Napiers act for major employers in both the public and private sector. We work with Senior Managers and Human Resources professionals to provide clear and pragmatic legal advice. We give our employer clients the information and guidance they need, so that they can plan for employment issues that might arise in the future or take proactive steps to deal with ongoing disputes. If litigation is unavoidable, our employer clients are in safe hands, as we regularly deal with complex and sensitive employment cases in the Industrial Tribunal, the Fair Employment Tribunal, the High Court and the Court of Appeal.
We also advise executives and employees in relation to employment law issues. If things go wrong, we help individual clients understand their workplace rights and the potential legal avenues available to them. If relationships have broken down, we can advise employees on how to secure an appropriate termination package. If an individual wants to enforce their employment rights, we can help them lodge tribunal proceedings.
Paul Upson heads the firm’s employment department. He has over 15 years post qualification experience in employment law. A Legal 500 source has said that he is "established as one of the leading employment and discrimination lawyers in the jurisdiction” and that his grasp of cases and complexities arising is second to none.
We provide employers with advice on how to stop workplace issues escalating into a formal legal dispute. Taking specialist employment law advice at an early stage often saves money and time. We are aware of that our employer clients’ time is precious and we can provide practical and pragmatic assistance on any employment law issue that you face.
Unfortunately, sometimes litigation is unavoidable. If necessary, we can provide legal representation in the Industrial Tribunal, the Fair Employment Tribunal, the High Court or the Court of Appeal. We regularly run complex high value cases from beginning to end – securing favourable outcomes for our clients.
Sometimes an employer and their employee will decide that the best way forward is to agree to go their separate ways. If you are an employer who wants to agree a termination package with an employee, we can draft a compromise agreement (the legal document required to lawfully facilitate an agreed termination). If you are an employee who has been offered a termination package by your employer, we can advise you on the terms and effect of any compromise agreement that you are asked to sign.
Paul Upson has a wealth of experience providing training to clients and fellow professionals. He is on Legal Island’s roster of speakers in relation to employment law and presents at their Essentials of Employment Law event. He has been a guest speaker on an employment law and practice course run by the School of Law at the University of Ulster and is a guest speaker on discrimination law at the Institute of Professional Legal Studies at Queen’s University, Belfast. He has also worked with Chartered Accountants Ireland to provide virtual employment law training to their members. Paul also writes Legal Island’s Quarterly Education Law Update – which includes guidance for schools in relation to employment law issues (www.legal-island.com).
|Equal Opportunities & Discrimination
Claims for discrimination can potentially arise on grounds of gender; pregnancy and maternity leave; marital status; civil partnership status; gender reassignment; religious belief or political opinion; age; race; disability; and sexual orientation.
We advise employers when workers raise such an allegation and can assist workers who believe that their employer has discriminated against them on one of the unlawful grounds.
Advice in relation to dismissals is a key part of the employment law service that we provide to our clients. We advise employers on how to approach situations which might result in the dismissal of an employee (e.g. cases involving misconduct; capability on ill-health grounds; or performance management issues).
We regularly act for employers and employees in unfair dismissal cases.
|Redundancy and organisational change
We regularly advise employer clients on implementing workforce changes including reductions in contractual hours and pay; redeployment issues; and about undertaking redundancy exercises.
We have extensive experience in dealing with TUPE related issues and service provision changes – this includes advising on outsourcing/contracting out issues.
|Cases involving part-time workers and fixed-term employees.
We can assist when an individual alleges less favourable treatment on grounds of part time status or fixed-term status.
We can also provide advice about when a fixed-term employee may have a right to a permanent contract.
|Protected disclosures (whistleblowing)
Whistleblowers at work may qualify for legal protection, including the right not to be subjected to a detriment or a dismissal because of a protected disclosure. We advise employees who believe their rights have been infringed.
We also provide advice to employers on how to defend allegations that a “whistleblower” has been treated unlawfully.
There are limited circumstances whereby an employee can waive her/his statutory employment rights. If an employer wants to settle a dispute with an employee (and/or wants to implement an agreed termination), it is essential that a valid compromise agreement is drafted and signed off by all parties.
We regularly prepare compromise agreements for employers.
Our client base includes local, national, and international companies from a wide variety of sectors – including communications; IT; and manufacturing. In addition, we act for several religious organisations and charities in relation to employment law matters.
One of the department’s areas of special interest is providing employment law advice and representation to clients in the education field. We are in a unique position as we provide our employment law service to all categories of primary and post-primary school in Northern Ireland.
Read more about our expertise in Education.
Our team also act for employees who need expert assistance regarding employment law issues. We provide advice to employees in relation to workplace grievances, disciplinary issues; redundancy situations; and in relation to allegations of unlawful discrimination.
If it is necessary to lodge proceedings with the Industrial Tribunal or the Fair Employment Tribunal, we can take the employee through the relevant steps: including advising on the time limits that the employee needs to comply with; assisting with the Early Conciliation process via the Labour Relations Agency; drafting the claim form; and representing the client during the tribunal process.
Employers are often worried about the time and expense that might arise if an employee lodges a claim to the Industrial Tribunal and the Fair Employment Tribunal. If our assistance is sought at an early stage, it is often possible to takes steps that will reduce the chance of a tribunal claim being lodged or, if a tribunal claim is unavoidable, to take steps which will strengthen the employer’s defence.
Early Conciliation is a process run by the Labour Relations Agency. It is designed to give employees and employers the chance to explore whether a dispute can be resolved without the need for tribunal proceedings. In most cases, an individual who wants to lodge a claim with the Industrial Tribunal or the Fair Employment Tribunal must first contact the Labour Relations Agency about Early Conciliation. If the employee indicates a willingness to enter into Early Conciliation, then the Labour Relations Agency will make contact with the employer. The employer can then decide whether it wants to take part in the process. If you would like more information about Early Conciliation, contact us and we will guide you through the process.
It is essential that you take advice as soon as possible. For most Tribunal claims the employer has a limited period within which to lodge their Response Form. The Response Form is an important document. It sets out the employer’s position in relation to the allegations made by the employee. If an employer fails, without good reason, to lodge their Response Form by the relevant deadline, they may not be allowed to take part in the tribunal proceedings.
Compromise agreements are used by employers to ensure that, with limited exceptions, employees who sign them cannot take any claims against the employer in the future and/or that any existing claims are settled. The employer will make a compensation payment to the employee and, in return, the employee will agree to give up her/his right to take claims against the employer. A compromise agreement may also include a mutual agreement to terminate the employee’s employment.
There are several potentially fair reasons for dismissing an employee, including redundancy; misconduct; underperformance; and ill-health. It is sensible for employers to take legal advice before commencing any process that might lead to an employee being dismissed. There are various steps that an employer needs to comply with when dismissing an employee; and a failure to do so may render the dismissal unfair.
Individuals who allege that they have been treated unfairly will often think that they are entitled to pursue a discrimination claim (e.g. they allege that they have been subjected to bullying or harassment). However, an individual can only pursue a discrimination case if the alleged unfair treatment is on the grounds of one of the characteristics which are protected under discrimination legislation. The relevant characteristics are gender; pregnancy and maternity; marital status; civil partnership status; gender reassignment; religious belief; political opinion; age; race; disability; or sexual orientation. An organisation faced with an individual who is saying they have been ‘discriminated’ against should think carefully about whether the person is making a general allegation of unfair treatment (which is not something covered under discrimination law) or whether they are making a specific allegation of discrimination based on one of the protected grounds (which, if proven, will be covered under discrimination law).
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