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Waughs Solicitors

serving east grinstead since 1968



Waughs Solicitors Employee Law

EMPLOYMENT LAW

We act for both employers and employees and have a considerable level of expertise in this constantly changing and increasingly complex area of law.

Non-contentious Work

We deal with all non-contentious matters such as the drafting of Employment Contracts and Compromise Agreements, the transfer of businesses to a new owner and the creation and implementation of employment policies.

Fees

Ordinarily we would anticipate charging between £500 plus VAT to £2,000 plus VAT depending upon the type of document and its complexity. An example for a relatively straightforward contract of employment would be in the region of some £450 plus VAT but this figure can increase depending upon what is required. Particular care is required in respect of "restraint of trade" clauses and on occasions the fees for preparing such a contract can be as much as £1,000 plus VAT. Part of the time we spend with you in drafting documentation is to understand how your business works; the type of issues you will need to cover, to protect yourself and where necessary your employees and to gain an understanding of your business.

Timescales

Ordinarily the drafting of agreements and other documentation can be dealt with quickly and we would ordinarily expect to conclude such work within a month to six weeks.  It may be the case that further enquiries need to be made and further information sought from a client.  On occasions, if drafting is particularly complex, we will use one of the employment counsel that we engage from time to time whose fees ordinarily will be between £500 plus VAT to £2,000 plus VAT for more complex matters, if such assistance is required

Contentious Work

We also deal with contentious matters such as breaches of Employment Contracts, assisting with grievance and disciplinary procedures, unfair and constructive dismissal and redundancy.

See the section regarding tribunal work below.

If we are instructed in good time a matter that may start being apparently contentious could be resolved relatively quickly without the necessity of proceedings being started.  We charge upon the time spent and Martin Groat’s hourly rate for employment law is £250 plus VAT.  The range of charges in these circumstances can be anything from £500 plus VAT to £1,500 plus VAT on the basis the matter does not result in an application to a tribunal.  In terms of timescale these matters initially, if we are involved early, can be resolved relatively quickly so it is not unusual to have what appears to be an initial problem resolved within one month to six weeks

With Settlement Agreements, we frequently obtain contributions from the employer towards advising the employee and our costs would accordingly be either not charged to the employee or are reduced by such a contribution.  What is charged overall depends upon the complexity of the Contract of Employment and the Settlement Agreement and if advice has to be given upon additional issues such as restraint of trade clauses.  This will be charged upon a time basis, but such charges are unlikely to exceed more than £1,000 plus VAT and are usually less.

Timescales

As far as timescale is concerned the requirements of settlement agreements are that they are dealt with quickly and have already followed a decision-making process by the employer and in consultation with the employee, and the requirement is then for the agreement to be checked, advised upon and, if necessary, further terms negotiated.  Settlement agreements can usually be dealt within a period of a month; unless the matter is either becoming contentious, or there are long periods of notice involved which give a greater period of time over which the matter can be concluded.

Tribunal Work

We provide a full service when application is made to the Employment Tribunal, to include preparing fully for the Tribunal hearing and providing representation at the Tribunal.

Where necessary, we use specialist Employment Law Counsel; and Tribunal Work covers a wide range of costs charged up to £5,000 plus VAT.  Legal expense insurance may also be available which we would review with you if it seems a matter is going to go to Tribunal.

We also provide supporting advice if an employee or employer are handling their own case, but require advice and support in the background.  This can be from £400 plus VAT to £2,000 plus VAT depending upon the nature of the case.

The further a case progresses down the line before we are consulted means that there will be a greater amount of documentation for us to consider and the timescale depends upon at which stage in the proceedings we are consulted.  An additional issue is the amount of time it is taking tribunals, during the pandemic crisis, to take a case through; and it is acknowledged by the tribunal service that there are considerable time lapses before a case is finally heard.  It is not unusual to be waiting for a period of up to 18 months from when an application is first commenced.

