Expert advice across Employment Law

Starting your new job

Starting a new job or being promoted can be an exciting time, but you must know what you are being asked to sign up for. We can advise on the terms of your contract of employment or directors’ service agreement.

Even though a verbal agreement of employment is sufficient to create a contract of employment, putting it in writing is important because it sets out both parties’ expectations and is often relied on in litigation. It, therefore, needs to be an accurate representation of what has been agreed upon and be fair and reasonable to both parties.

We have expertise in negotiating (and renegotiating) contracts of employment and directors’ service agreements, including whether restrictions on your future employment are reasonable and can guide you through those negotiations.

Disciplinary and Grievances

When things don’t work out, the procedures in place to deal with those issues are disciplinary and grievance procedures. Both processes can be stressful and emotional.

We are able to provide you with calm, clear advice on how to navigate those processes and highlight whether your employer is acting reasonably or failing to comply with the expected lawful process (whether that is the ACAS Code of Practice or another relevant standard).
We always work to achieve the outcome you desire.

The issues involved can include the following:

  • Discrimination
  • Pregnancy and Maternity related issues
  • Unfair Treatment
  • Bullying and harassment
  • Changes to your contract of employment
  • Allegations of misconduct (including gross misconduct)
  • Allegations of poor performance
  • Short and long-term sickness absences

Our expertise enables us to advise you on any potential claims arising from these procedures and the most cost-effective way of resolving those claims. Often that involves protected conversations and settlement agreements (for more information, please see our protected conversations and settlement agreements.

Bringing an Employment Tribunal Claim

If you have been dismissed or treated unfairly at work and are considering bringing a claim against your employer, this generally involves bringing proceedings in the Employment Tribunals.
We are able to offer you the benefit of our expertise and years of experience in understanding what is involved in bringing a claim against your employer. We have expertise in representing employees in all types of claims before an Employment Tribunal, including:

  • Unfair dismissal
  • Breach of Contract
  • Unlawful deduction from Wages
  • Discrimination
  • Whistleblowing
  • Claims for failure to inform and consult, either under the redundancy regime or TUPE.

We can assist at key stages of the process or advise and represent you from the start of the claim to the final hearing. That will generally involve:

  • Advising on the merits of your potential claim;
  • Providing a cost/benefit analysis of your potential claim;
  • Advice on settlement negotiations;
  • Preparing the Claim Form (also known as an “ET1”)
  • Gathering and advising on the relevant documentation;
  • Instructing experts, where necessary;
  • Advising on and assisting with the preparation of witness statements
  • Drafting Schedules of Loss

For information about our fees, please see our Employment Fees Guide For Unfair Dismissal and Wrongful Dismissal Claims. Alternatively, if you have legal expenses insurance, we may be able to assist you within the terms of your insurance policy. Please contact us to explore this further.

Protected Conversations

Protected conversations are “off the record” discussions where there is a proposal for an employee to leave employment even when there are no issues or disputes.

Protected conversations are intended to give employers and employees the freedom to negotiate settlement agreements in the knowledge that their conversation cannot be used as evidence in unfair dismissal claims (provided there has been no improper conduct).

Protected conversations can therefore be started by an employer or an employee.

Such conversations will only remain confidential and will be inadmissible before a tribunal if they do not involve:

  1. Claims relating to automatically unfair dismissal, such as whistleblowing, trade union membership or asserting a statutory right.
  2. Claims made other than on the grounds of unfair dismissal, for example, claims for discrimination
  3. Claims relating to breach of contract or wrongful dismissal (failure to provide adequate statutory or contractual notice, whichever is the greater);
  4. Improper behaviour by the employer.

What is Improper Behaviour?

There is no definitive definition or description of what would amount to improper behaviour, but it would certainly include:

  • All forms of harassment, bullying and intimidation (which includes offensive words or aggressive behaviour)
  • Physical assault or the threat of physical assault and other criminal behaviour
  • All forms of victimisation;
  • All forms of discrimination because of age, sex, race, disability, sexual orientation, religion or belief, transgender, pregnancy and maternity and marriage or civil partnership; and
  • Putting the employee under undue pressure, which includes
    • Not giving them a reasonable period (at least 10 days) within which to consider any offer;
    • Informing the employee that any rejection of the offer would result in dismissal;
    • The employee threatens to undermine the employer’s business reputation if a settlement agreement were not signed (unless doing so would be regarded as “whistleblowing”).

What is Not Improper Behaviour?

The following is unlikely to amount to improper behaviour.

  • Setting out neutrally the reasons that have led to the proposed settlement agreement;
  • An employer factually stating the likely alternatives if an agreement is not reached, including the possibility of disciplinary action;
  • An employer factually stating that if an employee refuses a settlement agreement and any subsequent disciplinary action results in dismissal, then the employee may not be able to leave on the same terms as set out in the proposed settlement agreement;
  • Not using the template letters or model agreement set out in the Annexes to the ACAS guide;
  • An employer not agreeing to provide a reference;
  • An employer not paying for the employee’s independent legal advice on the terms of the settlement agreement;
  • An employer encourages an employee, in a non-threatening way, to reconsider a refusal of a proposal.

Settlement Agreements

Settlement agreements (used to be known as compromise agreements) is a legally binding contract between an employer and an employee. Its effect is that an employee gives up their rights to bring any potential claims before an employment tribunal, usually in return for financial and non-financial benefits (for example, a reference).

A Settlement Agreement is only binding if the employee takes independent legal advice on the terms and effect of the Settlement Agreement. We are able to provide that independent legal advice to employees.

We will go through the terms of the Settlement Agreement with you clause by clause and explain in plain English what they mean. Where necessary, we will negotiate changes which are advised.

It is common practice, but not a legal requirement, for an employer to contribute to the legal costs incurred by an employee taking independent legal advice. More often than not, we provide the independent legal advice within the contribution towards legal costs made by the employer, and if that is not going to be the case, we will discuss that with you before additional legal costs are incurred.

If you would like to contact one of our Employment team directly, please see their details below or alternatively click on the Contact Us button.

Dorlee Monschau – [email protected]

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Expert advice across Employment Law

From starting a new job to raising a grievance or claim, our expert lawyers support you through the process.