We are committed to providing a high quality legal service to all our clients. When something goes wrong, we need you to tell us about it. This will help us to improve our standards. Our complaints policy is intended to identify the cause of any problems complained of, and where appropriate, offer redress and correct any unsatisfactory procedures.
If you have a complaint, please contact us with the details. We have eight weeks to consider your complaint. If we have not resolved it within this time you may complain to the Legal Ombudsman.
What will happen next?
- We will send you a letter acknowledging receipt of your complaint within three days of receiving it, enclosing a copy of this procedure.
- We will then investigate your complaint. This will normally involve passing your complaint to our client care partner, Mr David Coward, who will review your matter file and speak to the member of staff who acted for you. The exception to this is if Mr Coward has been the fee earner carrying out the work on your file, in which case you should address your complaint to his partner Miss Vicky Langdown. Your complaint should preferably be put in writing setting out your reasons.
- Mr Coward (or Miss Langdown) will then invite you to a meeting and hopefully resolve your complaint. He will do this within 14 days of sending you the acknowledgement letter.
- Within three days of the meeting Mr Coward (or Miss Langdown) will write to you to confirm what took place and any solutions he has agreed with you.
- If you do not want a meeting or it is not possible, Mr Coward (or Miss Langdown) will send you a detailed written reply to your complaint, including his suggestions for resolving the matter within 21 days of sending you the acknowledgement letter.
- At this stage if you are still not satisfied you should contact us again and we will arrange for another partner to review the decision.
- We will write to you within 14 days of receiving your request for a review, confirming our final position on your complaint and explaining our reasons.
- If you are still not satisfied, you can then contact the
PO Box 6806
about your complaint. Normally, you will need to bring a complaint to the Legal Ombudsman within six months of receiving a final written response from us about your complaint or within six years of the act or omission about which you are complaining occurring (or if outside this period, within three years of when you should reasonably have been aware of it).
Please note that the Legal Ombudsman may not consider a complaint about a bill if you have applied to the court for it to be assessed.
Alternative complaints bodies such as Ombudsman Services exist which are competent to deal with complaints about legal services, should both you and our firm wish to use such a scheme.
We do not agree to use Ombudsman Services.
Diversity Data 2017
Provided to the Solicitors Regulation Authority
Sampson Coward LLP are committed to ensuring that all job applicants and members of staff are treated equally, without discrimination because of gender, sexual orientation, marital or civil partner status, gender reassignment, race, colour, nationality, ethnic or national origin, religion or belief, disability or age.
Sampson Coward LLP are required to publish workforce diversity data about the diversity make-up of their workforce on an annual basis. The data set out below is published on an anonymous basis and in accordance with the provisions of the Data Protection Act 1998.
1 Role categories
Solicitor partners - 3, Other solicitors - 3, Other fee earning role - 1, People directly supporting a fee earner - 8, People working in a managerial role - 1, People in other service roles - 2, Chartered Legal Executives - 2, Prefer not to say - 1
16-24 – 1, 25-34 – 3, 35-44 – 5, 45-54 – 3, 55-64 – 8, 65+ - 1
Female – 18, Male – 3
Yes – 1, No – 20
5 Disability (according to Equality Act)
Yes – 1, No – 19, Invalid/no response – 1
6 Day-to-day limitation to activities
Yes, limited a little - 2, No – 19
British/English/Welsh/Northern Irish/Scottish – 21
8 Religion or belief
No religion or belief –10, Christian - 10, Any other religion or belief – 1
9 Sexual orientation
Heterosexual/straight- 20, Prefer not to say - 1
10 School type from 11 to 18
UK state school - 17, UK independent/fee paying school – 3, Prefer not to say - 1
11 University first generation to attend
Yes – 4, No - 4, Did not attend university – 9, Invalid/no response – 4
12 Primary carer for a child under 18
Yes – 6, No – 15
13 Time spent providing unpaid care for those with physical or mental ill health
No - 20, Yes, 1-19 hours per week – 1
Number of non-respondents: 3
Redundancy encompasses three types of situation, namely business closure, closure of a branch, and reduction of the workforce
Definition of redundancy
Dismissal of an employee will be by reason of redundancy if it is wholly or mainly attributable to the employer:
- Ceasing or intending to cease to carry on the business for the purposes of which the employee was employed by it (business closure)
- Ceasing or intending to cease to carry on that business in the place where the employee was so employed (workplace closure).
