When complex or time-consuming HR matters demand your attention, where do you turn for support?

You might be tempted to tackle the situation yourself, thinking that this will keep costs down. However, in reality, employers often learn the hard way that without proper HR support, minor issues can escalate into much bigger problems.

This incurs greater costs in relation to hampered productivity and strain on management time. Not only that, but it can be frustratingly easy to make a misstep, leaving you exposed to expensive Employment Tribunal claims.

So how can you overcome HR obstacles quickly and compliantly?

Outsource your HR function or get extra support

Relieve your people pressures with an HR helpline

The easiest way to get responsive advice when HR matters arise is through access to an HR helpline. Whether you’re in need of professional guidance through a tricky HR process or would just appreciate the reassurance of a second opinion, the ability to pick up the phone to a dedicated professional can help to clarify the correct course of action and allow you to approach situations with confidence.

Of course, some organisations will experience a larger volume of HR issues than others; however, if you employ staff, you will inevitably encounter people problems at some stage or another. When this happens, the provision of an HR helpline can prove invaluable, enabling you to quickly and efficiently nip employee relations issues in the bud with minimal disruption to your organisation.

Food for thought

In the last month, what types of employee relations issues have you experienced? Have you, for example:

  • Received a grievance from an employee concerning relationships with colleagues or management, pay, changes in the workplace, or their terms and conditions of employment?
  • Wanted to dismiss someone on the spot, but not been sure that this is lawful?
  • Wondered whether a new recruit needs to sign a Contract of Employment in order for it to be valid, or wanted to amend an employee’s contract but not been sure to safely go about it?
  • Struggled to calculate holiday pay for casual workers?
  • Battled frequent, short-term absences or medical capability issues that leave you without a full team?

In each of these cases, access to a dedicated HR helpline can make all the difference, giving you quick answers and pragmatic direction from a legally-qualified professional based on your specific circumstances.

Ellis Whittam: Your go-to source of tailored HR advice

At Ellis Whittam, we offer a full solution to employers’ HR challenges. Our unique service combines the quality of advice offered by a leading law firm with the certainty of fixed fees, giving you access to professional, commercially-minded HR support without the huge financial outlay.

Central to our support is direct access to unlimited advice through our expert-manned HR helpline for employers. Unlike other providers, we assign named, legally-qualified HR and Employment Law Advisers, meaning the person on the other end of the phone is not only highly competent but genuinely understands your organisation, how you operate, and the unique set of employment-related challenges you face. This enables us to provide the best possible advice and ultimately reach outcomes that are preferable to you.

You will be assigned an HR expert who:

Is legally qualified as a solicitor, barrister or legal executive (or on the road to qualification)
Has relevant experience of your sector
Deals with all matters with complete confidentiality and sensitivity
Is honest, upfront and transparent in their approach
Will provide fast, pragmatic and commercial HR advice with your best interests in mind
Won't just recite the law but explain, in clear and jargon-free language, how it applies to your particular set of circumstances
Will spend time getting to know your organisation so that they can function as a trusted extension of your team

In need of bigger-picture HR support?

Alongside day-to-day support via our HR helpline, we also offer a variety of expert-led HR Consultancy services designed to apply HR principles and practices to overall organisational strategy. This includes HR audits, job evaluations, pay and benefits benchmarking, performance appraisals, mediation, succession planning and management training. All of this is geared towards helping you maximise the way in which your organisation manages, motivates and deploys people in order to ensure lasting value.

Say no to £200-an-hour fees and bland advice

The way that employers manage their HR responsibilities is changing. If you’re in the habit of turning to a traditional law firm whenever an employee relations matter requires expert handling, you will understand the significant fees involved. Hourly fees mean that costs can easily run away from you, and this can be even more anxiety-inducing if you become embroiled in a particularly complex matter that takes some time to resolve. However, the alternative is often generic advice and an impersonalised service from a fixed-fee HR company, which can leave you feeling cold and short-changed.

Ellis Whittam exists for precisely this reason. Established in 2004, we believe that professional services should prevent problems, add more value than cost, and that fees charged should be fair and fixed. Having provided close support to UK employers for over 15 years, we have developed a national reputation for providing exceptional service and holding true to the notion that top-quality advice shouldn’t cost a fortune.

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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.

More reasons to choose EW

Tired of being passed from pillar to post? Unlike some larger fixed-fee providers, we believe in the value of a personal approach. That’s why we assign each of our clients a small team of dedicated HR specialists, who will provide close ongoing support on first-name terms. This guarantees that whenever you call our HR helpline, you’re speaking to someone who genuinely understands your organisation, allowing you to pick up where you left off with no time wasted.

At Ellis Whittam, we offer more than just good advice; our Employment Law Advisers will skillfully draft your various contracts and other employment-related letters and documentation, as well an Employee Handbook of best-practice policies and procedures. We will also carefully review any documentation you currently have in place to ensure that it is robust, fit for purpose and legally-compliant. 

Importantly, unlike other fixed-fee providers, we won’t simply provide you with generic templates and expect you to do the hard work yourself – we’ll take care of everything for you.

