Let Howells expert team of employment lawyers help you sort things out. We know that people sometimes worry about contacting solicitors but you’ll find us approachable and easy to talk to. At the heart of our service is our client. We are committed to understanding each client’s unique needs, listening to what you want and achieving practical and effective solutions.
How we can help
Our friendly team of specialists are skilled and experienced in handling all types of employment law disputes. We also have specific expertise in bringing claims for discrimination under the Equality Act.
We can assist with: (click to expand)
Whistleblowing is an act where an employee or worker exposes an employer for wrongdoings – there are specific requirements that need to be met in order to be offered protection by law, therefore some may be hesitant to ‘blow the whistle’.
Reporting an act can only be whistleblowing if it concerns certain acts. These are as follows;
- It is a criminal offence
- Someone’s health and safety is in danger due to the act
- There is a risk or there has been actual damage to the environment
- A miscarriage of justice has happened
- The employer/company involved is breaking the law
- The employee believes that someone in the company is covering up any of the above wrongdoings
Disclosing one of the above wrongful acts must be done in the public interest. If an employee makes a complaint that is not concerning one of the above acts and is not in the public interest, then it is likely that it will be classed as a personal grievance. The disclosure must be made to the appropriate person or body, usually the employer or a prescribed body.
If these conditions are met then the employee/worker making the disclosure is afforded protection. They are protected from suffering detrimental treatment because of the fact they made the disclosure and protected from dismissal for making the disclosure – regardless of their length of service.
Redundancy is a response to a proportionate business need and a form of dismissal where an employee’s job role no longer, or will soon, cease to exist. A redundancy occurs when:
- A business or workplace is closing
- There is a reduced requirement for employees to do a particular type of work
When a redundancy situation arises, the employer must take all reasonable steps to deal with the redundancy process in a fair and objective manner. The employer must identify the pool for selection i.e. which employees are at risk of redundancy, this is usually all those carrying out the role that is being made redundant. The employer should then identify fair and objective selection criteria and apply these equally to those in the pool. The criteria should not be subjective. The individuals who score the lowest should then be notified of their selection for redundancy and they should have the opportunity to comment upon and challenge the selection process.
Throughout the process the employer should consult with the affected employees with a view to avoiding the need for redundancies.
- If there is an individual redundancy, or the decision effects less than 20 employees, there is not a specific amount of time to commence consultation, but it must occur.
- If the employer is dismissing as redundant over 20 employees, but not exceeding 99, then they must commence consultation at least 30 days before the date of the first dismissal.
- If the employer is dismissing 100 or more employees as redundant, then they must commence the consultation at least 45 days before the first date of dismissal.
If an employee is made redundant then they are entitled to be paid their notice pay (a minimum of 1 week’s pay per full year of service up to 12 weeks’) and a statutory redundancy payment based on your age, length of service and gross weekly pay (In order to be entitled to this, you must have at least two years’ continuous service, weekly pay is capped at £489, and length of service is capped at 20 years). A contract of employment may provide for enhanced redundancy payments.
A redundancy is a potential fair reason for dismissal, however there may be the possibility still of a claim for Unfair Dismissal (subject to continuous service of 2 or more years’) dependant on the procedure followed and the justification for the redundancy.
If you are an employee or even an agency worker, you have the right not to suffer unauthorised deductions from your wages by your employer and can bring a claim in the Employment Tribunal. An employer can only deduct money from your wages if:
- It is to recover an overpayment of wages (whether this was your fault or your employers)
- If it is for a statutory reason e.g. tax, national insurance, child maintenance, in satisfaction of a court order
- If there was prior authorisation for the deduction being made between you and your employer e.g. if your contract allows them to deduct money for training costs or for accidents caused by your own acts
If you are self employed and are owed money by the person that you have done work for, you can bring a breach of contract claim in the County Courts. You need to establish:
- What the contractual agreement was
- That you have complied with the contract
- That the person you work for has breached the contract by not paying you correctly.
If you are bringing a claim in the Tribunal or Court, the burden is on you to prove to the Judge that you are owed money and that this has been withheld from you unlawfully. You might want to provide your contract of employment, wage slips, time sheets or even bank statements as evidence of what the agreement with your employer was and what pay you have and haven’t received
Workers are entitled to at least 5.6 weeks’ paid leave each year. For a worker who works a five day week, this will be 28 days. The figure is capped at 28 days. Public (or bank) holidays can be included in this entitlement as there is no legal right to be paid extra for these days.
Employers can decide when the worker must take leave, for example, when the business is closed for Christmas.
A worker must give notice of at least double the amount of time they wish to take as leave. For example, for one week’s leave, at least two weeks’ notice must be provided. This is the statutory position but an employer can agree to allow leave at short notice, but is not obliged to do so.
During the workers’ 5.6 weeks of leave, the worker is entitled to be paid their normal rate of pay. Recent developments in Employment Law have clarified that results-based commission and overtime should be taken in to account in the calculation of a week’s pay. If a worker’s pay varies with the amount of work done, then a week’s pay is the pay for the normal weekly working hours multiplied by the workers average hourly rate over the 12 weeks preceding the leave. If a worker has no normal working hours then a week’s pay is the average pay received over the 12 weeks preceding the leave.
