Averta Employment Lawyers handle all areas of employee legal advice with a particular focus on issues affecting senior executives, managers, consultants and professionals. Our advice is practical and robust. Our solicitors are down to earth and efficient, with significant experience and a strong technical knowledge of the law.

Since 2004 we have acted for thousands of clients, employed by many of the best known businesses across the UK and overseas. We provide a quality of service and speed of response which matches or exceeds the largest law firms. Our services have been rated as unparalleled in our field.

Our expertise includes
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  • Settlement Agreements
  • Restrictive Covenants
  • Compromise agreements
  • Contractual disputes
  • Notice and garden leave
  • Unfair dismissal
  • Redundancy
  • Service agreements
  • Employment contracts
  • Pay and benefits
  • Severance agreements
  • Disciplinary and grievance procedures
  • Mobility and relocation
  • Professional partnerships/LLPs
  • Employment litigation
  • Consultancy agreements
  • Non-solicitation, non-poaching and non-enticement provisions
  • Discrimination
  • Boardroom disputes
  • Consultancy agreements
  • Directors’ duties
  • Secondments
  • Capability and performance
  • Whistleblowing
  • Tax on termination payments
  • Bullying and harrassment
  • Redundancy schemes
  • Partnerships
  • Disputes concerning shares
  • Share options and bonuses
  • Court and tribunal litigation

Settlement agreements

Averta has considerable expertise in advising directors and senior executives on settlement agreements (formerly known as Compromise Agreements), particularly where it is necessary to align the settlement agreement with provisions in the Articles, Shareholders’ Agreement or bonus/LTIP rules.

Averta is often invited by companies to advise on settlement agreements for employees which are used in a number of large scale redundancies/re-organisations or site closure exercises.

In these cases we usually liaise with the Employer (or the Employer’s legal advisers) to facilitate the process, whilst remaining independent of the Company and acting in the Employee’s best interests.

There are significant advantages to the employer in using Averta to advise the Employees. Our experience ensures we can offer an efficient and structure or way to handle situations where a large number of Employees have been invited to enter into Settlement Agreements. The Employees receive independent legal advice from Averta in a timely manner, sometimes at the Employee’s place of business, and often over the course one or two days. This has significant cost and logistical advantages.

In these cases Averta will:

  • Take steps to understand the consultation process and the payments involved to the Employee
  • Agree the Settlement Agreement
  • Attend the Employer’s premises (if needed) and conduct group meetings with the Employees to explain the issues involved.
  • Meet each Employee on an individual basis either at the meeting, or by telephone after the meeting
  • Sign off the Settlement Agreements.

Costs are paid by the Employer, and we offer a variety of different cost packages, depending on venue, complexity and number of Employees involved.

Case Study 1
A major technology business proposed to close an office and make its staff redundant. The Employees were offered enhanced redundancy packages in return for entering into a Settlement Agreement. Averta was instructed to advise the Employees (with their consent of course) and liaised with the Company regarding the terms of the Settlement Agreement. Various changes were proposed and agreed. Averta then attended the site for two days to advise the Employees which involved a group meeting, and subsequent one on one meetings with Employees. All the Agreements were signed and the HR Director commented:-

“Thanks once again for all the good work you have done on behalf of all the Employees here. Everyone here has nothing but positive words to say about their help and guidance you and Jon had given them.”

Case Study 2
A similar exercise was conducted in Southampton, where a global electronics company was closing one of its factories. The staff were offered enhanced redundancy packages and as in Case Study 1, Averta agreed to provide independent legal advice to each individual. Group and individual meetings were held as before. However, a number of employees were absent, on leave or extended sickness, so arrangements were made to give each of those telephone advice over the next few weeks, leading to completion of all the Settlement Agreements.

Unfair and wrongful dismissal claims

After taking initial instructions, you will be provided with an indication of the work that might be required on your case along with a cost estimate.

The matters in which we are instructed often result in early settlement but sometimes they develop into more complicated matters and our cost estimates will change.  Costs are discussed as each case progresses and clients are given regular updates of cost estimates.

Many of the cases we take on can be resolved in a matter of days although more complex cases will take longer.

Costs of unfair and wrongful dismissal cases in the Employment Tribunal

Solicitors Regulation Authority (‘SRA’) Transparency Rules

The Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) requires solicitors to publish information about some of the services we provide. In Averta’s case we are required to publish cost information about advising and representing clients in unfair dismissal and wrongful dismissal claims in the employment tribunal.

At Averta, we act usually for senior employees, directors, consultants and partners or small and medium sized employers. For a variety of reasons, it is rare for us to deal with claims involving only unfair or wrongful dismissal. Most of the cases we deal concerning unfair or wrongful dismissal are more complex, involving discrimination, whistleblowing, TUPE and a whole range of other issues.

On average over the course of a year, we would expect to deal with less than one case involving only unfair dismissal that will reach a full hearing at an Employment Tribunal.

