Employment law services for businesses

Employment law services for businesses

 

Employment law services for businessesWe aim to support businesses through all stages of the employment relationship. We focus on creating and maintaining a sound legal framework for employers, applying a pragmatic approach.

The success of a business depends on people. Businesses with edge and drive are those with talented employees in the right role, feeling motivated and performing at their peak.

Our work covers the life-cycle of employment; from recruitment, contracts, retention, absence, performance, rewards, change, redundancy to TUPE, tribunals, disputes, disciplinary action, dismissal and discrimination. We understand the intricate workplace issues faced by organisations in sectors such as retail, franchising and recruitment areas of niche expertise at NA Law Solicitors.

We manage employment risks and HR positively, allowing you to concentrate on running your business and being successful. We have your commercial position in mind.

Constructive dismissal claims

We can protect your business against constructive dismissal claims, which may be brought by employees who have resigned.

Constructive dismissal arises where an employer has committed a breach of contract in such a way as to destroy or seriously impair the relationship of trust and confidence with the employee.  Examples of breaches of contract by an employer entitling an employee to claim constructive dismissal include:

  • Allegations of poor performance which are groundless
  • A reduction in pay, or not being paid at all
  • Being demoted without good justification
  • Disciplinary proceedings which are patently unreasonable
  • Harassment or bullying
  • A change in the nature of the job
  • Stress at work which has not been appropriately addressed
  • Failing to make reasonable adjustments where an employee has a disability
  • Being required to work in breach of health and safety laws

Our employment team can help your business to manage risk and will set out the legal and commercial ramifications of any possible actions.

Contracts, policies and procedures

Contract

As an employer, you are obliged to provide your employees with written details of their employment confirming details such as start date, place of work and salary.

There is no such thing as a standard employment contract, as every employer is different and will have its own needs and requirements. Being clear about both parties’ rights and obligations at the outset can prevent disputes later on and, if issues arise, having the power to manage them effectively will reduce uncertainty for the parties involved.

Policies and Procedures

A comprehensive staff handbook that sets out staff practices and policies is an integral document in which an employer can set down policies, procedures and rules in detail. Such policies would include anti-bullying and harassment, anti-bribery, whistle-blowing and equal opportunities.

Our experience enables us to provide input and advice that will ensure your documentation is up-to-date and suitable for your sector and workforce.

The advantage of having policies and contractual arrangements in writing is that it provides certainty, clarity and consistency and this can make a significant difference when dealing with any potential claims.

Our employment team will take time to fully understand your business needs and to consider how best to safeguard them when drafting an employment contract and staff handbook.

Discrimination and equal pay claims

Discrimination and equal pay can be a thorny area of law, as job seekers, employees and contractors have extensive legal protection.

Discrimination and equal pay claims can result in damaging publicity for an employer, and are compounded by potentially unlimited compensation being available to successful claimants.

We aim to provide clients with the right tools to ensure they do not fall foul of the law in the first place, including:

  • Getting the right contractual terms and policies in place
  • Regular training of HR, key personnel, and the wider workforce

If an employer does not properly tackle discrimination issues the risks can be serious, potentially leading to claims, lengthy litigation, compensation and harm to corporate brands.

Employers who demonstrate that they truly embrace diversity, foster respect for individuals and do their best to promote equality through a logical approach, are best placed to attract the top talent, vital during both challenging economic times as well as more buoyant periods.  Having effective policies in place ensures you are better placed to successfully defend any claims.

Should your business find itself facing a discrimination or equal pay claim, we have highly experienced professionals to help build your defence, to negotiate settlements where necessary, and steer you through the tribunal process.

When we work with you, you can feel confident in the knowledge that our specialists will proactively get to know your business and provide bespoke solutions to prevent, resolve or defend any discrimination issue that your business may face.

Employment agencies and businesses

The recruitment sector has evolved at a fast pace over recent years, and is still a fast-changing legal landscape.

Our employment team manages the full breadth of contentious and non-contentious employment law for our employment agency clients; from ad hoc queries and day-to-day HR advice to re-organisations and redundancies, dispute resolution, and business mergers and acquisitions (including the Transfer of Undertakings (Protection of Employment) Regulations 2006 (‘TUPE’).

We can act for recruitment agencies of all types and sizes, from small independent agencies to large and specialist firms.

Family friendly legislation

The laws surrounding family leave, maternity, adoption and paternity rights can be complex and as such it can be easy for employers and employees to make a mistake.