- Having a reduced requirement for employees to carry out work of a particular kind or to do so at the place where the employee was employed to work(reduced requirement for employees).
Where 20 or more employees are being made redundant over a period of 90 days or less, an employer has a duty to inform and consult appropriate employee representatives. Where 100 or more redundancies are proposed, consultation must begin at least 45 days before the first dismissal takes effect. For less than 100 redundancies, the consultation period is 30 days.
Employers must notify the secretary of state at least 45 days before the first dismissal where the employer proposes to dismiss 100 or more employees within a 90 day period. Where between 20-100 redundancies are proposed, the notification period is 30 days.
Redundancy and unfair dismissal
An employee with two years’ continuous service is entitled not to be unfairly dismissed. Whilst redundancy is a potentially fair reason for dismissal, it can give rise to claims for unfair dismissal if the employer fails to act reasonably in dismissing the employee in all the circumstances.
A redundancy dismissal is likely to be unfair unless the employer:
- Identifies an appropriate pool for selection
- Consults with individuals in the pool
- Applies objective selection criteria to those in the pool
- Considers suitable alternative employment where appropriate, subject to a trial period.
Alternatives to redundancy
An employer should consider whether it can avoid compulsory redundancies or reduce the number of compulsory redundancies at the outset by:
- Suspending or restricting recruitment
- Reducing or removing overtime opportunities
- Not renewing contracts of contractors
- Ceasing or reducing the use of agency workers.
If these initial steps are unavailable or not sufficient, the employer should consider:
- Inviting potentially redundant employees to apply for suitable alternative vacancies
- Inviting employees to volunteer for redundancies
- Inviting employees to consider early retirement.
Employees with two years’ service who are dismissed due to redundancy are entitled to a statutory redundancy payment. Redundancy payments are calculated according to a formula based on age, length of service, and pay.
The formula for a redundancy payment is:
- One and a half weeks’ pay for each complete year of service in which the employee was aged 41 or over at the beginning of the year.
- One week’s pay for each complete year of service in which the employee was aged 22-40 at the beginning of the year.
- Half a week’s pay for each complete year of service in which the employee was under the age of 22 for any part of the year.
There is a cap on the amount of a week’s pay and there is a maximum of 20 years’ service that can be taken into account when calculating the statutory redundancy payment.
When an employer refuses to make a redundancy payment or is insolvent, an employee can apply to the secretary of state for a redundancy payment out of the national insurance fund. Any dispute over a claim may be referred to an employment tribunal.
Contractual redundancy payments
In addition to statutory redundancy payments, an employee may also be entitled to an enhanced contractual redundancy payment if their contract of employment so provides.
Generally an employee who has completed two years employment has the right not to be unfairly dismissed.
The dismissal will be unfair unless:
- It was for one of five potentially fair reasons.
- In all the circumstances (including the employer’s size and administrative resources) the employer acted reasonably in treating that reason as a sufficient reason for dismissal.
Dismissals for certain reasons are deemed automatically unfair and, in most such cases, employees do not need a qualifying period of employment, e.g. dismissal due to whistleblowing.
Who can claim unfair dismissal?
The right to bring a claim for unfair dismissal is available only to an employee who has been dismissed and who, in most cases, has two years’ continuous employment.
The employee’s work must have been done in Great Britain or have a sufficient connection to Great Britain.
Only employees have the right not to be unfairly dismissed. It is not possible for workers or the genuinely self-employed to claim unfair dismissal.
What is dismissal?
There are three types of dismissal:
- Termination by the employer
- Expiry of a fixed-term contract
- Constructive dismissal – constructive dismissal occurs where the employee terminates their employment in circumstances in which they are entitled to terminate it without notice by reason of the employer’s conduct.
To succeed in a claim for constructive dismissal, the following must occur:
- There must be a repudiatory breach of contract by the employer.
- The employee resigns in response to that breach.
- The employee does not unreasonably delay before resigning (otherwise the employee may be treated as having affirmed the contract and therefore loses their right to claim constructive dismissal).