We almost never deal with cases involving only a wrongful dismissal claim in an Employment Tribunal. In our experience, wrongful dismissal claims are usually issued in conjunction with other types of claim.

On the occasions when we are instructed in an unfair dismissal or a wrongful dismissal claim the matter is usually settled long before a hearing through negotiation.

However, the SRA rules say (in italics) that costs information must include:

(a) the total cost of the service or, where not practicable, the average cost or range of costs;

We do not undertake any work on a fixed fee or contingent basis, such as ‘no win – no fee’. We undertake so few cases involving only unfair dismissal or wrongful dismissal we cannot give an average cost for them, however a straightforward matter involving a one-day hearing would cost in the region of £4,000 to £10,000 plus VAT. A longer, more complicated case will cost more, and our costs estimate will reflect the different circumstances:

A moderately complicated case, heard over a few days involving 4 or 5 witnesses, might cost between £10,000 and £25,000 plus VAT.

The most complicated cases, for example those heard over two weeks or more with 6 or more witnesses and expert evidence, might cost from £25,000 up to £100,000 plus VAT.

(b) the basis for your charges, including any hourly rates or fixed fees;

We would usually charge on an hourly basis depending on the seniority of the fee earner, which in turn depends on the nature of the claim. This can range from £95 per hour for a paralegal to £350 per hour plus VAT for a senior lawyer.  We will give estimates before undertaking work and ensure the appropriate people are undertaking the work so costs are well managed.

(c) the experience and qualifications of anyone carrying out the work, and of their supervisors;

We are a specialist employment law firm. Our fee earners range from junior paralegals to solicitors with decades of experience at the highest levels of work.  Comprehensive information on the experience and qualifications those working on a case can be found in the team section of the website.

(d) a description of, and the cost of, any likely disbursements, and where the actual cost of a disbursement is not known, the average cost or range of costs;

Disbursements usually include items such as travel costs and photocopying charges. If a barrister is instructed, you will have to pay their fees. Barristers are only instructed after discussion with you and cost estimates will be usually be obtained prior to them being instructed. Disbursements could include the cost of expert witnesses such as medical experts or IT specialists.

(e) whether any fees or disbursements attract VAT and if so the amount of VAT they attract;

Fees and most disbursements are subject to VAT at 20%.

(f) details of what services are included in the price displayed, including the key stages of the matter and likely timescales for each stage, and details of any services that might reasonably be expected to be included in the price displayed but are not;

Dealing with a tribunal claim can involve some or all of the following:

  • Meeting client and taking instructions
  • Reviewing relevant documents
  • Negotiating with opponents, either direct or via ACAS early-conciliation scheme
  • Dealing with mediation hearings as appropriate, through judicial or third-party mediators, including preparation
  • Drafting the tribunal claim or response
  • Ongoing obligation to consider the possibility of settlement and the ‘overriding objective’ – advising as appropriate
  • Correspondence with opponents
  • Dealing with/preparing schedules of loss
  • Dealing with tribunal applications/ interim hearings including attending tribunal either in person or by telephone
  • Preparing lists of documents
  • Obtaining expert evidence, such as medical reports
  • Taking statements from clients and witnesses
  • Exchanging evidence and reviewing opponent’s case
  • Preparing bundles for hearing and agreeing with opponents
  • Regular reviews of the case as it progresses and advising on merits and value of the claim
  • Instructing counsel, as appropriate
  • Preparing skeleton arguments
  • Attending main hearing, including adjournments
  • Dealing with remedies if appropriate
  • Advising on the tribunal’s decision

(g) if you use conditional fee or damages-based agreements, the circumstances in which clients may have to make any payments themselves for your services (including from any damages).

We do not offer conditional fee or damages based fee arrangements.

Common issues

Following a recent merger you have been told that you are redundant. You have been offered a significant redundancy payment. Here are some questions you may be considering:

How has my redundancy payment been calculated?

Am I entitled to more?

Is my company dealing with the redundancy properly?

What happens next?

Often, particularly with senior staff, companies choose not to follow standard redundancy procedures. Instead, they offer to ‘enhance’ the basic redundancy entitlement either to a group of employees, in a large scale redundancy/restructuring situation, or on an ad hoc basis for an individual.
The question of whether the redundancy offer is a good one can be involved, taking into account your benefits such as salary, bonus, car, insurance, share options, pension and tax issues along with your prospects of finding alternative work and the circumstances of the redundancy.
We can analyse the contractual position and any potential claims you might have against your employer and help you to negotiate with the company or negotiate directly on your behalf to maximise the value of your redundancy payment.

Contract termination guidance for senior executives

You have given notice to leave the company. Your bonus, which is due, has not been paid. Your manager says that payment is discretionary but your colleagues have all been paid. You may be considering the following:

Can my boss withhold my bonus if I leave the company?
What happens to my share options if I leave?

