Don’t just be “here for the points” – tips to make the most of CPD training

A subject close to my heart, and just as relevant as when it was first published last summer. Don’t leave it too late folks!

teagoemplaw

I have been privileged in recent weeks to sit in on a number of courses run by other presenters.  On each occasion there was at least one delegate present who did not have a direct interest in the subject matter of the course and was therefore “just here for the points”.

Whilst for solicitors, some CPD (Continuing Professional Development) points can be gained through research, article writing, and delivering your own seminars (among other things), there is a requirement to attend some structured courses delivered by providers who are accredited by the Solicitors’ Regulation Authority.  Not only that, the SRA Guidance on CPD requirements  makes clear that CPD should be relevant to a solicitor’s area of practice.

Training frequently as I do, I see a lot of “points” delegates, particularly in September and October each year as the solicitors’ CPD year draws to a close.

There are 3 possible reasons…

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Mixed feelings

I apologise upfront for a lack of technical detail and cross references in this post.  I hope there are no glaring inaccuracies.  As is often the case, it is Sunday afternoon in the car for me and my family travelling back from visiting friends.  I have only my laptop and my brain available, no internet and no printed copies of the legislation I’m about to refer to.  And once I get home I will throw this on the blog without any further work – it is Sunday after all!

Tomorrow is a BIG DAY for employment law.  We’ve all been banging on for weeks (months in some cases) about the 5 measures that will take effect from 29th July 2013 and their potential implications for stakeholders.  I’m not about to spend ages setting them out in detail.  I actually just want to give my personal take on them because:

a)      I couldn’t let tomorrow pass without throwing my opinion into the pot

b)      I haven’t blogged for ages

c)       Opinions matter (especially mine!)

So here goes:

Employment Tribunal Fees

I have written elsewhere about the potential implications of the introduction of the new fee regime.

As many will already know, the introduction of fees is subject to a legal challenge in England by the trade union Unison.  From my position on the A422 in Warwickshire I cannot work out quite where that has got to.  What I do know is that fees will be payable from tomorrow. If that challenge is ultimately successful, the fees already charged presumably will need to be reimbursed.  Which is all very well if it is HMCTS who is reimbursing them but the mind boggles as to quite how it will be sorted out in cases where a Respondent has been ordered to and had paid a successful Claimant an amount equivalent to the fee as part of their compensation.

Anyway, my feelings about the fee regime are mixed.  I am of the view that some fee should be payable to bring a Tribunal claim but I feel that the levels are too high.  There will be many legitimate cases that will never be heard, important cases concerning the interpretation of legislation which are clearly in the public interest but which the Claimant will just let go because the remedy is not worth the risk.  Cases like Royal Bank of Scotland v Harrison [2008] which gave us important clarification on aspects of the right to time off for dependants.  Had Ms Harrison been required to pay a Level 1 fee to bring that case, she may have just lumped her disciplinary warning.

Teago’s Take on Tribunal Fees:  Could Do Better.

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Confidentiality of Pre-termination Negotiations

A couple of weeks ago, I led a course on Compromise…,sorry, Settlement Agreements.  One delegate couldn’t see the point in me even spending time detailing the mechanics of the new s111A of the Employment Rights Act 1996.  But I think it is worth spending time on, because I think it will be used.

The good thing about it is that it may give an opportunity for an employer to have a sensible “this isn’t working” discussion without having to construct some sort of “dispute” in order to have a without prejudice discussion.

What concerns me about this measure, is that employers will misunderstand its scope and application and try to invoke the protection in cases where it cannot apply.  It is right that employers should not be protected where there is discriminatory reasoning for wanting a person out of their business, and equally for those categories of dismissal for impermissible reasons (a.k.a. “automatically” unfair).  But the subtleties of the distinction in some cases will leave employers exposed because they have not taken advice and have misunderstood the law.  I’m sorry to say that it will make more work for employment lawyers who get a blooming bad press from some quarters, and who, I would point out, are not the driving force behind all these new measures!

Teago’s Take on confidential pre-termination negotiations:  A Trap for the Unwary.

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New Employment Tribunal Rules

Hurrah for the new Rules!

I first wrote about this topic back in April 2012.  I was, and still am, mightily impressed that the Government went and asked exactly the right people to review them, gave sufficient time for them to do their work and then listened to and implemented the results.  If only the same were true of some of the other employment law stuff that has been shoved through (employee owner…, sorry, shareholder anyone? Anyone? *watches tumbleweed drift slowly past*)

I had looked at them in draft form during the consultation stage, and there have been some changes since.  So, I spent several days last week with my nose stuck in the new Rules, in order to rewrite the delegate notes for one of the courses I run for BPP (gentle plug).

