When running a business, the last thing you need is to have to deal with an employment dispute. Our expert team aim to work with you to protect your business and set a solid, legally sound foundation for all employment issues within your business.
How we can help
Employment law is a complex area of law with many pitfalls for businesses that aren’t prepared. Howells can provide a comprehensive employment law service for organisations tailored specifically to their needs.
Whether you are considering disciplinary action against your employee, dealing with an employee’s sickness absence, need to make redundancies, forced to defend an Employment Tribunal claim or any other employment matter, we can help you.
Our experienced Employment Team deals with aspects of employment law for Employers: (click to expand)
Managing a business is not always plain sailing. We understand that as a business grows or changes, you may need advice.
If a business is taken over by another company and retains its identity or when a company decides to outsource certain services or functions to a new company, this is a transfer under the Transfer of Undertakings (Protection of Employment) Regulations 2006 (known as ‘TUPE’). These regulations give protection to employees throughout the transfer process. The basic position is that any people that are working within that business that is transferred or assigned to the function that has been outsourced, should transfer to the new employer on the same terms and conditions i.e. as if nothing had changed.
If you are transferring your business (the transferor) or you are taking over a new business (the transferee) then you are subject to obligations under TUPE. There is an obligation on you to inform and consult all staff that may be impacted by the transfer about what will happen. The transferor is also obliged to provide information to the transferee about their staff, who will transfer and their terms and conditions and working practices.
Employees are protected from being dismissed because of a business transfer under TUPE unless there is an economic, technical or organisational reason justifying a change in the workforce. Furthermore, any employee who transfers to the new business, does so on the same terms and conditions, thus any change to their contract that you wish to impose is likely to be void.
TUPE is an incredibly complex area of employment law with many pitfalls for those who are inexperienced in handling the process. We would recommend that as soon as a business transfer is raised, that you seek advice to ensure that you comply fully with your obligations.
Equality in the workplace is vitally important. The Equality Act 2010 prevents businesses from discriminating against their employees and workers on the grounds of the following protected characteristics:
- Sexual Orientation
- Gender Reassignment
Discrimination includes less favourable treatment because of the characteristic, unwanted conduct causing offence and a failure to make reasonable adjustments for a disabled person, as well as having policies that disproportionately disadvantage one group of people. The employer is often held liable for acts of discrimination carried out by their employees during their employment, unless the employer had taken all reasonable steps to prevent the discrimination occurring.
At Howells, we are specialists in discrimination law and as such are well placed to provide training to you and your staff on all equality and discrimination issues. Discrimination can occur at any stage of the employment relationship, even during recruitment. We can guide you through this process and help you avoid any equality and discrimination pitfalls.
The gender pay gap has been widely reported and is a significant problem in business.
Because of new regulations that came in to force in April 2017, employers with 250 employees or more will need to publish their gender pay gap information every year. This needs to be done on their own website and on a Government website. Private and voluntary sector employers must report this annually.
Employers can register their organisation on the government’s online reporting service www.gov.uk/report-gender-pay-gap-data
The wider definition of who counts as an employee applies so this covers workers and some self-employed people too. You should take advice if there is any doubt on whether the requirements apply to your business.
The 6 calculations that need to be included are:
- average gender pay gap as a mean average
- average gender pay gap as a median average
- average bonus gender pay gap as a mean average
- average bonus gender pay gap as a median average
- proportion of males receiving a bonus payment and proportion of females receiving a bonus payment
- proportion of males and females when divided into four groups ordered from lowest to highest pay
As the gender pay gap information will be publicly available, including to customers, clients, employees and prospective employees, it is important that employers try to address any gender pay gap issues before the data must be published.
Equally, it is possible to provide details about the calculations to explain any gender pay gap so it is a good idea to get legal assistance in preparing the data as we can help to do the calculations and explain the data, where necessary.
Howells are here to help you navigate your reporting requirements.
When an employee or worker remains in employment with your business, you can rely on the contract of employment to control their actions and protect the business. What about when the employee leaves, especially if this is to a competitor?
If an employee leaves and moves on to a competitor there is always going to be a risk to your business – particularly if that employee had access to trade secrets, customer lists or supplier lists. If they were to use this information in a new job this could undermine your business and severely impact your future trading and stability.
It is important to consider this scenario even from the outset of the employment and build protection into your contracts of employment. It is common to include confidentiality clauses that continue to apply after the employment relationship ends in respect of information that employee becomes aware of during their employment and about trade secrets. Also, post termination restrictive covenants are very useful. These clauses can be used to prevent an employee, after their employment ends, for a duration of time (usually no more than 12 months) and in a geographic location (potentially nationwide if you operate nationally), from:
- Poaching staff
- Enticing or soliciting clients away from your business
- Working in competition with your business
We can assist you with preparing contracts of employment with the necessary protection. We can also assist you if you need to enforce confidentiality or restrictive covenant clauses – this can be done by way of a pre-action letter and if not successful a County Court claim to seek either an injunction or damages.