When a worker’s employment ends, regardless of the length of that employment, they have the right to be paid for any holidays that they had accumulated but not taken.
Disputes about holiday pay may be resolved informally or through internal grievance processes, however if the dispute remains, this can be pursued to the Employment Tribunal.
If you’ve been treated unfairly at work and it’s because of who you are, you may have been discriminated against. You can also be discriminated against by a prospective employer, i.e. during the recruitment process.
In order for unfair treatment to be discrimination you have to establish that the unfair treatment of you is because of one of the protected characteristics listed in the Equality Act 2010. These are:-
- Gender reassignment
- Marriage and civil partnership
- Pregnancy and maternity
- Religion or belief
- Sexual orientation
There are a number of ways that discrimination can occur including: less favourable treatment because of a protected characteristic when compared to someone in the same circumstances who doesn’t share that characteristic; a failure to make adjustments for a disabled person; a policy that disproportionately affects one group of people with a certain protected characteristic; and unwanted conduct related to a protected characteristic that violates that persons dignity.
There are time limits when taking a case of discrimination to the employment tribunal and before submitting a claim to the employment tribunal it is important you register your Claim with ACAS for early conciliation within 3 months less 1 day of the discriminatory act.
Employees have the right not to be unfairly dismissed – this right does not extend to workers or self-employed people. To make a complaint to an Employment Tribunal for unfair dismissal generally an employee must have 2 years’ continuous service before the dismissal takes effect.However, there is no length of service requirement in relation to ‘automatically unfair grounds’ some of which include a dismissal because of: –
- Pregnancy, including all reasons relating to maternity
- Pay and working hours (e.g. in respect of asserting rights under the Working Time Regulations and the National Minimum Wage Act)
- Taking or seeking to take Parental Leave, Paternity Leave, Adoption Leave or Time off for Dependants
- trade union membership grounds and union recognition
There are 2 questions an employment tribunal should approach when deciding whether a dismissal is fair. These are: –
- Was the reason for dismissal a potentially fair one set out on S98 (1) and (2) of the Employment Rights Act 1996?
- Has the employer acted reasonably in dismissing the employee for the given reason?
The potentially fair reasons for dismissal are:
- employee’s conduct
- employee’s capability or qualifications for the job
- because a statutory duty or restriction prohibited the employment being continued
- some other substantial reason justifying dismissal
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’). TUPE gives any employees affected by the transfer or outsourcing protection.
It is not always simple though; a dispute may arise as to whether the new company is responsible for the employees from the old company. This may leave you, as an employee of the old company in a position where there is no work for you perform and two companies both denying that you are employed by them.
If you are dismissed because of a business transfer and you have over 2 years’ service, then this is an Unfair Dismissal, unless the new company can establish an economic, technical or organisational reason justifying changes in the workforce. Also, if you do transfer but the new company tries to change your contract of employment, then this may well be void. Employers are obliged to inform and consult their staff about the impact of any business transfer under TUPE.
If you have been affected by a business transfer and need some advice to understand your rights please do contact us.
Settlement Agreements are a recognised way of bringing about the end of the employment relationship.
A Settlement Agreement is a document agreed between the employer and employee which sets out the terms upon which the employment is to end. Often 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.
For the Agreement to be valid and legally binding you must obtain legal advice from a qualified, independent adviser.
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)
- That the employer will contribute towards the employee’s legal fees in getting the necessary advice on the terms of the Settlement Agreement
We can also assist with:
- Advice on your employment status or employment rights
- Disciplinary hearings
- Early Conciliation via ACAS
- Employment Tribunal proceedings
- Employment Appeal Tribunal proceedings
- Negotiating exit packages
We offer a professional yet personal service at competitive prices, 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.
There are a range of payment options depending on your case and Howells provides services with a range of fixed fees or competitive and affordable hourly rates. If your case is suitable and after an assessment of the case we believe it has good merits, we can also offer a damages based agreement (also known as ‘no win, no fee’). For further information see here.
To discuss your case and the payment options available to you, Howells offers every client a free initial 20 minute telephone consultation.
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
Every Monday we run an ‘online employment law clinic’. 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 Employees 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. It’s our desire to see rights upheld, injustices corrected and disrupted lives put back on track. Either way, these are people you want working for you.
Legal 500 2018
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;
“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.”
Q.I’ve already been to ACAS and have been granted a certificate, can you help me?
A.Yes, if Early Conciliation was not successful, we can help you to look at whether you have grounds to make a claim to the Employment Tribunal and to then assist you with this. You usually need to do this within a month of the certificate being issued so don’t wait too long before taking advice.
Q.I’ve issued my claims in the Employment Tribunal, can you help me now?
A.Yes, we are able to help you even if you have commenced legal action yourself. Normally, we would need to conduct a review of your case initially to understand what the nature and merits of your claim are.
Q.I lost my case in the Employment Tribunal, can you help with an appeal?
A.Yes, you have 42 days to appeal against a Judgment. We can review the Judgment and the paperwork in front of the Tribunal to consider and advise if you have grounds for appeal.
Q.I have been awarded compensation by the Employment Tribunal, but my employer has not paid me?
A.We can advise you about enforcing an Employment Tribunal Judgment.