Having a child is an exciting time but it can also raise a wide range of workforce issues, including:

  • Ensuring your employees are safe at work during pregnancy
  • Allowing employees to arrange time off for appointments
  • Leave
  • Pay and benefits
  • An employee’s role and working hours when they return after a period of leave

Employees are afforded various “family-friendly” rights and entitlements, but the rules as to how these apply in practice can be tricky. We can steer you through the procedures and requirements relating to maternity, paternity, adoption and shared parental leave, plus flexible working requests.

We are also experienced in defending employers faced with pregnancy and maternity discrimination claims, whether due to alleged detrimental treatment when a pregnancy is announced or in respect of the challenges of balancing childcare arrangements with an employee’s career upon their return from maternity leave.

Whether your business would benefit from advice on employees’ rights as parents or requires guidance in honing policies and procedures to encourage equality, please do not hesitate to contact us for assistance.

Disciplinary and grievances

Disciplinary and grievance procedures are a key part of the legal framework that governs the employer and employee relationship. The correct procedures ensure that everybody is treated fairly and assist employers in complying with the Employment Rights Act 1996 and the ACAS Code of Practice on disciplinary and grievance matters.

A disciplinary or grievance procedure can result in a multitude of outcomes, spanning from no action being taken, through to termination of employment. If the conclusion of a disciplinary or grievance procedure involves termination of employment, an employee may seek to challenge the dismissal in the employment tribunal. The tribunal will examine the disciplinary or grievance process and has the discretion to increase or decrease any amount of compensation by 25%, depending on whether the ACAS Code of Practice has been complied with.

A pre-emptive approach helps to manage the risk of a complaint escalating to the stage where grievance or disciplinary action is taken. We will use our experience to help to achieve the most desirable outcome for you and your business.

Holiday entitlement and holiday pay

Many of our clients ask for detailed, practical advice on holiday entitlement and pay to support them in making compliant and commercially sensible decisions.  It can be a complex and uncertain area of law.

As an employer, you should continue to review how you calculate holiday pay, and if you have any queries we can provide your business with specialist legal advice.

Recruitment and selection

Employment rights can protect not only current employees, but also potential employees in certain situations. Recruitment policy is a key area for employers to get right, as not only is it vital to employ the best person for the job, it is vital for employers to take steps to help ensure that the recruitment process does not leave them open to claims of discrimination.

As a business, you should be aware that unlawful discrimination may occur where (because of a protected characteristic) the organisation discriminates against an applicant either in the arrangements it makes for deciding on the successful applicant, in respect of the terms on which it offers the role, or by not offering a particular applicant employment.

We can advise employers on avoiding the pitfalls which can arise during the recruitment process.

If you require assistance or any additional information on legal recruitment issues please do not hesitate to get in touch.

Redundancy and reorganisations

Restructuring and re-organisation projects within a business can be challenging, with potential hazards around every corner.  However, whether you are contemplating a large or small-scale redundancy process, amending your employees’ terms of employment or any other form of re-organisation, we have the expertise to assist you in carefully planning the project according to your commercial needs, guiding you through that process and avoiding the various pitfalls along the way.

The change process needs careful consideration in advance. If advice is sought early on, the process can be dealt with in line with your timescales.

There are many risks for employers and so the need to be conscious of the statutory framework alongside evolving case law on redundancy and reorganisations cannot be understated.

We offer practical, clear advice throughout the process. We are also happy to advise beyond a project’s conclusion, helping to make sure that any unanticipated complications are resolved as quickly and commercially as possible.

We are best placed to advise you when you are considering commencing a consultation process. We will advise on how to achieve commercial goals while adhering to the law, to manage the risk of claims and protect your legal position.

Restrictive covenants

Confidential information and knowledge of the business such as the identity of clients, client data, suppliers, workforce know-how and material concerning business strategy may be developed by employees during their time in an organisation.

Employers commonly anticipate that employees may seek to use this information after their employment has ended, either in setting up their own venture or to bring this information and knowledge to the table for a new employer, who may be a competitor.

To safeguard their businesses from such threats, many employers incorporate post-termination restrictive covenants into employment contracts. The standard post-termination restriction clauses which an employer may include to protect its key business interests are those relating to confidentiality, non-solicitation, non-dealing, non-competing and non-poaching.

Whether these restrictions are enforceable, or not, generally depends on a balance between the right of employers to protect their business and the right of employees to use their talent in business post-termination.

In determining whether such a clause is binding, a court would review the following:

  • Is the clause reasonably limited in time?
  • Is the restriction reasonably limited in geography?
  • Does the clause go further than is necessary to protect a legitimate business interest, i.e. client relationships, trade secrets or protecting the workforce?

