Business Disputes

Whether you're facing a dispute with your employer, a problem with your business or something more personal, our lawyers and mediators are here to fight your corner.

Staff - General Disputes

Shareholders' agreements

Disputes amongst shareholders can happen for many reasons. There might be a disagreement about how the company should develop, it might be over poor performance or issues over shareholders' dividends.

We look ahead when drafting articles of association and shareholders' agreements and try to highlight potential difficulties. We can also provide trained mediators to prevent any dispute from escalating.

The important thing is to seek legal advice early on in the dispute to try to prevent damage to your business.

An new employee is in breach of their restrictive covenants

If action is being taken against you because a new employee has breached restrictive covenants from their former employer, this could have significant financial and commercial consequences for your business.  You need to deal with the threat of action quickly.

If the previous employer believes they have lost out financially because of what your new starter has done, they may apply for an injunction to stop that activity.  They are also likely to apply for damages.  You may be sued along with the employee if the previous employer believes you assisted the employee to breach his or her restrictive covenants.

Defending court proceedings is likely to be expensive.  We can advise you how to defend those proceedings by either successfully arguing that there has been no breach or the restrictions are invalid or we can negotiate a settled outcome for you.

Managing disciplinary issues

Despite every effort, the best run business may encounter disciplinary problems with employees from time to time.  Having clear and fair disciplinary policies in place will help both you through this difficult time.  Some behaviour, such as drug or alcohol abuse on site,  may constitute gross misconduct and can lead to instant dismissal.  If you are in the process of handling disciplinary or  grievance situation with an employee, it is important to deal with issues fairly and in accordance with unfair dismissal legislation.

If you need guidance on the disciplinary process, or would like one of our lawyers to be actively involved in your disciplinary process, please get in touch.

Managing staff grievances

A clear and concise grievance procedure that follows, as a minimum, the ACAS Code of Practice is crucial.  Failure to follow a proper grievance procedure could result in an Employment Tribunal claim against your business, especially if it is raised at the time an employee is disciplined or made redundant, for example.  Failure by a business to follow a proper grievance process could in itself increase compensation payable to an employee if they have some other successful Employment Tribunal claim again. 

Your employee should set out their grievance in writing so it can be fully investigated with the employee and, if necessary, any other members of staff who may be involved.  Dissatisfied employees should have the right to appeal any grievance outcome.

Our employment team regularly help businesses of all sizes on conducting (often complex and challenging) grievance processes.  Please call us if you would like support or advice in this area.

Received a call from ACAS?

It's now mandatory for anyone thinking of making an employment tribunal claim to first contact ACAS who will then try and resolve the dispute via Early Conciliation without the need for legal action. If you receive a call from ACAS, it may be the first time you are made aware that an employee is aggrieved, or it may relate to a longstanding matter which you thought had already been resolved. However, it makes sense to gather any additional information that ACAS might have so you can consider the best action to take.

If you wish, we can deal with ACAS on your behalf throughout the Early Conciliation process.

Taking action against an employee in breach of restrictive covenants

If an employee who has left your employment has inflicted damage on your business in breach of the restrictive covenants, you may well decide to take action against them to prevent any further damage occurring or to recover your losses to date.

The key to success in restrictive covenant cases is acting quickly and gathering as much information as possible about the breaches as you can. Even if you do not want to go to the cost and expense of Court proceedings, you may well be able to secure undertakings to prevent further damage and/or damages from the employee who has left you and possibly their new employer.

Trade Unions are involved in a dispute with staff

Your staff have the right to be accompanied by a single fellow worker or trade union official when they are invited to attend disciplinary or grievance hearings. You should not therefore refuse them this right.

If possible, you should work with the trade union representative to resolve the grievance as quickly as possible and handle the disciplinary as sensitively as possible. Most trade union officers understand the benefits of a good working relationship between an employer and a trade union and therefore look to work in collaboration with employers as far as possible.

If the dispute with staff is not on an individual employee basis but instead across part or all of a workforce, you may well need advice as to how to handle the dispute with the trade unions. Trade union law is complex and we would advise that you take early advice in order to manage the situation and reduce any risk of the dispute becoming more inflamed.