Bonus arrangements are often described as discretionary but once targets are agreed and an employee achieves those targets then the bonus will often become contractual and enforceable. The fact that colleagues have received bonus payments strengthens your position because when an employer exercises discretion in such circumstances, it must do so fairly between employees.

However, there may be bonus payment conditions, such as a requirement that you are still in employment on the date the bonus becomes payable or that you not serving notice.

Share option rights are usually set out in specific agreements. Rights will vary but you may lose options once notice has been given particularly where options have not vested. You should take advice before you give notice.

You have been headhunted to work for a competitor. There are several pages in your service agreement concerned with restrictions on working for your competitors, dealing with customers and offering jobs to members of your old team. You may be considering the following:

Can I work for a competitor and take my team and clients?
I have received a threatening letter from my company’s solicitors. Where does this leave me?

Could I end up in court if I work for a competitor?
Many employee service agreements contain these restrictive covenants. Courts will not enforce them unless they are reasonable and no wider than necessary to protect against unfair competition. Courts will scrutinise them very carefully because they have the effect of restricting individual rights to work freely within the labour market. However, it can be a mistake to treat them too lightly. The issues can be very complicated.

Court proceedings can also be risky and very expensive. For these reasons it is relatively rare for cases to get to court but, where they do, the stakes can be high, balancing the livelihood of an individual against the protection of a company’s business. It is vital that you take legal advice as soon as you think that your activities might conflict with the restrictions.

It is worth taking advice on restrictive covenants at the time you enter into the service agreement. Unfortunately, many people do not but it is usually easier to negotiate less restrictive terms at the start of the employment relationship than when you are thinking of leaving and working for a competitor.

You have been employed by the same company for over twenty years, working your way upwards to a senior position on the management team. You believe you have dedicated your ‘best working years’ to the company and are shocked to have just been called to a meeting by the newly appointed managing director and told that your role is at risk of redundancy. The company is looking to restructure and rebrand itself as part of the process. You are concerned that the new MD perceives you as ‘old school’ and that your age will count against you.You are concerned that if your employment is terminated in the next six months, you will miss out on a potentially valuable Long Term Incentive Plan (LTIP).

What can I do to reduce the risk of redundancy selection or enhance my position?

We would investigate to see if this was a genuine redundancy or just an excuse to get you out. Whilst redundancy is a potentially fair reason for terminating a person’s employment, it might be possible to challenge the grounds for your redundancy selection and it can be helpful to scrutinise the selection process to identify any suggestion of procedural unfairness.

We can help you prepare for the consultation and selection process and help you to establish whether you have been subject to discrimination on the basis of age. In the event you are selected for redundancy, we could help you challenge the decision if it is unfair and negotiate a favourable severance package. The LTIP has not yet vested and depending on the terms of the scheme, it is possible that you will lose your entitlement to LTIP benefit when your employment terminates. This is a point which we would take into account in conducting negotiations.

You are a senior executive and the only female member of the management team. You have two young children and manage both a demanding work and home life. A less experienced male counterpart has been awarded a bonus under the terms of the company’s performance related discretionary bonus scheme, on the strength of new work wins which he has brought into the business through extensive networking. Your family commitments mean that you have only very limited opportunities to attend marketing events, you feel very aggrieved as you have not received a bonus for a couple of years and feel that you have been overlooked, is there anything you can do?

We would need to look firstly at the terms on which you are engaged and the terms of the bonus scheme. It appears that the company has exercised its discretion to pay bonus to your colleague and it has a duty to exercise that discretion fairly in relation to your bonus. It may be that the basis on which performance is assessed is discriminatory. If  issues of discrimination in the workplace cannot be resolved informally it may be that you will need to commence a formal grievance process.

You have been with the company for more than a year. When you joined the company you brought several large customers. You have just been given a service agreement to sign. However, it contains some clauses which would restrict you from taking customers with you if you left the company.

Do you have to sign?

You should have received an employment service agreement when you joined the company. Despite this, there may be references to these restrictions in your offer letter or other documentation. You may be entitled to refuse to sign the agreement, but it may also be reasonable for the company to have some protection depending on the nature of the business. We could advise you on this and help you negotiate appropriate restrictions.

You are a salaried partner in a professional practice. Twelve months ago you agreed to a temporary reduction in salary to alleviate the practice’s cash flow pressures in a difficult economic market. At the point of agreeing to the reduction, you agreed verbally to review the situation at six monthly intervals, this has not taken place and you have now been told that a further decision will not take place until the anniversary of the pay reduction.

You may be considering the following question:

Is my temporary salary reduction agreement binding and can I rely on this as grounds to argue that I should be released from my contract and the onerous restrictive covenants which it contains?

We need to establish exactly the basis and circumstances in which you agreed to the variation of your contractual terms, whether it has been documented in any way and how the relationship between you and the partnership has been affected by this decision. The enforceability or otherwise of the restrictive covenants may be open to challenge and this is likely to depend on how reasonable it is for the company to have a level of protection; what the industry ‘norm’ is in respect of restrictions and your level of seniority.