Legal proceedings should help alleviate the emotional and financial strain of an employment dispute rather than exacerbate them which is why it is vital to consult good employment solicitors.
To help give you an idea of what to look for in employment solicitors and what to expect from their service we have asked lawyers who act for employees what advice they can provide.
What to look for in employment solicitors
Choosing employment solicitors who specializes in the field is of first importance according to all our panel. Employment solicitor Helen Moore, of Tayntons, warns: “It’s a complicated area of law that requires a full-time department.”
Moore also warns against using commercial solicitors unfamiliar with representing employees. However solicitor Ellie Hubbard suggests that it can be useful if your lawyer has some experience acting for employers as well. This means that employment solicitors can appreciate the demands of the other side of the dispute and perhaps help bring about a quicker resolution.
All employment solicitors interviewed by TakeLegalAdvice.com emphasise the importance of feeling comfortable with your lawyer. Resolving an employment dispute is a collaborative process. Since it can be a stressful experience, it is very important that you do not feel at all intimidated by your solicitors.
Employment solicitor Kitty Falls (left) advises: “Make sure you work with employment solicitors who understand your problem and who you get on well with.” She is also keen to remind employees seeking legal advice that they can change solicitors if they are not happy and request that their paperwork be transferred to someone else.
How you can help your employment solicitors
Employment solicitor Jonathon Mansfield of law firm Thomas Mansfield LLP emphasises the importance of consulting a lawyer early on before taking precipitate action such as walking out. Employment solicitors can help resolve a problem in its nascent stages or through internal proceedings so that you can remain with your employer. Diane Massey of employment solicitors DSM Legal also draws attention to the urgency of seeking legal advice by highlighting the short time limits for issuing proceedings in an Employment Tribunal.
However, employment solicitor Liesel Whitfield of law firm Irwin Mitchell warns that employees cannot pursue their rights until they have officially raised a grievance with their employer. Time can be saved by doing so before consulting an employment solicitors. Whitfield says an employer¹s grievance policy should be easily accessible for advice on how to raise a grievance.
Louise Lawrence (right) - also an employment solicitor at Dawsons - suggests how you can prepare for the first meeting with employment solicitors. You should try to set out a chronology of events for your solicitors and bring copies of relevant documents such as your employment contract, copies of company policy and any correspondence.
Dawsons’s Hibberd also suggests that trade unions can be useful for assisting with an employment grievance, particularly as they are likely to know more about the details of your job.
What your employment solicitor should be able tell you
Kitty Falls says that during your initial consultation your employment solicitor should be able to give a good idea of the likely outcome but adds the caveat that “there is never 100 per cent certainty.”
It can be hard for an employment solicitors to give a precise answer since they cannot know how the employer will react, according to Hibberd. However, she says, employment solicitors should be able to provide you with a range of possible outcomes.
Hibberd also says employment solicitors should be made aware of your ideal result so that he or she knows how to proceed. They should also warn you of the limitations of your case. She says that many people, for example, would like to be reinstated when this is normally quite hard to achieve.
When it comes to costs Helen Moore warns that being told the hourly rate is not a particularly useful guide to how much you will have to pay your employment solicitor. She also says that a price quote for a piece of work running right up to the employment tribunal stage is not good enough since many cases do not go this far.
Instead, she advises asking your employment solicitors for a breakdown of costs for each step of the process. This way you can get a price quote for using your employment solicitors up to the point of raising a grievance, then up to the point of issuing proceedings or up to the point of reaching a settlement.
How you can pay your employment solicitors
It is also important to ask your employment solicitors about the payment options available to you. Although you may be seeking retribution, Kitty Falls cautions that your case may simply not be cost effective. She also warns that legal aid is not available until you reach the stage of an Employment Appeal Tribunal.
Legal expense insurance is another option which employment solicitors were particularly in favour of as cover is provided via an insurance policy. Helen Moore strongly advises that individuals pay for such cover, which can be attached to a home insurance policy, and points out that it can pay for a solicitors in other situations such as personal injury.
However, Hibberd does warn that insurance companies can be reluctant to allow you to choose your own employment solicitors. Falls suggests they are more likely to agree to pay for your own employment solicitors if you have already had a free consultation before seeking their support.
Often, you can also negotiate a conditional fee arrangement (also known as ‘no win, no fee’) with your employment solicitors.
Click here to read 'How an employment solicitors can help your business'