They are straightforward, practical and written in plain English.  Which is exactly as it should be for a system which prides itself on avoiding undue formality in proceedings.

Teago’s Take on the new Employment Tribunal Rules of Procedure:  Really Rather Good.

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New cap on Unfair Dismissal Compensation

Ok, so I would be one of the first to agree that there are Claimants out there who need their expectations managed.  But there are other ways that could have been done.  I would have favoured a note on the ET1 form explaining briefly how the Employment Tribunal calculates compensation and links to further information.  I’d happily write it, I reckon I could do it in 3 small paragraphs.

But this?? It’s just plain rubbish.  Where the median award is just £5,000, there was no justification to further restrict a loss-based award in this way.  So there.

Teago’s Take on UFD Compensation Cap:  It’s Complete Pants.

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Date from which Interest starts to accrue and Increase in Interest on Discrimination Awards

Assuming that there is anyone left in the Employment Tribunal system after all of the above, losing Respondents will have to pay up sooner in order to avoid interest accruing.  Interest on discrimination awards is increasing to 8%.

Which is all fair enough.  Where a Claimant has won fair and square, why should they wait for their compensation with virtually no incentive for the Respondent to pay up?

Teago’s Take on Interest Changes:  Really Rather Sensible.

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So there we have it.  Incidentally, I am now at home.  Up with the lark in the morning to download the new ET1 and ET3 forms and finish those course materials.  Just another day in a life dedicated to employment law.

Night folks!

Posted in Making sense of employment law | 1 Comment

MIND’S EYE – An Auction

Read this, then donate. That is all.

Murmuration

mind

This blogpost has been written to draw your attention to a blind auction of a bespoke piece of artwork. But first I want to give you some background. I urge you to follow the links so you can understand why this important effort deserves your support.

A few months ago, a very brave friend of mine, Jon Bartlett (@Projectlibero over on Twitter), took to the floor at an event under the banner HR For Mental Health (@HRforMH on Twitter) and talked candidly about his struggle with his condition. More recently he has guest blogged for Mind, a leading mental health charity. It’s worth stating here their vision and mission:

Mind’s vision
They won’t give up until everyone experiencing a mental health problem gets both support and respect.

Mind’s mission
They provide advice and support to empower anyone experiencing a mental health problem. They campaign to improve services, raise…

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Upward trend – the “green shoots” for the Trade Union movement

What am I doing here?

I’m supposed to be (inter alia):

  1. packing for weekend away
  2. tidying house
  3. phoning my sister (sorry Bex)
  4. ironing
  5. developing my business 
  6. etc etc etc…

In fact I have spent the last half hour scrabbling around in the loft.  My husband has become used to these whimsical missions of mine over the years but even he is shaking his head tonight.

TUC Congress HouseThe reason for my frantic loft mission?  Prompted by the news today that Union membership is on the increase, I decided to stop crapping on about my undergraduate dissertation and actually go and find it:

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I was fortunate to be introduced to Frances O’Grady, now the General Secretary of the Trades Union Congress, in 1997 (by Simon Braunholtz, the then Director of the Political Team at MORI for whom I worked on my placement year, now IpsosMori).

That year, Frances had recently (not sure of the exact timings) been appointed to head up the TUC’s New Unionism Campaign.  I was invited to visit the TUC Head Office to interview her about the challenges faced by the Union movement. Union membership had fallen year on year for 18 consecutive years by that point, but nevertheless, I was blown away by her energy and enthusiasm for the cause.

She allowed me to tape the interview – heaven only knows where that tape went but I painstakingly replicated her words in my dissertation.

The project was a turning point for me in a personal sense. My dissertation had

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been my nemesis for most of my final year, and getting this qualitative angle on the research based material I already had, was fundamental to me getting a decent mark and getting the degree I wanted.

I think we’ve both been quite busy, Frances O’Grady and me, over the last 16 years.  But WOW.  Frances, I salute you, I thank you. And if you ever read this, I’d love to reconvene sometime.

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We are both responsible

Things people don’t tend to say to working fathers:

  1. Does your wife/partner mind you working?
  2. Who looks after your children when you’re at work?
  3. Does your wife/partner help you with the housework?
  4. Is it worth you working given how much you are paying for childcare?
  5. It must be really hard having your children looked after by other people.

Things people don’t tend to say to working mothers:

  1. To whom should I address correspondence concerning your child’s preschool/nursery/school matters?
  2. Do you look after the children to give your husband/partner a break sometimes?
  3. I know you love your children so much it hurts, but I understand totally that your work drives you and makes you a whole person. There’s no shame in that so stop beating yourself up about it.

