Employment Solicitors - Tribunal Compensation Claims – UK Lawyers
SOLICITORS HELPLINE: ☎ 0345 515 0657
The United Kingdom has one of the most regulated and legally complex employment markets in the world offering thorough legal protection to employees. Our specialist employment solicitors offer advice to employees on how to deal with employment law issues in a fair, equitable and just manner. Recent changes in legislation have extended the arsenal which can be put to use by employees to ensure that they receive a fair deal from employers. Our lawyers offer advice on a wide range of employment matters including unfair and constructive dismissal, sex and race discrimination including harassment, victimisation, redundancy payments and employment rights. We deal with all classes of employees, on a no win no fee* basis, ranging from the most junior staff up to senior executives who have been unfairly treated. We also draft and advise upon restrictive covenants and settlement agreements which apply if an employer has offered an employee financial terms upon termination of employment. Use of the no win no fee scheme means that all legal action by our employment solicitors is without any financial risk for the client.
Our employment solicitors deal with a wide range of discrimination cases and can take advantage of extensive anti-discrimination legislation which makes it unlawful to discriminate against an employee or a potential employee on the basis of a wide range of issues including sex, race, sexual preference, pregnancy, disability, religion and age. Discrimination can be either direct or indirect which may be simply a more subtle approach to a deliberate intention. Discrimination is still unlawful even if it was not intended and financial awards are unlimited with no mandatory minimum employment period.
Harassment is unwanted conduct usually based on gender, race, sexual orientation or age which is unwanted and affects the dignity of men or women whilst at work. It does not matter that the behaviour was not intended to be offensive to the recipient, what counts is the effect that the behaviour actually had on the recipient. This behaviour can include an unwelcome or hostile act or a series of acts and includes abusive language, offensive jokes and alleged banter, offensive behaviour, name-calling, damage to property, offensive written or visual material including graffiti, vandalism and pictures of a sexual nature. A slightly different form of harassment is victimisation which occurs when a person is treated less favourably than others due to seeking legal advice on employment matters. Harassment issues can be complex legal matters and if you have been a victim of this type of unfair behaviour you should not hesitate to take advice from an employment solicitor.
An employer is allowed to terminate employment if it is carried out in a fair and reasonable manner or if it is as a result of a genuine redundancy in which case redundancy pay may be due to an employee. Dismissal is fair if the employee is guilty of serious misconduct or cannot properly carry out the job in hand or if they are unable to work for some reason. Dismissal only becomes unfair and unlawful when an employer acts unreasonably and fails to follow established protocols for a fair dismissal.
If an employers behaviour is so bad that an employee has no other reasonable alternative than to resign their position, this is known as constructive dismissal. Employees can expect to work in a positive environment and should not be placed in a position where they must hand in their notice in order to escape. This is not a voluntary resignation and the Employment Tribunal treats it as an unfair dismissal by the employer. In most cases in order to sustain a claim there must be a grievance followed by the statutory procedures and protocols.
Offensive behaviour known as victimisation is another form of discrimination and may occur when a person is treated less favourably than another as a result of seeking employment solicitors advice about prejudiced behaviour or bringing a legal case or giving evidence on behalf of another in such a case or when they have made complaints that certain action by an employer may be unlawful.
An employee may be entitled to redundancy pay if an employer decides that they no longer want that employees job to be done by anyone and terminates their employment. This can occur due to new technology, business recession, relocation, mergers or restructuring being concepts well known to the workforce. There are strict regulations that an employer must follow to justify a lawful redundancy situation. In certain circumstances a dishonest employer may use a sham redundancy as a method of terminating employment which is cheaper than other alternatives methods of employment termination and this amounts to unlawful dismissal for which damages are payable.
