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Mhairi, a trainee solicitor, shares their experience of completing a rotation in the Employment practice group

Outline of the practice area

The Employment team advises and acts for clients on the full spectrum of Employment law: unfair dismissal, termination of employment, discrimination, harassment, whistleblowing, TUPE, redundancy, board room disputes, corporate support, employment contracts, enforcement of restrictive covenants and non-competes, GDPR and trade union issues. Employment is a fast-paced area and the team also keeps abreast of new developments such as Brexit and Covid-19, for example the issues surrounding ‘return to work’ as lockdown restrictions begin to ease.

Trainees in the Employment team can expect to be heavily involved in all aspects of the Employment team’s practice and typical tasks involve:

  • assisting with drafting of a variety of contracts and claim documents;
  • being present in witness interviews and drafting statements for tribunal claims;
  • regularly corresponding with tribunals in order to provide updates on the progress of claims;
  • coordinating the disclosure of documents;
  • researching niche/ grey areas of law;
  • taking minutes at grievance meetings;
  • preparing slides for client training;
  • cross-departmental support work such as due diligence reports; and
  • bundling documents for an array of preliminary and final hearings.

Example of the type of work completed / of a deal

I recently attended a three week whistle-blowing hearing at an Employment Tribunal in Leeds. I felt very lucky to be able to attend in-person as most Tribunal hearings throughout the pandemic had been held via video link.

I was heavily involved in the case as soon as I started my seat, and helped with the collation of witness statements, evidence bundles, and organised sessions with the witnesses to help explain the Tribunal procedure to them.

At the hearing itself, I was responsible for looking after the witnesses, our QC, and handling any last minute requests such as running to and from the Employment Tribunal printing out last minute disclosures! I was also asked to sit in the Tribunal room throughout the hearing in order to take verbatim notes. There were some extremely complex bits of evidence that needed to be carefully written down and I definitely experienced some pressure when our QC declared loudly during his cross-examination that he wanted to check his notes to see exactly what had been said! This experience was very rewarding as I was given a lot of responsibility and received some good personal feedback from the client as to how I had handled various tasks.

Why is the practice group an exciting place to work/ innovations & exciting things happening in that area

The most interesting thing I have found about Employment law is that it is forced to address potentially controversial changes in society, and will always spark debate as a result because it deals with human issues. A pertinent example of this is the Maya Forstater case. A woman working at a think tank was fired from her job after she published tweets questioning government proposals to allow people to self-identify as the opposite sex. In her claim, she stated that her belief that sex is a biological fact that cannot be changed is a protected belief under the Equality Act and that she had therefore been discriminated against. Ms Forstater’s claim was initially rejected, however she won her appeal which is currently being contested. This appeal ruling ultimately means that gender critical beliefs afford people the same legal protection as religious beliefs, environmental beliefs and ethical veganism. The case has been highly publicised, with Ms Forstater receiving social media support from author J.K. Rowling. Whilst undoubtedly an extremely raw issue for many people, it highlights the need for the law to address changing values and beliefs.

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