Employment Law Solicitors
Employment Law may seem like a minefield to employers as they endeavour to adopt and implement fair processes and avoid the pitfalls potentially giving rise to employment claims.
Whilst the challenges inherent in employing workers are similar across the board, each employer will have particular concerns whether this is related to their industry sector, their reputation, the confidentiality of information and relationships with business contacts, and their competitive edge.
Each employer is likely to have as its goals the management of a contented, stable and productive workforce and a wish to avoid any dispute, which detracts from this.
How we can help
With the rise of information technology and the value and accessibility of electronic data, employers are increasingly concerned about the need to protect confidential and sensitive information, as well as the poaching of key employees or interference with business connections, and the avoidance of unfair competition.
Preventative steps which can be taken include the preparation of effective restrictions or garden leave provisions in service agreements and contracts of employment, as well as confidentiality agreements to suit the particular circumstances. These contractual provisions, often referred to as restrictive covenants, can apply to conduct during employment (including periods of suspension or garden leave) as well as after employment has ended.
Restrictions can be used to prevent the use or disclosure of confidential information and intellectual property, the solicitation of customers, interference with other business relationships and the poaching of key employees. Contractual restrictions may well be supplemented by common law duties such as the duty of fidelity which binds employees during employment, and fiduciary duties which bind directors and those in whom particular trust has been placed.
We regularly advise on the reactive steps which may be taken in the event of breach of these requirements, whether by individuals or by two or more employees acting together, including obtaining appropriate warranties as to steps taken and undertakings with regard to future conduct, obtaining injunctions, and issuing claims for breach of contract and/or for an account of profits.
Employees are generally more aware of their employment rights now than in the past and, often buoyed by the substantial awards reported in the press, are increasingly willing to bring claims, whether speculatively or due to a genuine complaint.
It is important that employers are alive to events which may lead to potential liability. We regularly advise employers on the full range of potential risks, including contractual entitlements and obligations, disclosures made by employees and workers, whether or not under whistleblowing legislation – and their subsequent treatment, short and long term sickness absence (including in respect of workers who may be disabled or who may qualify for permanent health insurance benefits), rest and holiday entitlement and pay, discrimination (the most common grounds being gender, maternity issues, race, age and disability), alleged bullying and harassment, maternity, adoption and parental leave and leave to care for dependants, requests to work flexibly, requests to work beyond the default retirement age, data protection and the receipt of subject access requests, and the monitoring and surveillance of email and internet usage.
We can guide employers through any of these areas, advise on procedure, help to quell escalating disputes, and help to avoid successful claims being made.
The implementation of fair and appropriate internal procedures is central to the facilitation of smooth working relationships and the management of any disputes or issues which arise. The most common claim arising from failure to apply fair procedures is for unfair dismissal, the maximum award for which is currently £93,878 or 52 weeks’ pay, whichever is the lower. As a result, preparation is time well spent. Other claims, such as those for whistleblowing and discrimination, are uncapped, and can be substantial.
We can advise on fair procedures to be used whenever employment issues arise. These may include performance or conduct improvement plans, and we can help organise and manage this process.
We have particular expertise in advising on ill health issues, whether with regard to recurrent short-term absences or long term absence, and whether or not a worker is “disabled” and protected by anti discrimination legislation, or has permanent health insurance cover. If an employment relationship simply is not working, or in the event of redundancy, we advise on appropriate disciplinary/dismissal procedures. We provide guidance on implementation of the Acas Code and the obligations on employers to follow a fair procedure according to the circumstances of each case, to help avoid successful claims. We deal with dismissals of directors and employees at all levels and help conclude settlement agreements and severance packages with very substantial values or at more modest levels.