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No onus on Employees to prove Discrimination Claims

12 September 2017

A very recent significant judgment from the EAT has somewhat surprisingly slipped under the radar.  This fundamentally changes the approach to discrimination claims brought by employees, in that the EAT has made it clear, contrary to traditional thinking, that there is no burden on a Claimant employee to prove the discrimination alleged.  Indeed it is for the Respondent employer to produce evidence to establish facts and/or a reasonable explanation so that the Tribunal does not make an inference of discrimination.

In essence this is akin to a “guilty until proven innocent” scenario.  Until now there was quite a high burden placed on Claimants to prove facts based upon which, in the absence of an explanation from the Respondent, a Tribunal could infer that discrimination had occurred. If they did this, the burden shifted to the Employer to show the reasonable explanation and that this meant discrimination should not be inferred. If the Claimant couldn’t shift the burden in this manner, their claim would fail. This approach was based on the wording under the historic discrimination legislation.  The Equality Act 2010 changed this because it is worded differently, but it has taken until now for the first appeal decision on the point to clarify that.

The correct approach for the Tribunal now, is simply to hear all of the evidence, not just from the Claimant, and make findings of fact at the end of the entire hearing, and decide whether or not in all the circumstances, it can conclude that discrimination has occurred.  This is likely to place a much higher burden on Respondent employers and means that evidence on all of the circumstances will need to be adduced, in order that a decision can be reached by the Tribunal. This also probably means that certain hearings will be longer than previously they would have been and therefore more expensive. 

It was also made clear by the EAT  in this particular case, that if a Respondent fails to adduce evidence within its knowledge, without explanation, then it runs the risk that the Tribunal will draw adverse inferences and from which a conclusion that discrimination has occurred could be reached.

This development does not give carte blanche to unmeritorious discrimination claims, however, it undoubtedly will make the job harder for Respondent Employers to defend discrimination claims and underlines ever more the importance of good record keeping, good policies and procedures, as well as submitting full evidence and thoroughly preparing Responses to claims brought.

If you would like further information or assistance about this or any other employment issues then please contact Julian Outen, Partner, Ellisons Solicitors, DDN 01473 556900, E: julian.outen@ellisonssolicitors.com.

Ellisons continues to reinvest into the firm with new Premises Manager

17 August 2017

Ellisons Solicitors are pleased to announce the recruitment of interim Premises Manager, Jim Crowley, who has joined the firm for an initial four-month period. 

Mr Crowley, who brings with him over 35 years’ experience, is a welcome addition to the firm. He will be tasked with the day-to-day premises management of the firm’s five offices, as well as assisting in recruiting a permanent full time Premises Manager. 

Guy Longhurst, Senior Partner, said: ‘‘We are going through a period of change at Ellisons, which involves much investment into the firm, to ensure that we continue to meet the very high standards our clients have come to expect from us.

This year has already seen heavy investment into our IT infrastructure, with a digital transformation currently taking place. The next logical step for us was to recruit a full time, dedicated Premises Manager, who will be responsible for an effective office management service and strategy.’’

Jim Crowley, said: ‘‘Ellisons is a very well-known and respected law firm within the region, and I am pleased to be working here, albeit in the interim. I look forward to working with the firm across the five offices over the next few months and implementing positive changes as necessary.’’

Jim is one of many new starters to join Ellisons over the last year. The firm has welcomed 27 new members of staff in the last 12 months alone; this includes three Partners and many other lawyers and support staff. 

Ellisons Solicitors once again secure top accolade from national Law Society

17 August 2017

Ellisons Solicitors is delighted to have secured the national Law Society's law management quality mark, Lexcel, for the THIRD year running. 

Lexcel was developed specifically for the legal profession. It is an optional, recognised accreditation scheme for law firms and in-house legal departments, which gives assurance that a practice meets high client care and business management standards.

To gain and retain Lexcel accreditation, the practice must undergo a rigorous initial then annual application and assessment process. This includes conducting background checks and a five-day on-site visit from an experienced, trained Lexcel assessor.

Ellisons originally received the Lexcel accreditation in April 2015, and has worked hard over the past two years to ensure that this mark of excellence is awarded each year.

Guy Longhurst, Senior Partner said: “We are proud to have once again secured Lexcel.  Our clients and staff can be assured that the practice is well managed and runs efficiently. Being Lexcel accredited demonstrates our commitment to client care and best practice.”

Joe Egan, President of the Law Society of England and Wales, said: "Delivering good client care and maintaining a strong client relationship are essential for solicitors and those gaining and maintaining Lexcel show their dedication to go above and beyond. Committing to high standards in customer service and practice management is fundamentally important in today’s evermore competitive legal services market.

By undergoing an independently assessed Lexcel accreditation, firms can demonstrate their commitment and consistent determination to exceed client expectations, improve overall satisfaction and assist regulatory compliance.

The quality mark is an objective and external assurance for clients and potential clients alike."

Ellisons joins more than 1700 other legal practices in England & Wales with Lexcel accreditation. The practice management accolade has also gone international, with firms in Scotland, the Middle East, Poland and the Republic of Ireland having gained accreditation.