Carol was instructed by a US company in relation to its UK subsidiary on a recommendation from that company’s accountant, as they were unhappy with the service of their previous lawyers, one of the top London firms. The issues were available and accessibility of the lawyers and also that the assistance given was not on a practical “hands on” basis, which this particular client required. The client faced a choice between selling its UK business to a competitor or closing the operation down entirely. From the employment perspective, this raised a number of issues and as more than 20 employees were affected collective consultation obligations came into play with regard to any potential redundancies, as well as the obligations to consult regarding the potential transfer. The matter was further complicated by the fact that the potential transferee was located in another EU country.
There was no dedicated HR resource and those in the US were unfamiliar with English employment law so it was important to explain matters in a clear practical way and to draft all the documentation required.
There were a number of conference calls with the States and the proposed transferee, who had instructed their own legal representation in the UK. Unfortunately, upon enquiry from the proposed transferee, Carol had to tell them that she could not act for them as well! Although for commercial reasons the transfer did not take place, Carol was able to ensure that the client protected itself by undertaking the required collective consultation with its employees at the earliest opportunity both with respect to the proposals to transfer and with respect to the shutdown. Individual consultation also took place in respect of the redundancies, and there was an ordered shutdown, without any legal problems.
Given the upsurge in publicity awarded to high profile discrimination claims, it is hardly surprising that discrimination issues form a large part of Carol’s current and recent cases. Many considerations arise in such cases, not least the impact on the business and other individuals in it accused of discrimination and where an employee making such claims remains an employee ensuring that in all subsequent interaction, Carol’s client company does not give the employee the ability to add to his or her claims by further allegations of discrimination or victimisation. Often, the course of action that best suits the client’s needs is careful handling of the situation through to an agreed confidential settlement at a level which comes in well under both the costs risk and time involved in pursuing a case through to its conclusion.
Carol also likes to give proactive advice on how the risk and exposure to such claims can be minimised by training staff on their responsibilities towards each other, which enables a company in such circumstances to run a statutory defence that they took all possible steps to prevent any alleged discrimination from occurring