Employment law solicitors at Chattertons provide bespoke, commercially-focused legal advice for employers.
Working with business owners and HR professionals, we support organisations, from multinational PLCs through to smaller businesses with only a handful of employees, in taking the right legal steps when it comes to workplace issues. Employment law encompasses all aspects of an employer’s relationship with their employees. Our specialist employment law solicitors have the knowledge, the experience, and the strategic acumen to deal with the full range of challenges and opportunities that face employer clients.
Key areas of our work include:
- Business immigration
- C3 Employment Protection Insurance
- Settlement Agreements
- Contracts, policies and procedures
- Corporate governance
- Disciplinary and grievance
- Employment litigation
- Employment tribunal representation
- Restrictive covenants
- Restructuring and organisational change
- Training and HR support
- Transfer of Undertakings (TUPE)
Our work is not just about putting problems right. Much of what we do involves setting up an employing organisation to function well, and in line with its legal requirements. Our employment lawyers draft employee contracts, and company policies around topics including equal opportunities and employees’ use of social media, for example. This is all part of facilitating good workplace practice, and minimising the risk of legal recourse against our client.
We cannot stop a claim from being brought if that is what an aggrieved employee is intent on doing. But we can make a real difference to the impact that that claim has on the employer. By working proactively to test the employee’s case, and to negotiate a settlement or to fight our client’s corner at an employment tribunal (where that becomes necessary), our team limits the financial and reputational cost to employers.
Clients often ask us.....
Do my employees have to have written contracts?
They should, because of the certainty that a written document provides. It is not essential, because there can be a contract between an employer and an employee even if terms are agreed orally, but we would advise all employers to issue well-conceived and well-drafted contracts to staff members.
Be aware of employees’ legal entitlement to a written statement of their main terms and conditions within two months of starting work.
How much will it cost to defend an employee’s claim?
This depends entirely on the sort of claim and on the stage it has reached. If our employment lawyers are involved early on – when you first become aware of a potential problem – we are often able to help sort it out by way of correspondence with the employee before it escalates. (It is the escalation of an issue that generally leads to cases becoming tricky and expensive to resolve.) Where early resolution does not work, we will continue to try and bring it to an end as quickly and cost effectively as possible. Cases that do progress to a tribunal hearing can cost many thousands of pounds to bring or defend, and that is a cost that each party will usually bear themselves. But a tribunal is a place of last resort; our employment law solicitors do everything they can, including mediation, to avoid clients having to defend a case before a tribunal judge.
We take very seriously our responsibility to keep clients’ costs down. We do not send invoices that clients are not expecting. Instead, we will tell you at the outset how much we think a particular matter will cost to resolve, and you will have regular updates on the level that our fees have reached so that you can keep track of your finances. You might be interested in our employment protection insurance policy, C3, which can significantly reduce an employer’s financial risk.
Do you represent employees, too?
Yes. Our view, and this is borne out by our team’s successful track record in resolving issues between employers and employees, is that truly understanding an opponent’s position, and anticipating their next move, brings significant advantages to our clients.
How can we make sure that our managers are up to speed on their employment law obligations?
This is so important. Employers rely on managers, and others in their organisation, to do and say the right thing in a wide range of situations. However, many managers are promoted to that position without having had any formal guidance – and that can significantly increase the employment law risks to which an employer is exposed.
Training is vital. Ask us about our programme of training events, or about providing some personalised employment law and HR training to your employees. Clients often hire us to address, through training, particular issues in their organisations or to update key people on relevant changes in the fast-moving world of employment law.
We are a small employer. Could we refuse to recruit a woman because of the risk of her getting pregnant?
It is usually unlawful to not recruit a person because she is a woman, irrespective of the potential cost to your business if she were to take a period of maternity leave. A job applicant who was rejected on that basis could bring a discrimination claim.
Where there is an occupational requirement that someone is of a particular sex, that can be a defence to a claim.
An employee is on long-term sick. How long should we wait before dismissing them?
Dismissal isn’t an inevitability. In some situations, employees who have been on long-term sick return to work and pick up where they left off. However, in others, a return to work looks unlikely.
There is no set rule or formula governing what an employer should do in the case of an employee on long-term sick. It depends on the circumstances, not least the condition from which the employee is suffering. If the employee is deemed to be disabled, additional employer obligations are triggered. But the law does recognise that employers cannot be expected to wait forever for a sick employee to return. The key in all these cases is to have good medical advice on the employee’s condition and prognosis, and good legal advice on your employment law obligations.