Disputes between business associates

Disputes between business associates can happen at any time, from disagreements over the direction and development of the company to personal conflicts. Establishing what the legal position is from the outset helps identify which course to take.

We can support you in relation to all aspects of company law. We can also help to prevent any disagreements from becoming too serious by ensuring your Shareholders' Agreements, director's duties, memorandum of articles of association and partnership agreements are on point.

Disputes between shareholders/partners/directors

Disputes between shareholders, partners, stakeholders or directors can have a massive impact on the day to day running of your business and need to be acted upon quickly and sensitively.

Our litigation team offer advice and guidance on matters ranging from shareholder disputes, unfair prejudice claims, differences over the internal management of a company, interpretation of shareholder agreements, partnership agreements, breach of directors’ contracts,  director’s duties, interpretation and application of memorandum of articles of association, and disqualification of directors.

Should you find yourself in such a situation, our litigation lawyers can help you reach a satisfactory conclusion.

Facing an Employment Tribunal?

The BPE Employment Law Team is very experienced in defending employment tribunal claims for companies. The profiles of the lawyers in our Employment Team (together with details of when they qualified and their areas of expertise) can be found here. Many employment tribunal claims settle before a final hearing, so you may not incur all of the costs associated with the stages below. However, some claims do make it to a final hearing, so it is important that our clients understand what our charges are likely to be should an employment tribunal claim go to a final hearing.

What are our likely fees for unfair dismissal and/or wrongful dismissal claims?

We have set out below a fee estimate of our likely charges for running an unfair dismissal and/or wrongful dismissal employment tribunal claim for you as an employer.

The explanation and estimates are broken down into the four areas of a typical employment tribunal claim:

Stage

Acting for employers

1.

£2000-£3000 plus VAT

2.

£2000-£3000 plus VAT

3.

£3000-£5000 plus VAT

4.

£3000-£5000 plus VAT

What do the 4 stages of an employment tribunal involve?

STAGE ONE: This includes taking instructions from you on the tribunal defence, considering any necessary documentation, drafting the employment tribunal defence for you, submitting that defence and reviewing and advising on the claim or response from the other side.

STAGE TWO:

This includes preparing the necessary documents for a preliminary hearing in the case (there will almost certainly be 1 preliminary hearing with an employment tribunal judge before the final hearing) and instructing a barrister to represent you at that preliminary hearing.

STAGE THREE:

This includes all matters relating to the necessary disclosure of any documents, letters, emails or other correspondence relevant to the employment tribunal claim. This is normally quite a time-consuming process as you will be under an obligation to disclose all documents to your opposition whether they are good for your case or not.

It is likely that the employment tribunal will ask us on your behalf to prepare the tribunal bundle of documents. This is the bundle of documents which all the parties and the tribunal will rely on at a final hearing in the employment tribunal. This stage will also include considering a schedule of loss which your employee will have been asked to prepare.

STAGE FOUR: This includes the very important job of preparing witness statements for the witnesses you will call at a final hearing. This is normally a time-consuming stage as it is very important that the statements are accurate, that they correspond correctly to the bundle of documents and they expertly put forward your defence. In addition, this stage will include our liaising with a barrister who is appointed to act on your behalf at a final hearing and providing them with full written instructions to act on your behalf. We will also include reviewing the other sides witness statements and, if necessary, preparing supplementary witness statements. Finally, any list of issues, chronology or cast list which an employment tribunal ask for will be included within this stage (it is normal however for this to be the responsibility of you, the employer).

What about settlement?

Many claims settle before a final hearing. Settlement can happen at any time.  Any of the above stages will also include, if appropriate, a reasonable amount of time to explore settlement and negotiating settlement of the claim brought against your business.

Will the length of an employment tribunal hearing affect our fees?

Yes.

It is important to note that it is up to an employment tribunal judge to decide how long a claim for unfair dismissal and wrongful dismissal will take to be heard in an employment tribunal. More complex claims of unfair dismissal/wrongful dismissal (such as those claims relating to automatic unfair dismissal for whistleblowing) are likely to take much longer for an employment tribunal to hear than a more straightforward unfair dismissal claim for redundancy, for example. You should also be aware that the above table with the estimate of our fees is based on an employment tribunal final hearing of between 1 and 3 days. If the tribunal matter is listed for 4 or more days, it is likely that we will have to separately advise you as to our fees as longer hearing normally mean more complex cases.

