reasonable level of compensation to accept would be.
The waiver of claims. The waiver of claims is the list of claims the employee gives up once the Agreement is concluded and the employee needs to be aware of how wide ranging this is. Usually there are no issues. However, and by way of example, if the employee has an existing personal injury claim they want to pursue, it is important the Agreement takes that into account.
Future restrictions. Employers tend to want to include various restrictions in Settlement Agreements, such as that the employee will not work for a competitor or has not already obtained new work. These restrictions may well be fair but it is always important to check the facts and limitations with clients to ensure they can abide by them.
Specialist Employment Law Solicitor
The Employment Appeal Tribunal have dismissed Uber’s appeal against the Employment Tribunal’s decision that its drivers are workers. In Uber BV and ors v Aslam and ors, the Employment Appeal Tribunal agreed with the Employment Tribunal that Uber’s drivers are workers and as such are entitled to the protection of the National Minimum Wage Act and the Working Time Regulations.
Are You A Worker?
This is yet another significant ruling where the Employment Appeal Tribunal have found that people who were operating as self-employed, were in fact workers. The implications are huge and mean that those who are found to be workers, are entitled to benefits such as the national minimum wage, the right to claim discrimination and perhaps most importantly holiday pay.
Section 230 (3) of the Employment Rights Act provides a definition of a worker.
“In this Act “worker” (except in the phrases “shop worker” and “betting worker”) means an individual who has entered into or works under (or, where the employment has ceased, worked under)—
(a)a contract of employment, or
(b)any other contract, whether express or implied and (if it is express) whether oral or in writing, whereby the individual undertakes to do or perform personally any work or services for another party to the contract whose status is not by virtue of the contract that of a client or customer of any profession or business undertaking carried on by the individual; and any reference to a worker’s contract shall be construed accordingly. (source www.legislation.gov.uk).
What Does All this Mean?
FOR EMPLOYERS - If you operate a business in the belief that your staff are self-employed, now is the time to arrange a review of your working practices to see if this is the reality of the situation. If it is not, and a claim is made against you, this could be very costly.
FOR EMPLOYEES - If you are working for a business as self-employed, but are required to work as and when needed, to give personal service and/or are under a degree of control in terms of leave, uniform or other policies and procedures, now is the time to review your employment status to see if you are in receipt of your legal entitlements (such as statutory holiday or the minimum wage).
For more information call LincsLaw Solicitors on 01522 539501 or visit our website at www.lincslaw.co.uk for more information.