Whether you're facing a crisis or just need clarification on the best course of action, even the most knowledgeable employers will require expert HR advice from time to time.

The truth is, while HR matters come with the territory when you run a business or manage an organisation, most employers aren’t experts in employment law, and having to manage issues quickly and compliantly can leave you feeling out of your depth.

So where do you turn?

Need to talk through your situation with a qualified professional?

Ellis Whittam: Qualified HR advice tailored to you

At Ellis Whittam, we specialise in providing high-quality, commercially-minded HR and Employment Law advice to UK employers.

Our team of legally-qualified, dedicated advisers work closely with organisations of all shapes and sizes, helping to unpack even the most complex of employment challenges and find solutions that are preferable to you. Whether you’re in need of professional guidance through a particularly difficult or sensitive situation or would just like the reassurance of a second opinion, we can provide valuable direction and help you to avoid legal pitfalls that may leave you exposed to costly Employment Tribunal claims.

I have a current workforce issue

Unsure how to approach the situation? Worried about whether your preferred course of action complies with relevant case law and statutory requirements? While you might be tempted to follow your instincts or trust the HR advice you find online, employment law is vast and constantly changing, and it can be frustratingly easy to get it wrong.

With it easier than ever for disgruntled employees from bringing a claim against you following the Supreme Court’s decision to abolish Employment Tribunal fees, it’s never wise to risk it. of Our HR and Employment Law Advisers are well versed in a full spectrum of employee relations challenges and can offer clear, best-practice advice based on your specific situation. We’ll alert you to any aspects of employment law that you need to be aware of and guide you through the process to your preferred outcome.

I come up against challenges regularly

Dealing with HR matters can be a time-consuming task, causing unnecessary distractions and placing strain on your internal teams/management staff. All of this costs you money, and the cost of going it alone can often outweigh the cost of outsourced HR support.

Whatever situations you come up against, the ability to be able to pick up the phone to a qualified professional can make all the difference. Are my contracts of employment legally compliant? Am I handling this grievance in the correct way? Can I dismiss an employee who has been on long-term sick leave? What can I do about my high turnover? How do I draft a settlement agreement? No matter how complex or seemingly straightforward the issue, our unlimited, fixed-fee service gives you access to straightforward, pragmatic support at any time.

Unlimited, fixed-fee, personal

We understand that organisations will want to be mindful of cost when enlisting any form of external support. That’s why we operate on an unlimited, fixed-fee basis, without compromising on quality of service or depth of advice.

For you, this means:

You have complete cost certainty, allowing for better budgetary control.
You can lean on us for HR support as often as you need, without worrying about racking up a hefty bill.
You can be sure that your costs won't change throughout the duration of your contract – not even if your organisation grows or your usage increases.
You receive the best-quality HR advice at a fair and fixed price.
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Exceptionally good value for money: When we work out our fixed fees, we assume a charge rate that is typically 45% less than the hourly cost of a law firm. Our clients get exceptionally good value for money.

A named expert at your disposal

Alongside fair costs, we believe that the best HR advice is upfront, honest and personal. Brilliant service is integral to what we do, which is why we assign dedicated, legally-qualified HR and Employment Law Advisers who function as a trusted extension of your team that you can call upon at any time.

Your named HR expert (supported by a small team of dedicated advisers) will:

Support you in much the same way as an in-house member of staff would.
Take the time to get to know your organisation, how you operate and the specific challenges you face so that they can provide tailored guidance with your best interests in mind.
Help you to cut through legal jargon by turning complex legislation into clear, practical HR advice geared towards achieving your preferred outcome.
Keep you one step ahead of any legal developments that may affect how you operate.

From the simple to the most complex

No matter what employment-related hurdle you come up against, clear, commercial HR advice is just a phone call away. Examples of questions you might have where expert advice and clarification would help you to overcome obstacles quickly and compliantly include:

 “An employee has just informed me they are pregnant. What do I need to do now?”

“Can I amend an employee’s terms and conditions without their consent?”

“How do I deal with a flexible working request?”

“A member of staff has submitted a grievance. What’s the first step?”

“What do I need to include in a disciplinary investigation report?”

“Can I pro-rate holiday pay for casual or part-time workers?”

We encourage you to pick up the phone or drop us an email at any time in order to get nip issues in the bud and prevent them from snowballing into serious issues – and our fixed-fee service allows you to do so with complete reassurance on cost.

"They really support our team and it is reassuring to know we can pick the phone up at any time for pragmatic, coherent advice."
HR Manager, Empire Cinema

More than just outstanding HR advice

The support available via our HR helpline is backed up by a range of additional tools designed take the hassle out of HR management, protect your organisation, and simplify the way you manage people on a daily basis.