Settlement Agreements are a recognised way of bringing about the end of the employment relationship. This can be a useful way for a business to end their relationship with an employee or worker in an amicable manner, safe in the knowledge that no further legal action can be taken e.g. in a redundancy situation or as an alternative to pursuing performance management or disciplinary proceedings. It can be an effective way of resolving issues with difficult or problematic employees.
A Settlement Agreement is a document agreed between the employer and employee either after an amicable discussion or following a dispute which sets out the terms upon which the employment is to end. Usually there will be a tax-free payment from the employer as an incentive to enter into such an agreement. In return the employee waives their right to bring a claim against the employer for events that occurred during the employment relationship.
The terms of a Settlement Agreement usually include:
- Confidentiality clauses (the parties are not to discuss the terms of the Settlement Agreement)
- Non-derogatory comments (the parties are not to say or write anything which could damage the reputation of the other)
- An agreed reference
Often, it is the case that the employer would make a nominal contribution towards the employee’s legal fees incurred solely in connection with signing the settlement agreement.
It is important that any discussions or communication with a view to a settlement agreement is conducted on a without prejudice basis to avoid this being permissible evidence in any Court or Tribunal process if an agreement is not reached.
If a business is seeking to offer a Settlement Agreement as an alternative to a dismissal, then it is important to hold a Protected Conversation with the employee to commence these discussions.
Howells are happy to guide you and advise you throughout this process and to prepare the necessary documentation for you.
We can also assist with:
- Advising on recruitment and the best staffing structures to suit your business
- Drafting contracts of employment, staff handbooks and employment policies
- Grievances and disciplinary matters
- Redundancy and reorganisation
- Equality including training and equality audits
- Defending claims in the Employment Tribunal
- Employment Appeal Tribunal matters
- HR Support including general day to day enquiries about employment law issues in the workplace
We can review your existing policies/procedures and employees’ contracts of employment. We will suggest ways of improving or updating these documents to ensure that they remain compliant with ever-changing employment laws and provide your business with maximum protection. This annual ‘healthcheck’ is one of our most popular services.
We can offer bespoke training for you and your business on employment law and common issues in the workplace. Whether this is on equality and diversity, or specific management training on matters such as performance management or dealing with sick employees, they are designed to support your business and your managers.
We offer competitive rates for a half day course for up to 10 attendees.
- Introduction to employment law
- Annual employment law update
- Equality, Diversity & Inclusion
- Avoiding discrimination in the workplace
- Recruiting staff
- Protecting your business (restrictive covenants, confidentiality)
- Managing sickness absences
- Performance management
- Conducting a disciplinary
- Handling a redundancy process
- Investigating a grievance
- Change management in the workplace (including business transfers and redundancies)
- Family friendly rights in the workplace
- Flexible and agile working
- Handling an Employment Tribunal claim
- Managing mental health in the workplace
- Data protection issues
- Gender pay gap reporting
- The apprenticeship levy
We can also offer bespoke training sessions on particular issues to suit your needs and requirements such as intensive support to managers and role play sessions relating to disciplinary and Employment Tribunal matters.
We provide comprehensive and understandable expert advice at very competitive rates, so you can be sure to receive a great value service with peace of mind over costs. We will always provide you with clear information about the costs involved in us handling your case.
Our services can be supplied at our competitive hourly charging rate, through our fixed fee packages or through an annual retainer. For further information see here.
Contact us now and we can provide bespoke quotes based on your exact requirements and your business set up.
We appreciate that it’s not always possible or easy to visit a solicitor in person that’s why we are flexible in how we can help you – we offer a variety of alternative means of providing you with the same high quality advice;
Online employment clinic
Try us out using our free ‘online employment law clinic’ every Monday. If you have a question regarding employment law, email it through to [email protected] on any Monday and one of our expert team will respond the same day.
Advice by telephone
We offer a national telephone service – it’s the same high quality advice from the same experienced lawyers, but with the added convenience of not having to make and attend appointments. We simply take your instructions and advise you over the telephone.
Free employment law drop in sessions
We operate a drop-in service every Wednesday at our Sheffield office without the need to book appointments. These are held from 10.00am – 4.00pm.
We also operate a drop-in service every Monday at our Rotherham office without the need to book appointments. These are held from 9.30am – 12.30pm.
The Employment For Businesses team
Our Employment team, is renowned for its no-nonsense, energetic and pragmatic approach. Its success isn’t just down to its extensive knowledge of the law, it’s also the way we pride ourselves on putting our client first, getting to know you and understanding what you want to achieve. To get the best results for you and achieve commercially sensible outcomes it is essential that we understand your business.
The team is highly regarded, with recommendations from many clients. The professional guide, Legal 500, also ranks Howells employment team highly in Sheffield and South Yorkshire;
Legal 500 2018
“The ‘friendly and approachable’ employment team at Howells is known primarily for its representation of employees in tribunal claims. Clare Fowler and Tom Bernard jointly head the team, which is supported by head of civil litigation Graham Hogarth. Fowler has particular experience delivering discrimination advice, while Bernard is recommended for his ‘balanced advice, thorough and clear communication’ in relation to claims. The team has recently handled disability discrimination claims, in addition to unfair dismissal claims under TUPE. The practice also has experience acting for SMEs, including advising one employer on a complex redundancy matter.”