For added peace of mind, our Legal Expenses Insurance (LEI) for Employment Tribunals covers the cost of defence, settlements and awards in the event of an employee bringing an Employment Tribunal claim against you. With this protection, if you were to lose a discrimination claim, you could stand to save approximately £24,500 to £38,000.

Crucially, unlike some of our competitors, we use an entirely independent FCA-regulated insurer. This allows us to make insurance decisions based solely on the merits of the claim and not with one eye on our bottom line.

Employers often get stung by hidden notice clauses which tie them into a service that doesn’t work for them for another few years. At Ellis Whittam, we are upfront, honest and transparent in all aspects of what we do – this includes our costs. We believe that service quality should dictate whether you renew with us, which is why there’s no such clause in our contracts.

Happily, our annual total client retention rate is 97%.

In addition to unlimited support via our HR helpline, our core service gives you access to a suite of additional tools designed to make managing your HR responsibilities easier. Available through our online portal, you can take advantage of:

  • Our easy-to-use HR Software, which streamlines important HR functions, such as holiday and absence management, employee benefits and training.
  • Our growing range of interactive e-Learning courses designed to upskill staff while keeping downtime to a minimum.
  • Our full-version Knowledge Hub, where you can find expert-created guidance notes and downloadable templates ready for immediate use.

We’re ready when you are

Whatever challenges you’re currently facing and whatever level of support you currently have in place, we’re confident that we can transform your approach to HR management.

To talk through your specific needs and how our HR helpline can be seamlessly integrated into your organisation, call 0345 226 8393 or request a free consultation by clicking the button below.

Quick-fire HR Guides


How important is it to induct new employees?

Whenever there is a new addition to your team, it’s essential that they feel welcomed and well-equipped to undertake their role, which is where a well-thought-out employee induction can make all the difference. As well as helping new recruits to get off the starting block, thereby keeping productivity high, a properly planned induction can be an effective way of combating high turnover, as feeling unsupported in the first few weeks can have lasting effects, causing employees to feel demotivated and out of their depth.

Your induction should be tailored to your organisation, the employee’s level of experience and their role. Key elements of the process include providing an introduction to the organisation, its people and its values, explaining your HR policies and procedures, and arranging any training they may require.

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We’re thinking about introducing an incentive scheme. Are there any dangers I need to be aware of?

Offering incentives can be an effective way of promoting certain behaviours in the workplace, whether that be excellent customer service, strong sales performance or a perfect attendance record. However, it is essential that incentive schemes are not only fair but applied equally, as failure to do so may not only create resentment among staff but also leave you exposed to legal trouble.

When devising any incentive scheme, always ask yourself whether its rules and eligibility criteria put a particular group at a disadvantage. Not only can excluding particular departments create animosity, but in some cases, such as with schemes that incentivise attendance, there is scope for discrimination claims from staff whose attendance record is affected by maternity or a genuine health condition that qualifies as a disability under the Equality Act 2010.

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Why is investing in employees’ mental health a good business move?

Estimated to cost the UK economy £70 billion each year, mental health is very much a business issue. This cost comes from not only £8.4 billion lost to absenteeism but a staggering £15.1 billion in presenteeism – employees who attempt to work through their mental health problems but whose productivity levels are greatly compromised. With so much at stake, it is thought that for every £1 employers invest in mental health training, they stand to make a return of up to £10. Of course, there a number of practical measures you can implement that don’t cost anything at all but may mean the difference between an employee feeling supported through their recovery and losing a valued member of your team.

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What is direct discrimination?

Direct discrimination refers to a situation in which a person is treated less favourably than others based on a protected characteristic such as sex, age, gender or disability. Examples of ‘less favourable treatment’ may include dismissal, choosing not to employ or promote someone even though they are the most qualified candidate, or withholding benefits or training from them. 

In direct discrimination cases, the employee must be able to demonstrate that a) they belong to a protected class and b) their treatment was less favourable than that which was, or would have been, afforded to another otherwise comparable person who does not share the protected characteristic in question. With the exception of age discrimination, which may be justified if the employer can show that it was a ‘proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim’, it is not possible to justify any other form of direct discrimination.

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How do I resolve conflict between employees?

If you notice tensions rising or witness heated exchanges between employees, speak to the parties individually to get their take take on what’s going on. Getting to the root cause of people’s frustrations is essential. Is it a communication issue? Are people not pulling their weight? Are there issues at home that may be contributing to stress? Once you’ve got to the bottom of the divide, you will be in a position to facilitate discussions to hopefully help employees reach common ground and find a way to move forward. In some cases, alternative dispute resolution via an external mediator may be the most effective solution.

If all avenues have been exhausted unsuccessfully, it may be necessary to consider moving one of the people involved to another team, department or location. At this stage, you should always seek legal advice before putting plans into motion.

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What qualifies as harassment in the workplace?

Harassment refers to unwanted conduct that has the purpose or effect of violating a person’s dignity or creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment. In harassment claims, Tribunals will consider the employee’s perception, the other circumstances of the case, and most importantly, whether it is reasonable for the conduct to have had that effect. 

Harassment claims may be brought regardless of whether the employer knew about or approved the conduct, and whether or not it was done with the purpose of harassing. What’s more, case law has shown that employees can bring claims for harassment even if the unwanted conduct isn’t directed at them. 

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