1.         The complexity of the case and the potential number of witnesses.  There may be complex preliminary issues to be considered and upon which preliminary hearings in the tribunal may be required to set the timetable and give directions for the conduct of the case.  The stages involved in a contentious tribunal case are as follows:

a.          Taking initial instructions from you; assessing at an early stage the chances of success and merits and to consider issues of compensation.  Initial costs advice will also be given at this point.

b.         It is likely or possible that at an early stage a settlement could be discussed with the other party with an aim to bring matters to a close early.  The tribunal system provides that before an application can be issued – usually by the employee – the parties are expected to utilise the ACAS conciliation service and we will advise regarding that, how it works, and the issues to consider.  In the event that agreement cannot be reached witness statements are prepared, both for the potential claimant but also for other supporting witnesses; assessing the likely loss and potential compensation claim, together with issues regarding any contribution by the employee to the situation; preparing preliminary paperwork in conjunction with the form ET1 (claim form) or defending the matter, preparing for and arranging attendance at the preliminary hearing or any other further administrative hearing prior to the final hearing.  A particular feature of cases such as this are also trying to calculate the losses that an employee may have suffered as a consequence of an alleged unfair dismissal, to look at not only issues in relation to loss of wages/salary but also to deal with issues around the benefits, loss of pension contributions and related matters and preparing a document (known as a Scott schedule) to itemise the losses and the likely points of contention.  It is the task of the applicant to prepare documents and also to take the lead in preparing a bundle of documents with copies that would ultimately be placed before a tribunal.  Other preliminary documents are also required to be prepared and depending upon the complexity and the nature of the case, assistance may be sought from an employment law Counsel if thought necessary.  Finally, there are the costs of attending at the final hearing, prehearing negotiations (there is an obligation to try and reach settlement before the final hearing).

2.         Whilst we see a range of costs of up to, say, £5,000 plus VAT this can be higher in more complex cases and as much as £15,000 plus VAT in relation to a matter of complexity.

3.         Timescale for a case from first instruction to a final tribunal hearing can vary enormously but the tribunal service prior to the pandemic already held a significant backlog of cases and the pandemic situation has intensified the problem.  It is not unusual to expect a period of up to 18 months before a tribunal case is resolved – at final hearing; in itself this is a powerful incentive for settlement to be reached earlier and employees and employers are reminded there is a duty upon an employee who may well have been unfairly dismissed to “mitigate their loss”.  This is another issue upon which we would advise you.  With the three-month statutory period from the date of termination of the contract to commence a claim this is a period of three months; with the obligation to attempt an ACAS-led conciliation meeting.  As set out above the initial steps within an employment law case pass quickly; significant periods of time however are spent as set out above in commencing the tribunal case itself and taking it through to conclusion.

4.         If you are an employee, it is possible you may receive legal expense support from your trade union or other professional organisation.  Alternatively, the legal expense insurance cover available may be associated with a domestic insurance policy or, for example, for an employer with cover attached to their own insurance policies.  As with any other litigation matter however, the legal expense insurance companies will only provide cover during the time the matter is investigated and if it is believed the case may be either without merit or with less than an equal chance of success may discontinue funding.  It is therefore important that you seek advice early as to the likely strengths or weaknesses of your case.

Are costs recoverable from your opponent?

It is intended in employment tribunals that there is a principle of “no costs” which is designed to make tribunals more accessible to employees.  However, with the complexity of employment law increasing, the tribunal does have the ability to make an award for costs where they feel a case has been conducted unreasonably or if a reasonable settlement offer has been made but was not accepted and at a later stage a claim brought has failed.  We will advise you in more detail in relation to the costs, risks, tactics and considerations.

Disbursements for tribunal work are no longer charged, i.e. tribunal fees.  These were abolished in 2017.  So, the “disbursements” parties incur are in relation to additional work carried out by us such as, for example, obtaining specialist assistance in respect of pension loss calculations, counsel’s fees – as referred to above - and other such additional expenditure.  Again, we advise you regarding this when we take instructions and assess the likely level of costs and disbursements.

 

For more information please telephone Martin Groat on 01342 323545 or email us at enquiries@waughs-solicitors.co.uk