If you are concerned about the restrictions currently included within your employment contracts, our employment team can review the terms to advise as to likely enforceability. Our team can also assist in drafting new, bespoke restrictive covenants for your business needs, if your company is not currently best protected.

Settlement agreements and severance packages

Settlement agreements are entered into in a variety of situations, most often where an employee has agreed with the employer that the employment is to terminate and the employer has offered a severance package. They can also arise as a result of a dispute between an employee and employer, causing the employee to leave the business due to dismissal or by resigning. Settlement agreements can be particularly beneficial where an employee is on long-term sick leave or has performance concerns, and the parties wish to avoid a protracted dismissal process.

The settlement package will usually cover compensation for loss of employment, pension arrangements, references and benefits arising from the employment.

A settlement agreement ensures that the employee agrees to waive any legal claims (subject to a few which cannot lawfully be conceded) against the employer in return for a termination payment.

Our team is highly experienced at advising on exit strategies and settlements including:

  • The best tactics when looking to make a settlement offer to an employee
  • “Without prejudice” meeting scripts; together with tailored or template correspondence
  • Assistance with the negotiation of severance packages
  • Drafting settlement agreements bespoke to the particular circumstances

The employment team has the necessary expertise so that you can be sure the exit process is handled with discretion and in a way that protects your business as far as is possible.

Transfer of undertakings (TUPE)

The Transfer of Undertakings (Protection of Employment) Regulations 2006 (“TUPE”) is designed to protect employees during periods of change, including:

  • Transfers of ownership (i.e. when you sell or buy a business)
  • Bringing services back in-house
  • Outsourcing
  • Re-tendering of contracts

As an employer, there are many risks around a TUPE transfer, including that a TUPE-related dismissal can be held to be automatically unfair. The TUPE regulations are very complex and it is important you understand the detailed considerations that need to take place when there are outgoing and/or incoming employees.

We will guide you through your obligations as an employer, with clear advice that ensures as smooth a transfer as possible, with the minimum risk of a dispute arising. We can also assist you if you are already involved in a TUPE issue, with effective advice on the best way to move forward.

Our specialist employment team has the experience and knowledge your business needs to steer you through the vagaries of TUPE.

Tribunal representation

Even the most diligent of employers can find themselves on the wrong end of a legal claim.

Employment tribunals can be stressful, protracted affairs and costly for any employer, but our employment team will support you from start to finish. Our remit typically will include:

  • Assessing the strengths and weaknesses of your case
  • Drafting the defence in accordance with the strict time limits
  • Taking written statements, assembling relevant information and carefully preparing your case
  • Tribunal representation

At the end of the case, we will assist you to make sure that your business takes any necessary pre-emptive steps to learn and safeguard for the future.

We understand that cost and time are vital considerations for your business. We will keep you fully up-to-date on the likely cost and benefit of defending a claim, bearing in mind the impact on your business.

Unfair dismissal claims

When an employer dismisses an employee without good reason and/or without following the appropriate process, the employee can potentially raise a legal claim for unfair dismissal.

As a general rule (with some exceptions), an employee must have a minimum of two years’ continuous service to bring a claim for unfair dismissal. We can ensure that your decision-making process concerning dismissals is in line with the permitted reasons. We will check that your policies and procedures are up- to-date, to make sure the process you follow is a fair process.

Given that the law on unfair dismissal is complex, it would be beneficial for your business to take professional advice before any dismissal takes place. If you have an employee you are considering dismissing, our employment team can steer you through the process and minimise risk to your business.

Wages, pay and benefits

Our employment lawyers are well versed in the statutory frameworks relating to:

  • Equal pay
  • Sick pay
  • Holiday pay
  • Maternity and paternity pay and benefits
  • Auto-enrolment pension
  • Deductions from pay
  • Garden leave payments and benefits
  • National minimum wage

Whistleblowing (protected disclosures)

Whistleblowing can broadly be defined as the act of speaking out where a worker believes that an act of wrongdoing has happened, is happening, or will happen. Workers who voice their concerns are protected by law to ensure that they are not subjected to a detriment because of this “whistleblowing”. Although only certain disclosures attract protection, these are not always obvious, so particular care needs to be taken.

A worker who has been unfairly treated may be able to bring a legal claim whilst a dismissal made in response to whistleblowing will automatically be an unfair dismissal.

A worker does not require any qualifying period of employment to bring a claim (unlike unfair dismissal) and the compensation that can be awarded is not subject to any upper cap (again, unlike unfair dismissal).

Our dedicated employment team regularly deal with high-value cases in this area of the law and can provide practical and effective advice to employers on the likely challenges to look out for in defending a whistleblowing claim.

Contact us to get in touch with an expert employment solicitor at NA Law.

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