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A friend is currently in a dispute with her employer. She has not been accused of doing anything wrong so cannot be sacked without the employer leaving themselves open to unfair dismissal, and as there is an ongoing dispute, redundancy would also leave the employer open to a claim. The employer seems to have little understanding or regard for employment law.

Obviously we will consult an employment law specialist, but is there any point in doing this before the employer takes final action? She would like to keep her job, so (assuming our understanding of the law is correct) is it worth presenting our case to the employer before he dismisses her, to prevent it ever going to tribunal in the first place?

She is based in the UK.

  • How long has your partner been employed there? – Moo Nov 18 '16 at 12:28
  • @Moo Around 3 years – Paul T Davies Nov 18 '16 at 12:47
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    Why on earth would she want to keep working for someone like this? Keep in mind that actually bringing legal action against an employer is usually career suicide, though I'm not familiar enough with the UK to know how confidential a tribunal is or whether the reaction by employers there would be substantially different. – Lilienthal Nov 18 '16 at 12:54
  • @Lilienthal We've wondered about the 'career suicide' aspect and will be investigating this. She would like to keep he job because she enjoys it and is very good at it. – Paul T Davies Nov 18 '16 at 12:56
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    Definitely worth discussing with someone at the Citizens' Advice Bureau. They have employment lawyers available who will give you advice free of charge. – Laconic Droid Nov 18 '16 at 13:34
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Yes it is worthwhile consulting an employment law specialist before being fired if you feel unlawful firing is immanent. A local specialist will advise as to what documents can be legally retained that will support her case. Once fired she will likely not have easy access to the employee handbook or any work emails that may have bearing on the case however what documents can be retained will be a matter of local law.

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I will take your two questions in reverse order for reasons which will hopefully become obvious.

is it worth presenting our case to the employer before he dismisses her, to prevent it ever going to tribunal in the first place?

Quite possibly, but get advice. This is something you would need to talk to a specialist with about with specifics, but it is very often advisable to address serious issues through a formal complaint (known as a grievance), made in writing and without undue delay. If you do later want to rely on the fact that you had raised an issue, a tribunal may not take you seriously unless you had exhausted the internal channels (i.e. raised a grievance and appealed if the result was not in your favour).

Obviously we will consult an employment law specialist, but is there any point in doing this before the employer takes final action?

Absolutely, yes. You ought to get help deciding whether to raise a grievance, preparing and presenting your complaint, and support with any tribunal proceedings which arise - as there are strict time limits (for a typical tribunal claim, three months less a day from dismissal) and steps which must be followed to the letter or your case must be thrown out.

If your friend had the sense to join a trade union before this started, they should contact their rep immediately: this sort of thing is their day-to-day work and they will provide not only advice but also would normally accompany you to a grievance hearing or any meetings which might result in your dismissal (e.g. capability/disciplinary) and, if you have a good case, support through the tribunal process, and some unions will also help with the upfront cost of tribunals. You should get them involved as early as possible as there are things you can do - or fail to do - which will significantly affect your chances if it ever comes to tribunal, and also your employer's willingness to either back down before they make rash decisions, or at least settle before it gets to court.

If your friend is not a union member, getting proper advice from a solicitor who specialises in employment law might get expensive - but it might be worth it, depending very much on your circumstances (e.g. how much the job pays, how easy it is to get another one, the details of the case). In terms of solicitor, some offer free consultations - but only for small amounts of time, too small for serious work - but enough to help you decide whether to hire them to get advice. Look for one who specialises in representing employees and not employers. I have also heard that the Citizens' Advice Bureau sometimes gives employment advice, which might be a cheaper option - but they won't be able to represent you in your grievance meeting or in a tribunal.

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You do not allude to what the dispute is about.

But what I would suggest - is it worth trying to work in a hostile environment? Your health? Your happiness?

Perhaps a good idea to get the CVs out.

As to legal action - this will be protected and costly affair. Even if you win, what exactly is won.

Perhaps the best course of action is to get another job and leave on your own terms and of your own timing.

PS: Companies usually have more resources when legal stuff is about.

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Yes proving you followed the letter and spirit of the law and your companies discipline/grievance procedure is vital should it get tribunal - if an employer breaches this its normally a slam dunk for the employee.

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  • I wouldn't necessarily follow this guidance. And definitely don't count it as indicative of what a tribunal will actually do. And you haven't covered the many problems, not least what happens to the friend afterwards, whether they win or lose... – Rory Alsop Nov 18 '16 at 22:18
  • @RoryAlsop I am an accredited case handler for a major union its VITAL that the employee can prove that the employer did not follow procedure - what happens to the friend afterwards is a different Q – Neuromancer Nov 18 '16 at 22:32

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