Work is a big part of your life. You spend a lot of time there and most or all of your other commitments and activities are dependent on the earnings it delivers. So, it’s important that you feel secure about your position, satisfied with the conditions under which you are employed and confident that you are being treated fairly.
If things go wrong, you need to be able to speak to a specialist employment solicitor who will provide expert legal advice on settlement agreements, unfair dismissal, bullying or harassment claims, discrimination, disciplinary or grievance issues, and tribunal claims.
Our team of employment solicitors have dealt with situations similar to yours many times, but will always deliver pragmatic advice based on your individual case. We will explore your options with you and help you to determine a course of action that is best for you and your circumstances.
We also recognise that value for money is also a concern for you, so we provide estimates and updates to help you to project manage costs effectively. We offer a range of innovative pricing solutions to ensure that our services are tailored to your budget as well as your need. You may also find that household, contents or other insurance policies held by you or a member or your family feature provisions covering legal costs. We will discuss this with you when you call us. It is also worth noting that in order to reach agreement, especially a settlement agreement, your employer may be willing pay some or all of your legal fees.
At Morrisons, our employment solicitors understand that whatever the circumstances, when you have problems at work you want them resolved quickly and cost-effectively. Our team of employment lawyers comprises experienced specialists and is recognised by both the Legal 500 and Chambers & Partners
Products and services
Below is a quick overview of a number of the ways in which the Morrisons team is able to support you.
Settlement (Compromise) Agreements
A settlement agreement is a written agreement in which an employee or ex-employee agrees not to make a claim against their employer, usually in return for a financial settlement. They are typically used to resolve disputes, or at the termination of employment to head off any subsequent claims against the employer.
Because a settlement agreement means that you are waiving your statutory rights, such as the right to claim unfair dismissal or discrimination, you are required to seek legal advice on its contents. Usually your employer will contribute towards any legal fees you incur in seeking such advice.
We will advise you on the terms of the agreement to ensure that it is drafted in your best interests, including whether you are receiving your full entitlement to notice pay and other final payments and benefits. We will also assess the merits and potential award of any potential tribunal claims to establish whether a settlement agreement really is your best option. And, of course, we can be involved in negotiations to increase the financial offer or simply advise you on the terms before you sign the agreement.
Settlement agreements are a commonly used tool and we have prepared a brief paper to answer the questions we most frequently encounter.
ACAS Early Conciliation
Before filing a claim at an employment tribunal, you must notify ACAS via their Early Conciliation website https://ec.acas.org.uk.
ACAS will try to settle your claim with the respondent, normally your employer. However, the ACAS Conciliation Officer will not be aware of the details of your claim, its merits or the likely award. Equally, you may not be aware of its potential settlement value, so there is a risk that you may agree terms that are significantly less favourable than you may be awarded if you were to be successful at tribunal.
We can help you to value your claim and advise on settlement tactics to maximise what the respondent will pay you. We can also advise you on the written settlement agreement (called a COT3), which is a legally binding document that precludes you from making any further claim. For example, you may want to agree a reference with your employer. If so it is a good idea to attach this to the agreement. If you do not agree settlement and decide to file a tribunal claim we can assist you by confirming your deadline, preparing your claim form (called an ET1) and representing you at tribunal.
Holiday pay claims
If you receive payments on top of your basic wage, such as overtime, commission, shift premiums or other payments, you may now be entitled to receive such payments with your holiday pay. You may also be eligible to receive back pay on your holiday going back several years.
The principle behind this is that employees should not be deterred from taking holiday by receiving lower pay while they are off work.
We can assist you in raising this issue with your employer and obtaining payment of any holiday pay due to you.
Bullying & harassment at work
Attitudes to what is acceptable treatment from employers and work colleagues have evolved in recent years and there have also been changes in the law. If you are being picked on, isolated or intimidated at work you may be the victim of bullying, which is a serious issue for you personally and, if proven, for your employer. If the bullying or harassment is because of sex, sexual orientation, age, disability, religion or belief, race, marital or civil partnership status, pregnancy or maternity or gender re-assignment you may have a claim for unlawful discrimination.
You can raise your concerns with your employer informally or via a formal grievance. We can help you in raising a grievance with your employer, particularly if your company does not have a formal grievance procedure or if the dispute is especially serious.
If the issue continues or if you have already left your job because of the bullying, then we can advise you on your employment rights.
If your employer’s treatment of you is so poor that your position becomes untenable, you may have a claim for constructive unfair dismissal. Such claims depend on your having resigned directly in response to the treatment without delay, and there are strict deadlines by which you must notify your claim to ACAS. So, it’s important to seek expert advice promptly.
We can help you with all aspects of these claims, helping you to understand the merits of your particular case, the process of making a claim, the likely award you could receive at tribunal, settlement of your claims and if necessary, in representing you through the subsequent tribunal proceedings.
Contracts of employment
Whether you are starting a new job or your current employer has offered you a revised contract of employment, it’s important to ensure that the contract reflects your understanding of your employment terms and that you agree with them. If, for example, you leave it until termination to fully understand the restrictive covenants in your contract which prevent you from working for a competitor, it may be too late to do anything about them.
We will review your contract, advising you of its meaning and implications and whether there are any terms that should be amended. We can also assist if you want to renegotiate any of the terms with your employer.
Constructive dismissal claims
If you are forced to leave your job through the way you are treated, when this treatment amounts to a fundamental breach of your contract of employment, this may constitute constructive dismissal.
There are various situations in which this could arise. For example, you may be subjected to a pay cut, your employer may take no action to protect you against bullying or harassment, or, against your express wishes, you are moved to a different job. In such circumstances, you might feel that continuing to work for that employer would be intolerable, but may also be reluctant to terminate your employment without another job to go to.
