Our Employment Dispute Expertise
Discipline and Grievances
It is very important, from an employee relations and risk perspective, for employers to manage disciplinary and grievance issues lawfully, fairly and effectively. Failure to take the correct approach can lead to both procedural and substantive unfairness and give rise to claims of unfair dismissal, constructive dismissal and discrimination.
Our employment solicitors are experienced in advising on a wide range of disciplinary and grievance matters across different sectors, advising on strategy as well as assisting at each step in the process including investigation and documenting outcomes.
Examples of our work:
- Advising a restaurant chain client in relation to various disciplinary issues, including customer complaints and theft
- Advising a large manufacturing company in relation to a serious disciplinary matter involving theft by an employee and the involvement of the police
- Advising various employers on compliance with the ACAS Code of Practice on Discipline and Grievance Procedures as well as their own internal disciplinary and grievance processes
- Providing guidance on the right to be accompanied and the management of disciplinary processes involving very sensitive issues, employees who are absent due to ill health and business-critical issues
- Drafting scripts to assist with disciplinary processes as well as appropriate correspondence
- Advising a senior lecturer in relation to a disciplinary complaint brought by a university
- Advising various senior executives in relation to grievances of discrimination during maternity leave against various employers
In this context, a whistleblower is a person who, in the public interest, makes a disclosure about matters such as criminal offences, regulatory breaches, breaches of legal obligation or health and safety matters.
Whistleblowers have special protection from unfair dismissal (including constructive dismissal) and from detriment, for example, disciplinary action, demotion or failure to promote.
Public policy driving whistleblower protection means that its scope is wide:
- no qualifying period of employment is required to make a whistleblowing claim; and
- the protection is afforded to employees, former employees, directors, contractors, agency workers and some partners and LLP members;
Further, Employment Tribunal awards are unlimited and can include awards for ‘injury to feelings’ similar to those made in discrimination cases.
A whistleblowing event may or may not be obvious, and may be masked by wider grievances. Spotting a whistleblowing disclosure and responding appropriately can be key to managing both employment-related and reputational risk.
Our Employment lawyers are experienced in representing employers facing whistleblowing claims and they are skilled at undermining claims made on frivolous bases or otherwise lacking merit.
Employees (and workers, partners and agency staff) are protected from being discriminated against on the grounds of their sex, age, race, religion and belief, disability, pregnancy and maternity, gender reassignment, sexual orientation, marital status, fixed-term status and part-time status. These are known as “protected characteristics” and discrimination on these grounds is unlawful under the Equality Act 2010.
Discrimination is an area of high risk for employers. There is no qualifying period required for an individual to make a discrimination claim and there is no cap on the level of compensation that can be awarded. Failing to respond carefully to allegations of inequality or discrimination can lead to significant claims for compensation but can also give rise to poor employee relations, reputational damage and commercial disadvantage.
Our specialist employment solicitors have extensive experience in dealing with all types of discrimination grievances and claims, including dealing with discrimination grievances and claims where the claimant remains in employment.
- Successfully defending a household name retail company in relation to various claims including disability, sex and race discrimination and equal pay claims brought by ex-employees
- Acting for a major national law firm in defending a discrimination claim brought by a solicitor
- Advising a national employer on the impact of age discrimination laws on their collectively agreed severance and early retirement terms
- Assisting various large employers to achieve the amicable exit of senior employees and directors against a backdrop of absence of poor performance associated with potential disability discrimination concerns
Most contentious employment matters are dealt with in the Employment Tribunals (such as pay claims, unfair dismissal, constructive dismissal whistleblowing, TUPE claims and discrimination claims).
Our employment law solicitors are highly experienced in deterring claims by way of pre-action correspondence and through the ACAS Early Conciliation procedure. Our lawyers are also highly experienced litigators dealing with all aspects of a case from preparing responses, document disclosure and preparing witness statements, as well as conducting advocacy in the Employment Tribunal. We understand that a tailored and commercial approach is required having regard to risk, cost, resource and reputational issues. Whatever the approach we will provide straightforward and robust advice and assistance.
In conjunction with our dispute resolution team, we will take the same approach to cases that cannot be dealt with by an Employment Tribunal, for example, high-value contractual claims and injunction proceedings.
- Acting for an airline in respect of various Employment Tribunal claims brought by ex-pilots and cabin crew involving unfair dismissal and TUPE issues
- Acting for an airport operator in defending an Employment Tribunal claim by an air traffic controller, securing a withdrawal of the claim
- Acting for a major national law firm in defending a complex discrimination claim brought by a solicitor, including compliance issues involving the Solicitors Regulatory Authority
- Acting for an international manufacturing company in respect of claims brought by ex-employees following a collective redundancy exercise
- Advising a group of 45 former employees in relation to their multi-million-pound group action TUPE claim against Thomas Cook Group
- Acting on a complex whistleblowing claim brought by an individual seeking in excess of £1m compensation. Robustly defending all allegations and securing a settlement for a nominal sum.
- Representing a number of commercial organisations affected by a claim by a group of employees that their employment should have transferred under TUPE. Securing settlement for a nominal sum.
There are many reasons for an employer to seek to agree terms on which an employee must leave employment. Reasons are often sensitive or difficult and it’s essential to approach the matter in the right way to ensure the very best outcome.
Our employment solicitors can provide strategic and practical support to achieve the best results. This may include providing “scripts” for settlement discussions, advice on settlement amounts, handling settlement negotiations and ensuring settlement packages are structured as efficiently as possible as well as drafting and negotiating settlement agreements (formerly compromise agreements).
We also design, manage and implement bulk settlement agreement projects, for exercises involving from 10 to 600 employees, and act as independent advisers in large scale redundancy and reorganisation exercises.
- Advising a large employer on achieving a smooth departure of two board-level executives
- Providing close support to a national employer in relation to the removal of the Finance Director, including involvement in planning, strategy, drafting correspondence and negotiating to achieve a mutually agreeable outcome
- Assisting a large employer in ensuring an executive leaving under a settlement agreement signed up to new restrictive covenants to protect the business from competition and solicitation
- Acting for 600 individuals accepting settlement agreements in a large scale voluntary exercise, ensuring all agreements were completed within a tight timetable
- Acting for various senior executives leaving PLC boards, including dealing with Stock Exchange announcement issues and packages involving complex bonuses, shares, LTIPs and share options