Are barrister’s fees included in the above fee table?

No.

The above fee table does not include representation at any preliminary hearing or a final hearing. We will instruct an experienced barrister at the right level for the complexity of the claim against you to represent your business at a preliminary hearing and if necessary a final hearing. Before we instruct a barrister we will agree their fee with you. Below is an estimate of potential Barristers Fees:

 

Barrister Experience: 1-5 years

Barrister Experience: 10 - 15 years

 

Barrister Experience: 15 years plus

 

Half day preliminary hearing

£500

£1200-£1500

£2,000

Full day preliminary hearing

£900

£2,000

£3,000

1 day final hearing

£900

£2,000

£3,000

2 day final hearing

£1,750

£4,250

£5,500

3 day final hearing

£2,500

£6,000

£7,500

 

What about other types of employment tribunal claim other than unfair dismissal and wrongful dismissal?

As set out above, the above table of our estimated fees only covers unfair dismissal and wrongful dismissal claims. It does not cover any other type of employment tribunal claim such as equal pay, whistleblowing and any failures to collectively consult for redundancy or other purposes. We would be happy to defend these additional types of claim for you but would have to quote separately for them.

What other factors may affect our fees?

The above table of our fees is only an estimate. No two employment tribunal claims are the same. Factors in any employment tribunal claim you wish us to defend for you as an employer which would not fall within the above fee estimate table include:

  • Non-unfair dismissal and wrongful dismissal (see above for further information).
  • Employment tribunal claims which progress to the Employment Appeal Tribunal or higher court.
  • Where your employee is part of a multiple claimant claim against you as employer
  • Where a claimant in an employment tribunal claim you are defending as an employer is a trade union or a body of elected representatives.
  • The fee estimate table above assumes that there will only be 1 preliminary hearing. If there are any additional preliminary hearings (for example if as an employer you wish to apply to have an employee’s claim struck out because it has no basis or you are asking for a deposit order for an employee to continue with their claim.
  • If you want us to become involved in ACAS early conciliation (this is where both parties try and settle a dispute before it gets to an employment tribunal) we will gladly help you but will charge for this separately.
  • If you counter-claim against the employee in your defence (for example you say your ex-employee owes you money) this is likely to result in a revised fee estimate.

Will you have to pay any fees to third parties (disbursements)?

Normally in straightforward unfair dismissal and wrongful dismissal employment tribunal claims there are no third party fees to be paid (such as court fees or experts’ fees). The only third party fees you are likely to have to pay to defend a claim for unfair dismissal and/or wrongful dismissal are your barrister’s fees, mentioned above.

How long will it take for you to defend an employment tribunal?

Generally, the employment tribunal claim will be heard in the nearest employment tribunal claim to where your staff member was employed. Some employment tribunal centres are busier than others. Because of this, there may be significant differences in the speed at which your employment tribunal claim progresses.

Generally, however, the following timescales will apply:

  • Once an employee has put in an employment tribunal claim you as the employer will have 28 days from when you are sent that tribunal claim to put in a defence.
  • A preliminary hearing will then be listed anywhere between 3 and 6 months after the claim is sent to you.
  • Anywhere between 4 and 6 months after the claim is sent to you the parties will have to:
  1. Send each other a list of documents they want to rely on at the final hearing;
  2. Send the other side any documents the other side want to see from your list of documents;
  3. Finalise and prepare the final hearing bundle of documents (this is normally the employer’s responsibility); and
  4. Prepare and exchange witness statements with the other side.
  • The final hearing date/s for your tribunal claim is likely to be anywhere between 6 and 12 months after you receive the claim.

 

We have taken all reasonable steps to ensure the price information set out on our website provides an accurate and realistic indication of the costs of obtaining certain legal advice today, but we may update the information at any time in the future.

Whilst we hope this information is helpful as an initial guide, we will provide you with a specific fee proposal and a copy of our standard terms of business when you instruct us to undertake work.