Advice for employers and employees: what should you ask an employment law solicitor during coronavirus?

Letchworth employer re-opening shop after lockdown

'As businesses begin to re-open from April 12, it's important that employers and employees know there's help and legal advice on hand to help them manage the impact Covid-19 may have had on their company.' - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

We catch up with employment law solicitor, Isabelle Maguire from HRJ Foreman Laws Solicitors in Letchworth Garden City, to discuss the impact of coronavirus on businesses, employment and job security.

Q: Hey Isabelle, can you start by telling us what employment law is and the legal services it covers? 

A: Sure. Employment law exists to protect both employers and employees and details their rights and responsibilities. It covers everything from contracts and wages to pension plans.

Employers can contact us for advice about employment contracts, disciplinary procedures, TUPE (transfer of undertakings) and isolated employment issues. We also offer legal advice to individual employees, helping them to resolve workplace disputes, negotiate contractual terms, ensure dismissals have been correctly conducted and what to do if not.

Q: How have you been helping individuals and businesses to manage the effects of coronavirus?

Business people discussion advisor concept

Meeting with a solicitor for the first time can be nerve-racking but they'll get to know you, your concerns and can offer bespoke legal advice to help put your mind at ease. - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

A: There's been an increased need for bite-sized advice to cross-check employment contracts and procedures, for guidance on furlough and unfortunately, support to make redundancies.

Small local businesses tend not to have experienced HR teams to manage the process. As a local law firm, we’ve been able to step in and support them, explain what redundancy should be paid, draft settlement agreements and negotiate a fair deal for all parties.

We’re meeting with many new employee clients, whose jobs are located outside of Hertfordshire and Bedfordshire, that are seeking legal advice after receiving a settlement agreement and wish to work with a solicitor closer to home, rather than their office.

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Q: Why should employers and employees seek professional legal advice?

A: You can’t just tweak a free employment contract from the internet, as it won’t feature the unique aspects of your company or consider the complexities of running your business. Even a brief consultation with an employment law solicitor can save you money in the long term, prevent you from making costly mistakes and preserve healthy workplace relationships.

For employees, access to the right legal information and advice can embolden and reassure them, allowing them to seek fair retribution and compensation. Most times, negotiation is possible. We can assist in this process, often achieve better outcomes for our clients.  

Q: When should legal advice be taken?

Employee that was made redundant and lost job during Covid

Sadly, Covid-19 has led to many redundancies, but seeking legal advice can help ensure you get the redundancy payment you're entitled to and set you up, so you're ready to take the next step in your career. - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

A: Always sooner rather than later. If your employer has offered you a settlement agreement, you must seek legal counsel as soon as possible.

Employers should seek legal aid from the moment an issue arises to help manage the situation. Any new business should seek legal advice early on, and if you’re hiring a new employee, it’s best to consult a solicitor beforehand.

Employment contracts are one of the most important documents that you’ll sign – they will determine the legal relationship you have with your employee in the future – so it’s vital to ensure it’s drafted specifically with your business in mind.

Q: What will happen when first meeting with a solicitor?

Independent business owner of a florist in Letchworth Garden City

'Small or independent businesses may not have the resources for an in-house HR team, which is where we can help to draft contracts, manage workplace disputes and offer legal guidance.' - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

A: It’s normal to feel nervous when meeting a solicitor, but there’s no need to worry. We’ll discuss your needs over coffee, get to know you and your concerns. You can ask us questions and we’ll explain exactly what we can do to help. 

It’s important you trust your solicitor and can open up to them. We will often spot areas where we can add more value, which the employer or employee had not considered. 

Q: How can people find the legal advice they need?

Contact us to schedule a consultation. We’re adept at providing bespoke, practical advice to employers and individuals regarding all aspects of employment law. We work with many local businesses throughout Hertfordshire and Bedfordshire.

Between my colleague Glynn and myself, we have extensive experience negotiating and drafting employment contracts, settlement agreements and resolving contentious employment issues. And remember, the aim of the law is always to find the best solution for everyone.

Isabelle is a commercial and employment law solicitor at HRJ Foreman Laws Solicitors in their Letchworth Garden City office. The Letchworth division is currently trading at Railton Law, following a merger in October 2019.

HRJ Foreman Laws Solicitors also has offices in Welwyn Garden City and Hitchin.

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