Constructive dismissal is a serious issue. We can help you negotiate a settlement with your employer, including the provision of an agreed reference to support your search for another position, before you terminate your current employment. Alternatively, we can advise you on how to file and manage a tribunal claim.
Either way, you need to act quickly because any delay in acting may be interpreted by either your employer or a tribunal as acceptance of your situation. If you decide to terminate your employment and file a claim with Acas, prior to instigating tribunal proceedings, we can advise you on your deadlines by which you need to do so and help you through the relevant processes.
Discrimination at work
It is unlawful for an employer to treat you less favourably because of a ‘protected characteristic’ such as :
- Religion or belief
- Sexual orientation
- Pregnancy and maternity
- Gender re-assignment
- Marriage or civil partnership
Discrimination can arise in various forms. For example, you may feel you are being harassed or overlooked because of a protected characteristic such as your age or sex. Or, your employer may put in place a policy or practice not intended to treat anyone less favourably, but which in practice has the effect of disadvantaging a group of people ( including you) with a particular protected characteristic. Such a claim could arise, for example, where you request a reduction in your hours, perhaps on return from maternity leave, but your employer requires you to continue working full time. This will be unlawful indirect discrimination on the grounds of sex, unless the requirement for full time working can be justified by your employer. If you are disabled your employer is obliged to make reasonable adjustments to assist you at work.
Our employment specialists will advise you on how to raise a grievance about your treatment, how to file a tribunal claim and/or seek settlement from your employer, which would normally be combined with the termination of your employment.
You can bring a discrimination claim while you are still employed. However, it is important to seek advice promptly because claims must usually be brought within three months less one day of the discriminatory treatment.
In dismissing an employee, an employer must have a potentially fair reason for doing so and follow a fair dismissal procedure. These are the potentially fair reasons for dismissal:
- Conduct e.g. theft, insubordination
- Capability e.g. failure to perform to the required standard or ill health
- Redundancy i.e. where your employer no longer requires you to do your job
- Some other substantial reason e.g. unreasonable refusal to accept contract changes or, a break down in relationship
- Statutory illegality (where it is illegal to employ) e.g. you do not have permission to work in this country
If your employer does not have sufficient reason to dismiss you and/or has not followed a fair procedure you may have a claim for unfair dismissal. Should your employer also unreasonably fail to comply with the Acas Code of Practice on Disciplinary and Grievance Proceedings you will be entitled to an uplift of up to 25% on your tribunal award. However if you unreasonably fail to comply with the Code of Practice then any tribunal award may be reduced by up to 25%. You may also have a claim of unlawful discrimination or for breach of contract.
Generally, you must have two years’ service to file an unfair dismissal claim at an employment tribunal; although in some situations, where you are dismissed for a proscribed reason e.g. for a reason connected with pregnancy or health and safety, there is no service period requirement.
We can advise you on the merits of an employment tribunal claim and the potential award you could receive. We can also act for you in any tribunal proceedings and negotiate settlement terms with your employer.
The deadlines for filing your claims are short and so you should not delay in seeking advice on your claims.
Disciplinary or grievance issues
If you are the subject of disciplinary proceedings, or intend to file a grievance about treatment at work, your employer should follow a disciplinary or grievance procedure.
We can help you to present your case to best effect at any hearing or appeal to include preparing a witness statement and collating relevant evidence in support. We can also advise on proposing or negotiating a settlement with your employer and, tactically, whether and when you may decide to resign your employment.
Employment Tribunal claims
If you have a claim such as unfair/constructive dismissal, non-payment of wages or unlawful discrimination, and have exhausted ACAS Early Conciliation without an agreement being reached, you can file a claim at an employment tribunal. Some claims can be brought while you are still employed but there are deadlines for bringing claims, so it is important to act quickly if you are thinking of doing so. We can help you in preparing your claim form and your case for any tribunal hearing and on negotiating a settlement.
If you decide to make a claim, we can represent you in tribunal proceedings, providing robust arguments and using skilled judgment and lateral thinking to prepare your case. Recognised and respected by leading firms, having Morrisons presenting your case says that you mean business. We have extensive experience of making claims and also negotiating settlements in all types of employment tribunal claims, including constructive/unfair dismissal, discrimination claims and claims of unlawful deductions from wages. Whether you wish to settle a claim or to fight it at tribunal, we will advise you on the best strategy for you.
All employees with six months’ service or longer have the right to request flexible working. Most flexible working applications are made by employees who have childcare or other caring obligations. However, many employers are not aware of their legal obligations in relation to flexible working and reject applications, giving rise to claims such as constructive dismissal and/or discrimination as well as a breach of the rules on flexible working.
We can help you with your application for flexible working. If your application has been declined, we can help you with advice on your legal position and on how you can deal with a situation where you do not want to work the hours required by your employer. This will often involve either agreeing with your employer that you leave with a settlement or filing a tribunal claim if you and your employer cannot agree terms.
Restrictive covenants/Post-termination restrictions
Employers often include post-termination restrictive covenants in contracts of employment. These are clauses designed to prevent departing employees from soliciting or dealing with the employer’s clients, misusing its confidential information, ‘poaching’ skilled employees and, in certain situations, preventing them from working for a competitor.
Defending the application of such covenants, which usually takes the form of a claim for an injunction and/or damages, can be costly. If you lose you may be liable for the other parties’ costs as well as your own.
We will advise you on the enforceability of the relevant clause either when you begin employment and sign the contract, or on your termination of employment. We can also provide tactical advice in responding to an employer’s attempts to enforce the restrictions in pre-litigation correspondence and will work with our dispute resolution team, in defending any claims against you.
We may also be able to act for your new employer as it is not unusual for proceedings also to be threatened / instigated on the grounds against them, on the grounds that your new employer induced you to breach your contract of employment