By producing plenty of evidence in the field of social work to support its pledge to ‘improve lives, community and society,’ Anthony Collins Solicitors managed to stand out from a high quality field in this first year for the category at the Personnel Today Awards 2017.
Judges – Employment Law Firm of the Year
Darren Newman, employment law trainer, consultant and writer
Madeleine Graham, managing editor, XpertHR
Daniel Barnett, employment law barrister
Anthony Collins Solicitors
Anthony Collins Solicitors has a mission to “improve lives, community and society”. It has a team of 10 employment lawyers and its focus for the past year has been the national minimum wage (NMW) in the social care sector.
In particular, Anthony Collins has focused on the issue of social worker ‘sleep-ins’, and how employers can cope with the requirement to pay workers at least the NMW for the entirety of the time they spend with clients, even if they are asleep for most of it. HMRC can now require those that flout the law to repay wages going back six years, with potential additional penalties of 200% of the amount of underpayment.
Anthony Collins works with social care employers and sector bodies such as the National Care Forum to offer comprehensive advice – much of this work on a fixed-fee basis, reflecting the fact that these employers are already pressed financially.
In addition, the company has set up a strategic HR forum for a small group of HR directors in the social care sector, and hold an annual employment law update focusing on issues pertinent to this sector. One client said these events were “invaluable as they create an opportunity to share ideas and even collaborate with other social care providers in an increasingly challenging environment”.
Our judges said this firm responded to a “significant sector-wide challenge, clearly set out”.
Unlike many law firms, where the charging structure is per “billable hour”, ESP Law offers customers an annual, fixed subscription fee model. Its aim is to provide “commercially-driven, bespoke employment law advice that is both of the highest quality and easy to budget for”.
For their annual fee, clients receive unlimited employment law advice from named lawyers, a guaranteed response within an hour, and online access to legally compliant HR resources that are written and updated by ESP’s in-house legal team. They also have access to a real-time online case management system.
Lawyers will also work with customers to build up their own in-house legal capability. Depending on budget, clients can build the right package of legal services for them. ESP’s current customer retention rate is more than 90%, and includes clients such as Ladbrokes and luxury luggage company Antler.
Joanne Shaw, HR manager at Antler, says that ESP proved a big support when she was promoted to her current role: “I really appreciated how ESP cared for me personally and understood the challenges and responsibilities I faced.”
Gowling WLG’s employment team consists of 26 lawyers, including five partners. It offers a full-service employment, labour and equalities practice.
The firm has recently been involved in protecting frozen food company Birds Eye from expensive litigation with regards to the Agency Workers Directive. Having been advised on a new labour force model, Birds Eye has been able to maintain a fully flexible permanent workforce, creating opportunities for agency workers to transition to permanent employee status.
This new model was challenged in 2015 – the first case to consider a workforce reorganisation deliberately implemented ahead of the introduction of AWR in 2011. However, in the case of Mr T Jones and others v Birds Eye Limited, the employment tribunal found in favour of the employer, based largely on the advice provided by Gowling WLG prior to the directive coming in.
Our judges praised the way Gowling WLG has been “proactive and rigorous” in the Birds Eye case: “a law firm working closely with a client to achieve a legal solution that also works for the business as well as ensuring technical compliance”.
HRC Law is a specialist in legal advice for the recruitment sector and this year has been involved in one of the most high-profile employment law cases in the UK.
Its client, Transline Group, is one of the agencies supplying Sports Direct with staff for its Shirebrook distribution centre, which has been subject to investigations regarding its working practices. Thanks to its work on this investigation, HRC is seeing increased demand for its services from clients looking for solutions on flexible labour compliance, preventing modern slavery and dealing with the new Gangmasters and Labour Abuse Authority.
HRC believes it brings together “the tailored approach of a boutique firm alongside the expertise and resources you might expect from a much larger firm”, and has won a recruitment industry award for its legal services to the sector. It offers a fixed-fee, monthly product for clients, enabling them to budget for legal services.
HRC’s expertise has also been recognised by the BBC, which has approached the firm to support its ongoing investigations into the gig economy and modern supply chains.