There may come a time when an employer and employee in decide by mutual consent to terminate the employer/employee relationship and in doing so both may want a clean break with no possibility of further legal action in the future. In these cases both sides may consult employment solicitors to draft a legally binding agreement called a settlement agreement whereby an employee accepts financial recompense in exchange for agreeing to certain contractual terms. The employer usually pays the employees legal costs in having the proposed agreement ratified by a solicitor and the no win no fee scheme is therefore not appropriate in this situation. The advantage of a settlement agreement which is effectively a deed of release on a compromise basis is that it provides certainty for both parties and precludes the possibility of expensive court or tribunal proceedings in the future. Many of these agreements are generous to the employee and some are not. An employee cannot be forced to sign a compromise agreement if it isn't acceptable to the terminated employee who may thereafter attempt to renegotiate the terms or resort to law by application for redress to the civil court or in the Employment Tribunal.
Unfair dismissal within the context of UK employment law means dismissal or termination of employment for reasons that are unreasonable and unlawful thereby giving that former employee recourse to law. An employment solicitor can make application to the Employment Tribunal for compensation or for re-instatement to the previous employment (although such orders are not common). There are a number of statutes that protect employees from being dismissed for reasons that are not acceptable and in addition an employee can usually rely on their contract of employment for protection against an employer who acts unlawfully. In addition there is specific legislation that may afford protection to an employee including the Race Relations Act, the Disability Discrimination Act and the Sex Discrimination Act.
If you need advice on your rights as an employee, we can help you. If you feel that you have been treated badly you can to talk it over with a qualified employment solicitor who specialises in work related dispute resolution. You can discuss your options and potential actions to protect your legal rights at no cost and with no obligation. Our lawyers operate the no win no fee scheme otherwise known as a conditional fee agreement. No legal charge is payable unless the legal case is won and the client obtains an award of compensation. In the event that the legal claim is lost there is no charge made to the client. A specialist employment solicitor is able to offer advice on a wide range of topics including :-
- unfair termination of employment
- being forced to hand in your notice due to others unreasonable behaviour
- prejudice due to race
- prejudice due to gender
- inappropriate, aggressive or malicious behaviour due to racial differences
- inappropriate, aggressive or malicious behaviour relating to gender
- prejudice due to physical or mental disabilities
- bullying in the workplace
- redundancy and fake redundancy used as an excuse to unlawfully dismiss
- compromise agreements relating to agreed financial terms for termination
- age discrimination
- oppression and harassment due to race or sex
- prejudice relating to pregnancy
- rules governing hours of work
- prejudice due to differences in religion
- prejudice due to differences in sexual preference
There are however many circumstances where termination of employment is unlawful and unfair including :-
- discrimination on the grounds of race, sex, age, religion or disability
- membership or non-membership of a trades union
- some matters relating to industrial action
- medical conditions that have no effect on employment
- refusal to work more than 48 hours per week
- termination as a result of taking maternity/paternity/ante natal/dependents/parental leave
Not all termination of employment can be classed as unfair dismissal and an employer is entitled to determine a contract of employment lawfully in the following circumstances :-
When the employees conduct is not acceptable and this can include theft, assault, persistent absence, regular lateness, drunkenness at work, unkempt or unsuitable dress or appearance, violent, abusive, provocative or threatening behaviour and any other anti-social behaviour that has a detrimental effect on the employers business including affecting other members of staff, suppliers or clients and customers.
If the employee is incapable of carrying out the job. This may include lack of skills, lack of knowledge, incompetence, inadequate training or education or any other substantive reason.
In a genuine redundancy situation where either the firm closes down or there is inadequate work available for the employee. There are occasions when an employer attempts to dismiss by way of redundancy when a redundancy situation does not exist simply because it may be cheaper to make a redundancy payment than pay compensation for unlawful termination and in these situations an employee can make an application to the tribunal for compensation for unfair dismissal.
If continuation of the employment is illegal or causes a breach of statutory duty. This can occur in the case of a foreign national whose work permit expires.
In the case of some other substantial reason that justifies termination of employment. Not all circumstances and situations can be envisaged in advance and the Employment Tribunal has a wide discretion to determine what is and what is not a reasonable excuse for termination of employment.