This includes:

Expert-created Contracts of Employment for each category of employee, accompanied by an Employee Handbook of best-practice HR policies and procedures.
Skilful drafting of any employment-related documentation, including letters and settlement agreements, to save you valuable time and ensure compliance.
Cloud-based HR Software to provide you with a hassle-free way of managing holiday requests, absenteeism, employee records, training and employee benefits.
Access to our online Knowledge Hub, where you can find an extensive library of expert-created guidance notes and downloadable document templates to use at your disposal.
Independent Legal Expenses Insurance to give you peace of mind that you're protected against the cost of Employment Tribunal claims.

Transform your approach to HR 

To discuss your current challenges and arrangements and find out how our personalised, fixed-fee service can help you to offload your people pressures, call 0345 226 8393 to speak to one of our friendly team.

Quick-fire HR Guides

voluntary overtime pay

Do I need to include voluntary overtime in holiday pay calculations?

Calculating holiday pay is a notoriously tricky task for employers, and things become even more difficult when employees work occasional non-guaranteed overtime. Employees are entitled to a week’s pay for a week’s leave. For those whose hours vary, a week’s pay is taken to be their average weekly remuneration over the previous 12 weeks in which they worked. However, until recently, it wasn’t clear whether an employee’s overtime should be factored into these calculations.

A verdict by the Court of Appeal has provided come clarification. The judgment confirms that voluntary overtime should be included in holiday pay calculations but only if payment for such work is “sufficiently regular and settled” for it to amount to normal remuneration. Unfortunately for employers, there is no definitive guidance on what amount of regular overtime is considered “sufficient” enough for it to be included; this would be for a Tribunal to determine on a case-by-case basis.

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sexual harassment

How should I deal with a sexual harassment complaint?

Receiving complaints of sexual harassment can be incredibly unnerving, and while employers will no doubt understand the importance of addressing such allegations, they are often unsure what process they should follow. 

First and foremost, employers should approach these situations with the seriousness they deserve and refrain from making any judgments or assumptions. As a employer, you have a legal duty to investigate any complaints of sexual harassment thoroughly and fairly, and you should do this in line with your internal grievance procedure. This will involve obtaining the complainant’s account, interviewing witnesses and gathering evidence, before deciding whether there is a case to be answered. If there is, you should then initiate a disciplinary procedure to determine whether there is sufficient evidence to indicate wrongdoing and, if so, decide on an appropriate sanction, which may include dismissal for gross misconduct.

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employment tribunal

An employee has just quit in the middle of a disciplinary investigation. What do we do now?

If an employee believes that they are likely to be dismissed for gross misconduct, it is a common tactic for them to resign before this happens. In these circumstances, employers may wish to abandon the disciplinary process or choose to see it through, depending on the length of the employee’s notice period and the time and effort involved.

If the employee works their notice period, you may decide to continue on. If you do, and your investigations then conclude that the employee is guilty of gross misconduct, you are within your rights to dismiss them without notice. This will effectively override their resignation, and the reason for their departure will be considered as dismissal for gross misconduct.

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Can I pay staff under the National Minimum Wage if they agree to it?

No. It is against the law to pay staff less than the current minimum wage rate for their age. National Minimum Wage and National Living Wage rates apply to both workers and employees and cannot be opted out of, even by agreement.

Any clause written into an employee’s Contract of Employment that contravenes statutory regulations will not be legally binding, even if signed by the employee. In addition to a penalty from HMRC, deliberate or unintentional violations of minimum wage rules will give affected employees grounds to bring a claim against you –  so it’s wise to have processes in place to review and update your pay procedures every April to ensure you’re not caught out.

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Is it legal for employees to go on strike?

There are very specific rules setting out when it is permissible for an employee to take part in a strike. In short, in order for an employee to be protected against disciplinary action or legal action for breach of contract, the strike must be in relation to an employment dispute.

As such, if one of your employees decides to strike for political reasons, such as to protest climate change, you would be entitled to take disciplinary action against them. Refusing to attend work, or leaving without permission, could constitute gross misconduct, but it is important to consider each case on its merits and take advice before acting. If you suspect that employees intend to take part in a strike that doesn’t qualify as protected industrial action, you may want to consider issuing a memo setting out how the company will treat any employee who takes part.

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What is gross misconduct?

Gross misconduct is an act so serious that it justifies immediate dismissal without notice or pay in lieu of notice. While there’s no set list of acts or behaviours that constitute gross misconduct offences, generally accepted examples include alcohol or drug intoxication, physical violence or threats, theft, dishonesty, damaging company property, and serious health and safety breaches. In addition to serious one-off incidents, repeat minor misconduct may also culminate to gross misconduct.

When considering on-the-spot dismissal, it’s important to tread carefully and consider a number of factors. Do you have evidence of the misconduct? Have you carried out a reasonable investigation? Would a less severe sanction be more appropriate? If you fail to weigh up the reasonableness of your decision, employees may have grounds to bring a claim, and it will be up to a Tribunal to determine whether or not the dismissal was fair in the circumstances.

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