Top employment law advisers found to have unfairly dismissed legal staff

Scores: Peninsula failed to provide claimants with detail early enough

A leading supplier of outsourced employment law services to thousands of businesses has itself been found to have unfairly dismissed three legal staff after failing to follow proper redundancy procedures.

In Peninsula Business Services Ltd v IG Rees and Others [2011] UKEAT 0407/10, the Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) upheld a tribunal decision which found the three-step dismissal and disciplinary procedures section of the Employment Act 2002 had not been adhered to.

The tribunal found there was both a lack of transparency and a lack of opportunity for the claimants meaningfully to challenge both the criteria for redundancy and the individual application of those criteria in their own cases.

The three claimants at the tribunal were respectively a solicitor, an advocate and an officer in the litigation department. Their former employer – which is not a law firm – describes itself as “employment law and health and safety specialists” who are “renowned for providing employment law services to businesses throughout the UK”.

Manchester-based Peninsula says 25,000 businesses have “now turned to us for human resources outsourcing and expert employment law advice”. It employs 900 people in the UK and Ireland.

The three EAT judges, led by Judge McMullen QC, acknowledged that the stakes were high for all parties in the long-running case. “These were experts in employment relations, and the finding against the case of any of them would be very damaging,” the judgment said.

Dismissing the appeal against the finding of unfair dismissal in each of the three cases, the judges found that although Peninsula made “considerable effort” to conduct a fair procedure, “the unfairness in this case was that [the claimants] did not know their score at a time when they could respond properly to it. They did not know the outcome of the inquiries they made until after the appeal. They could not argue the scores unless they knew how [they had been assessed].”

Peninsula’s publicity materials state: “Our employer law advice can cover redundancy… or any other employment law matter affecting your business. Knowing what to expect and how to handle any of these situations could make all the difference, or even help you avoid costly employment tribunals.”

When contacted by Legal Futures, Peninsula declined to comment.

At a Legal Services Board event last week on reserved legal activities, delegates were asked to make submissions on whether there was a case to make employment law a reserved activity.


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