Equal Opportunities Law
Equal opportunities is a general term referring to the idea that all people should have equal access to employment opportunities. Employers should employ, train and promote individuals based on their skills and work ethic, not on factors such as race or sex. Numerous laws have been enacted to help ensure that equal opportunities are a reality and not just an ideal. Violations of those laws can lead to claims of discrimination or unfair dismissal and substantial compensatory awards for the claimant.
There are six major areas with which equal opportunity laws are primarily concerned :
- sexual orientation
- religion and belief
It is illegal to discriminate against a job applicant or employee based on any of those grounds at any stage in the employment process. An individual is denied equal opportunities if they are subjected to a threatening, degrading or offensive work environment. Additionally, an employee cannot be dismissed or discriminated against for bringing a discrimination claim. Such discrimination is known as victimisation and is a separate grounds for making an application to the Employment Tribunal.
Equal Pay Act 1970
One important area of equal opportunities is pay. Under the Equal Pay Act 1970, it is unlawful for an employer to discriminate between men and women with regard to pay and benefits where both are doing same or similar work, work of equal value or work rated as equivalent in a job evaluation study by the employer. The purpose of the legislation was to close the 30% pay gap that existed between men and women when the law came into effect.
Equal pay includes not only salary but also benefits and other terms of employment. For example, the Equal Pay Act 1970 covers inequalities in bonuses and sick leave. Even where a man and woman are receiving the same pay for the same job, a difference in an area such as private health care would still be a violation of the Act.
To bring a claim under the Equal Pay Act 1970, the employee must first find a comparator who is a person of the opposite sex who performs similar work but is treated more favourably. The comparator can be someone currently employed by the organisation, a predecessor or a successor. The comparator must be of the opposite sex, as the legislation does not mandate that people of the same sex receive the same pay for equal work.
Claims related to violations of the Equal Pay Act are brought before the Employment Tribunal. Note that there are limits on the amount of time you have to bring a claim. An application to the Tribunal can be made any time while the employee is employed at the relevant job. Should the employee leave the job, they have six months from the time of leaving to make an application. The Employment Tribunal does have the discretion to extend the time limit under certain circumstances.
There are numerous statutes that protect employees from unfair working practices. Legislation also regulates the number of hours that an employee can work and sets minimum levels of pay and also controls the work environment to ensure employees physical and mental safety. There are however still some employers who do not abide by these laws and regulations. Every employer is now obliged to follow set statutory procedures outlined in legislation for employment dispute resolution involving grievances arising from dismissals and disciplinary actions. Directives for filing a complaint at work are covered by legislation that initially came into force in 1994. The aggrieved employee must first put the complaint in writing and address it to the employer. They will give the employer 28 days to respond to the complaint before the employee can make a formal claim to an Employment Tribunal. It is very important that the procedure is followed step by step and that the legal requirements are satisfied if the employee hopes to succeed in claiming compensation.
If a claim for compensation cannot be settled by agreement then an employment solicitor will make application for the issue to be determined in either the Civil Court or in an Employment Tribunal which is less formal that a court of law and has a more relaxed atmosphere with less stringent procedures. A tribunal has a chairman who is often legally qualified and two other lay members who are nominated from an employers association and from a trades union who contribute to the outcome of the case. There is right of appeal to the Employment Appeal Tribunal which hears cases in London, Edinburgh and Belfast and legal aid may be available to qualifying applicants.
An employment tribunal may order reinstatement of employment or may award compensation or both. In some of the categories outlined above there is no upper limit to the amount of compensation that can be awarded. The tribunal does not however award legal costs to the winner which will be paid from the amount of any award. In the event that the claim is not successful then there will be no charge whatsoever made to the client and a no win no fee employment solicitor will simply write off any legal cost that may have been incurred. Our employment compensation claims are totally risk free.