My point?  Redressing gender imbalance in our society starts with attitudes.

My long suffering husband is an amazing father who easily does more than half of the childcare on days when our girls are at home, does more than his fair share of the housework, as well as car and house maintenance and gardening, and holds down a full time job into the bargain.  Does he get credit for it from society? No, he doesn’t.

We are both responsible for our children – we made them 50:50 after all – and we are both responsible for the effective functioning of our household.

So let society give us a break, me for working my guts out to build my business, and him for carrying on quietly, looking out for our girls and being there for me without the wider recognition he deserves.

That is all.

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Desperately Seeking Damon

Some years ago, I dealt with an extremely difficult case where emotions ran high.  An employee (who was still employed) brought claims against their employer and their manager.

The employee was unrepresented but wouldn’t communicate via Acas.  I walked a tightrope during hours of telephone discussions with him as I wanted him to know that he was being listened to by his employer but equally wanted him to understand that I represented them and was not advising him.  My file notes ran to several pages.

Once the matter was resolved, I received a mysterious package.  The employee had evidently checked out my profile on the firm’s website (moral: be careful what you put in your biogs folks!) and had decided to send me a limited edition print of Damon Hill (original by Ross Wardle).  He wanted to thank me for listening to him.

I discussed the matter with my then boss and my client who had no objection to me keeping the print.  And thus it has loitered around my house for some 5+ years, it remains unframed (on my to-do list).

Now I am hoping to ask Damon Hill to autograph it so that it may be auctioned/sold for charity.  The problem is, I don’t know Damon.  I know some people who might know him and I’m in the process of contacting them.  But if you are reading this and you know Damon, would you mind awfully pointing him in my direction?

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“Wear sunscreen” – or, why I teach.

I had the great fortune to spend this weekend at a spa in Shropshire.  A present from my children for Mothering Sunday, it was a timely break from a fairly frantic period in my life.  I was presenting full-day courses in London on Thursday and Friday, rounding off an exceptionally busy week.  I hadn’t been feeling particularly well and back-to-back courses are tough at the best of times.  By the time I arrived home on Friday evening, a spa break seemed like a very good idea indeed.

I had quite a journey to get there on Saturday.  My spa-buddies were my Mum and sister, coming respectively from North Wales and Leeds, so each of us had to travel a fair while to the ultimate destination.

I said goodbye to husband and girls at least ten times and shut myself in the car.  Hot coffee in the cup holder, sunglasses on, iPod plumbed in to the stereo – mix all.

First song – Baz Luhrmann, “Everybody’s Free (To Wear Sunscreen)”. Pearls of wisdom over a backing track, a track I’ve heard many many times.  One line stuck with me this time though.  The second to last lyric is as follows:

“Advice is a form of nostalgia, dispensing it is a way of fishing the past from the disposal, wiping it off, painting over the ugly parts and recycling it for more than it’s worth.”

This struck a real chord with me – “advice is a form of nostalgia“.  My Friday course was an introduction to running employment tribunal litigation and I had a group of trainee solicitors who threw themselves into the subject matter with enthusiasm.

I have a love-hate relationship with tribunal work.  I’ve loved a lot of my cases over the years and had plenty of successes, but I’ve had my fair share of gut-wrenching moments.  If you’ve run your own employment tribunal caseload you will know exactly what I mean.  I choose to share some of my more cringeworthy experiences  with my delegates (as anecdotes and as aspects of the day-long case study), in the hope that they will be able to avoid some of the traps I walked straight into when I was a very junior solicitor.  Reliving them as teaching aids for others almost makes them worth the original agony (almost….).  I share them in their pure form, without (as Baz Luhrmann suggests) “painting over the ugly parts“.

Of course, one only really learns about employment tribunal work, from experience.  They may avoid the things I’ve told them about, but there is bound to be something else that dumps them unceremoniously on their backside in the early part of their career.  Unfortunately, no training course can Teflon-coat them for the road ahead.  But the fact that everyone had to start somewhere and the most seasoned litigators probably screwed a few things up at the beginning is something that I don’t think gets shared as much as it ought.

At the close of course, as I was packing up my papers and computer and wondering what the delegates might say about the course on the obligatory feedback form, one of them came to me before she left.  Due to return to the employment department for her final seat, she told me how the practical exercises and my various anecdotes had fired her enthusiasm to grasp employment tribunal work with greater confidence on her return.  

That is why I “fish the past from the disposal, wipe it off…” and share it with the up-and-comings.  That is why I teach.

Posted in Making sense of employment law | 1 Comment