Clarkslegal LLP - Solicitors in Reading and London

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Deborah Scales
Associate

I am an Associate with Clarkslegal and act for both businesses and individuals. Before retraining in law, I worked in independent television, publishing, travel, and marketing. I was drawn to employment law because finding solutions for clients nearly always requires an understanding of commercial realities, human emotions, technical legislation and complex case law.  For all types of clients, I aim to provide speedy, pragmatic solutions which enables them to get on with their businesses or their lives.

 

When I started specialising in employment law, I acted for individuals under a contract funded by the Equalities and Human Rights Commission (EHRC). I handled all types of complex discrimination claims against all kinds of employers including SME’s, PLCs, charities and the public sector. It taught me what sort of evidence and approach is needed to succeed with unlawful discrimination claims or reach favourable settlements. Now I also use that knowledge and experience to the benefit of my employer clients: by assisting HR or managers through processes such as grievances and disciplinaries so they do not breach discrimination laws; by drafting robust defences to discrimination complaints and claims; and by understanding the likely motivations of the discrimination claimant to suggest when it might be best to offer settlement (if at all) and at what price.

I have particular experience in pursuing and defending sexual harassment claims. I have sat on the EHRC’s advisory panel on Religion & Belief on behalf of the Federation of Small Businesses.

I have acted for police officers in whistleblowing claims against their own police forces, and for a range of individuals and businesses. There are numerous similarities between whistleblowing and discrimination law. 

This is a growing area of employment law as more employers seek to protect their legitimate interests by imposing no solicitation, no poaching and no dealing restrictions on departing employees. Too often businesses use standard clauses lifted from a precedent which means they may be completely inappropriate for the employee in question. Sometimes a court might consider the restrictions to be too long or too wide to be reasonable and so would refuse to enforce them; sometimes an employer forgets to update old restrictions as an employee becomes more senior or influential and the restrictions may no longer be tough enough.

I can assist businesses by drafting appropriate restrictions. If an employee breaches their covenants, often combined with the theft of confidential data such as client lists and pricing information, I can draft an urgent formal ‘letter before action’ threatening court unless a signed undertaking is received promising future compliance with the restrictions. If the breach persists, or no undertaking is received and business interests are put at serious risk I can draft an application to the high court for an interim injunction, with costs. Where there is team move in breach of restrictions I can assist with an urgent “springboard injunction” (so called because they are to stop the departing team benefiting from an unfair head start).

I can also act for employees by challenging their employers to release them from clauses which may be unenforceable and responding to threatening letters before action.

I have advised many businesses, particularly care homes and providers of overnight care, on the complexities of calculating working hours for the purposes of the NMW. I know how to correctly calculate the underpayment of the NMW (or otherwise) using one of four different ways of measuring time. I have represented employers at investigation meetings with HMRC’s NMW compliance officers and succeeded in defeating claims with no merit. Where there has been an underpayment by the employer, I have negotiated repayments to avoid criminal sanctions or the business being ‘named and shamed’.

The law can be rather dry and sometimes a little dull to the delegates who attend various seminars on a ‘need to know’ basis. I enjoy sharing my employment law knowledge with the HR professionals, business owners and line managers who attend my training seminars but my overriding objective is always to provide the practical knowledge attendees will use the very next day to reduce litigation risks to the business and implement best practice.

I have given live equal opportunities and anti-harassment training to employees. One of my larger business clients filmed the session and used the recording as part of the formal induction process for all new staff.

A staple of employment law, I advise on all aspects of redundancy consultations and restructures including determining the ‘at risk pool’, avoiding discriminatory selection criteria and marking, suitable alternative employment and the statutory trial period.

I have extensive experience of employment tribunal procedures and hearings and have represented both claimants and respondents at preliminary, full merit and remedies hearings. I instruct counsel where it is more cost effective or in the client’s best interests to do so. I can issue proceedings in the county court for breach of contract claims where this is the most advantageous, or the only available forum, for my client.

I advise both businesses and individuals on all aspects of senior executive terminations including the transfer of shares and good and bad leaver provisions, the resignation of directorships (forced or otherwise) and working with Clarkslegal’s  company and commercial team where that is in the best interests of my clients. I am happy to accept urgent, last minute settlement agreement instructions and negotiate for enhanced terms where there is scope to do so.

Beside the areas mentioned above,  I advise on all other aspects of employment law including unfair dismissal, sickness absence, performance management, unfair dismissals, ACAS Early Conciliation, employment contracts and policies, the Senior Management & Certification Regime, TUPE, subject access requests and data protection.   

“A huge thank you. This was the best training event we have ever held”.

Association of Chartered Certified Accountants, Cambridgeshire Network.