It may affect the outcome of future legal action if an employee fails to make a complaint using the formal procedure as outlined above. An Employment Tribunal may reject a claim or may reduce an award if the original statutory grievance procedure was not properly followed. If the employer fails to follow the protocol there can be similar penalties applied in favour of the employee. Guidelines are offered by the Advisory Conciliation and Arbitration Service (ACAS) on these matters contained in the publication 'Code of Practice on Disciplinary and Grievance Procedures’. For these reasons it is important that an employee who is in dispute with their employer takes qualified legal advice to ensure that their chances of a successful claim in the Employment Tribunal are not prejudiced by failure to follow the established statutory protocols.
Employment Appeal Tribunal
The Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) is part of the legal apparatus that exists to resolve employment disputes. The attendance by both parties and their lawyers is usually necessary in the EAT, however written appeals may alternatively be considered. New evidence can be admitted if it can be shown to be important and yet unavailable at the time of the original Employment Tribunal hearing. Legal aid may be available from the Legal Services Commission to qualifying applicants to be legally represented by a solicitor or a barrister before the EAT.
After initial determination by the Employment Tribunal, if either party is dissatisfied with the judgement, that person may in certain circumstances take the matter to the Employment Appeal Tribunal which was created by the Employment Protection Act 1975. An EAT will not normally re-hear the case and will not normally hear new evidence from a solicitor but will make a decision based on a specific point of law that is to be reconsidered. Parties must act quickly, within strict time limits, to lodge an appeal, or the case will be dismissed.
The procedure of an Employment Appeal Tribunal is somewhat more formal than the Employment Tribunal which is relatively informal. The EAT is presided over by a panel including a judge appointed by the Lord Chancellor and lay workers who have experience in employment relations. Either a solicitor or in some circumstances, the Equal Opportunities Commission, the Commission for Racial Equality or the Disability Rights Commission represent the employee or they can opt to represent themselves.
A claimant is usually required to lodge an application for unfair or constructive dismissal with an Employment Tribunal not more than three months following dismissal. Similarly, in a discrimination case, the three month rule also applies, and an application for such claims should be made not more than three months following the last act of discrimination – which may, indeed, be a dismissal. If more than three months have passed, a potential claimant should obtain advice from a solicitor on whether their application may still be submitted. Under the Employment Act 2002 (Dispute Resolution) Regulations 2004, some time limits are automatically extended.
Our employment compensation claims are dealt with using the no win no fee scheme. Clients do not need to finance their claim and they take no risks with their own money. The 'official' name for this type of arrangement is a 'Conditional Fee Agreement' or CFA. Taking a solicitors employment claim to a judge in the Employment Tribunal is entirely risk free - you do not have to pay any fees or fund any part of the claim process. In the unlikely situation that you lose the case, there will be nothing to pay. The CFA applies to employment cases and permits a solicitor to only be paid if and when he or she wins compensation for a client. If the case is lost then the solicitor or legal team must write off the expenses and no charge may be made to the client. In the case of no win no fee employment compensation claims, if the claim is won then the solicitor claims a percentage of the award in lieu of legal fees which are not awarded by the Employment Tribunal which makes a bare award of compensation and nothing more. Our solicitors will provide you with clear advice on no win no fee employment compensation claim in plain English. We strip away the legal jargon to ensure you understand every decision you might need to make. Our free legal advice offer is specifically designed to support anyone who has been the victim of unlawful behaviour at work. The information on this website cannot normally be directly applied to your situation. It is intended to be a guideline and is not legal advice. You should consult a qualified employment solicitor on matters concerning your complaint. The information on this website should not be a used as a reason for delaying consultation with a professional adviser. The Employment Tribunal places very short time limits on submitting complaints. If you feel that you may have a claim you should consult a legal expert without delay before it is too late or your opportunity to claim compensation may be lost forever. Our specialist employment solicitors provide sound, qualified advice on all matters that are related to working practices in the United Kingdom and are also involved in employment dispute resolution. If you need initial advice at no cost and without further obligation just call the helpline or complete the contact form or email our solicitors offices.
SOLICITORS HELPLINE: ☎ 0345 515 0657