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Employment Solicitors and Legal Aid

By: Chris Hogan MSc - Updated: 6 Apr 2019 | comments*Discuss
Workers' Rights Employee Employment

At some point in an employment dispute you may be unsure of the consequences of your next choice, which is when you need to have access to independent legal advice. There are a number of organisations (some that are free) that you can go to in order to get this advice.

Finding a Solicitor

A solicitor may not be your first point of call but if the Dispute Goes To Court Or A Tribunal it would be unwise to go without at least preparing for the case and preferably having qualified legal representation with you.

Solicitors are not cheap however, so it may be worthwhile looking around for one who will offer an initial consultation for free or for a fixed fee. This will enable you to find out what the situation is and how much it might cost, so that you don't end up with open-ended fees. Solicitors can tell you this over the phone and they will also tell you if they have a partner who specialises in employment law, which is highly recommended.

Legal Aid

There are legal aid schemes throughout the United Kingdom where the government will cover your costs, but the scheme run in England and Wales by the Legal Services Commission does not help in employment disputes, unless it can be proved to be a criminal negligence claim. This is unlikely, although it could be the case in a dispute over a Health And Safety related matter. In Scotland the service is administered by the Scottish Legal Aid Board but again, workplace disputes are not covered.

In Northern Ireland, it is possible to get legal aid for advice about a claim to an Industrial Tribunal and preparation for it, but not for a representative to appear at the tribunal. Further information can be obtained from the Department of Employment and Learning.

In all the countries of the United Kingdom, however, the legal aid schemes are means-tested, which is to say that you will only qualify for the aid if you can prove yourself to be on a sufficiently low income. This creates a problem for many people who aren't considered to be on a low enough income to qualify for legal aid but are not wealthy enough to afford legal fees.

Trade Unions

If you are a Member Of A Trade Union then, as long as they support your claim, they are likely to provide legal advice for free (this varies according to each union). This has one downside, however, in that many employment disputes, particularly unfair dismissal where the complainant has a good case, become bartering affairs with the company offering increasing amounts of compensation to settle out of court as the court date draws near.

At some point the amount of compensation will become one that the union lawyer may regard as the best offer, and if you do not accept their advice to take the offer and take the case to court anyway, the union may withdraw the funding. This is understandable from the union's point of view, as they do not want to be spending time and member's money on unnecessary court cases, and if the money is all that the complainant is after, then it's not an issue.

It becomes a problem when the complainant wants to take the case to court in order to prove a point or set a legal precedent, and they are prevented because the arrangement means that it has become about compensation instead.

Alternative Sources

Assuming that you aren't a member of a trade union then the Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB) will be able to help. They are a charity with local offices throughout the United Kingdom who will offer free advice about your situation that is impartial and independent. They will not be able to appear in court with you, but they may be able to direct you to a solicitor who does what is called pro bono work, where they commit to doing a proportion of work for free as a social service. They can also help you find a solicitor who specialises in employment disputes. ACAS, the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service, can also help and advise and their advice is free, although legal representation will not be.

In England and Wales, a service known as Community Legal Services has been set up as an umbrella organisation to provide information about all these different methods of obtaining legal advice, whether free or paid for. They are a good first place to go if you are in need of advice.

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[Add a Comment]
Jalog 1 Remember that if you want to pursue a claim you have 3 months (less one day) 2Speak to ACAS as soon as possible as you will need to go through the reconciliation process.Be careful what you tell them in terms of anything that could harm your case as they may discuss with the employer!!
Herewegoagen - 6-Apr-19 @ 5:39 AM
Alot of people are dismissed unlawful, yet there's no free legal help. This will continue as long as employers knew employees haven't got easy means to get hwlp. I am 24 weeks pregnant and just got dismissed based on pregnancy. What do I do?No where to go but to start looking for job after I put to bed. This is unfair and psychological draining.
JaLOG - 2-Apr-19 @ 5:55 PM
Kam- Your Question:
Hi just wanted to find out if o can get legal aid for unfair dismissal.

Our Response:
You would not be able to get legal aid, but you may be able to get some legal advice from your union (if you are a member).
WorkingRights - 6-Oct-17 @ 3:00 PM
Hi just wanted to find out if o can get legal aid for unfair dismissal.
Kam - 3-Oct-17 @ 1:03 PM
I have been dismissedfrom work as security officer
N/A - 23-Mar-16 @ 10:36 AM
I won a case against my employer for unfair dismissal, my solicitor informed me that I needed to sign a disclaimer, stopping me from discussing the compensation I received,I never actually physically signed any paper, nor did the case get to the tribunal court, as an offer was maid 4 days prior.However I was asked after receiving the payment my the solicitor representing the employer, whether I would give my permission for the company to inform its 300 plus shareholders and I said no.The members were informed at a meeting that it would not proceed because I had put a gagging order on the company. I am now taking flack because of this. How long does this disclaimer last
Patsy - 30-Jul-14 @ 2:44 PM
If your previous role becomes redundant and you accept a trial period in another job role with the same company and it doesn't suit you. Would this jeopardize any mortgage protection insurance policy if you were to leave within the twelve week period?
Ruby - 19-Jun-13 @ 11:10 PM
Why are employers allowed to get rid of people 1 day before six month probation ends without any sort of discussion about supposed performance issues .
golfer - 16-Nov-12 @ 4:06 PM
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