There is still a gap in the market for an “essential, go-to website for employment law”, Professor Roger Smith, solicitor and former director of JUSTICE, has said.
In an update to his report on digital delivery for people on low incomes, backed by the Legal Education Foundation, Professor Smith found that the best employment law website was operated by the Advice Conciliation and Arbitration Service (ACAS).
The professor found that no employment law website in England and Wales used the “interactive possibilities of the internet to the full”, though some provided content such as letters for users.
He said that this meant that websites had to be compared “in terms of their design and content within a conventional informational format”.
Professor Smith went on: “A range of commercial providers are using the internet to provide various packages of advice that include elements without charge.
“As at 21 April 2015, 15 providers were responsible for paid for ads on Google. Some like Australian alternative business structure Slater and Gordon are simply flagging free-phone and email opportunities to seek advice which is then provided in, presumably, a fairly conventional paid-for way.
“Others, like Setfords Solicitors or Castle Associates, offer an expressly free initial consultation.”
Professor Smith said a number of websites provided basic information about employment law and invited users to call for paid-for advice, while justanswer.uk provided a named lawyers who would answer your question for free and provide feedback from other users about the lawyer.
“All in all, if you compare employment with family law, the commercial providers do seem to provide less information on the internet – though it may be given in phone calls or by email.
“Indeed, the way would seem still open for some provider really to establish themselves with the essential go-to website for employment law.”
Describing the gov.uk website as “somewhat general and a little hard to navigate” and “competent but not exciting”, Professor Smith said the ACAS site was “much more focused on users”.
However, Professor Smith said neither the ACAS website nor the main not-for-profit websites adviceguide.org.uk and advicenow.org.uk provided information through “guided pathways”, like the Dutch Rechtwijzer website.
“Both these websites are, like the ACAS website, competent but, again like ACAS, neither of them processes the information by way of guided pathways through the information.”