- The constructive dismissal must be unfair.
Normally a resignation by an employee will not amount to a dismissal unless the resignation arises from a constructive dismissal. There will also be no dismissal where employment has terminated by agreement between the employer and employee.
If there is no dismissal, employees cannot be unfairly dismissed.
Five fair reasons for dismissal
The five fair reasons for dismissal are:
- Capability or qualifications
- Breach of statutory duty or restriction, e.g. an employee employed to drive losing their licence
- Some other substantial reason
The potentially fair reason of “some other substantial reason” is a catch-all type of reason designed to catch potentially fair dismissals that would not fall into any of the other four categories.
Reasonableness (or fairness) of dismissal
Once an employer has established a potentially fair reason for the dismissal, an employment tribunal will consider whether the employer acted reasonably (fairly) in dismissing the employee for that reason. The issue of reasonableness is determined by deciding whether in the circumstances (including the size and administrative resources of the employer’s undertaking) the employer acted reasonably or unreasonably in treating the reason for dismissal as a sufficient reason for dismissing the employee, and is determined in accordance with equity and the substantial merits of the case.
In practice, the aspect of fairness is usually divided into two parts:
- Did the employer follow a fair procedure?
- Did the employer act reasonably in treating the reason as a sufficient reason for dismissal?
Although the details of the procedure to be followed will depend on the reason why the employee is dismissed, there are some principles of procedural fairness that apply to most cases, namely:
- The employee should know that they are at risk of dismissal.
- The employee should be allowed to make representations (usually at a meeting or hearing).
- The employee should usually be allowed a right of appeal.
The Acas Code of Practice on Disciplinary and Grievance Procedures (the Acas Code) applies to dismissals involving misconduct and poor performance. The Acas Code does not have to be followed by employment tribunals but employers who fail to follow the code run the risk of a finding of unfair dismissal being made against them. A failure to follow the Acas Code can also result in compensation being increased or decreased by up to 25% for a party’s unreasonable failure to comply with the code.
According to the Acas Code an employer considering a case of alleged misconduct or poor performance should:
- Investigate the issues.
- Inform the employee of the issues in writing.
- Conduct a disciplinary hearing or meeting with the employee.
- Inform the employee of the decision in writing and include a right of appeal.
The test as to whether an employer has acted reasonably is whether the employer’s decision to dismiss the employee fell within the range of reasonable responses that a reasonable employer in those circumstances and in that business might have adopted.
Reasonableness of capability dismissals
When deciding if the employer acted reasonably in dismissing an employee for lack of capability or qualifications, an employment tribunal will consider factors such as:
- Whether the employee knew what was required of them.
- Whether the employer took steps to minimise the risk of poor performance.
- Whether there was a proper appraisal of the employee and the problem was identified.
- Whether the employer provided training, supervision and encouragement.
- Whether the employer warned the employee of the consequences of failing to improve.
- Whether the employer gave the employee a chance to improve.
- In some cases, whether the employer considered alternative employment.
Reasonableness of conduct dismissals
A dismissal on the grounds of conduct will only be fair in the following circumstances:
- At the time of dismissal the employer believed the employee to be guilty of misconduct.
- At the time of dismissal the employer had reasonable grounds for believing that the employee was guilty of that misconduct.
- At the time that the employer formed that belief on those grounds, it had carried out as much investigation as was reasonable in the circumstances.
The decision to dismiss must be within a range of reasonable responses.
Reasonableness of redundancy dismissals
An employer will normally not act reasonably in a redundancy dismissal unless it:
- Warns and consults any affected employees.
- Adopts a fair basis on which to select for redundancy.
- Takes such steps as may be reasonable to avoid or minimise redundancy by redeploying potentially redundant employees within its own organisation.
Reasonableness of dismissals for breach of a statutory restriction
In deciding whether dismissal for breach of a statutory restriction was fair and reasonable, employment tribunals will consider such matters as:
- The extent of the statutory restriction and the extent to which it affects the employee’s ability to do their job.
- The duration of the statutory restriction.
- Any alternatives to dismissal, e.g. adjustments to the job or alternative employment.
Reasonableness of dismissals for some other substantial reason
Dismissals for some other substantial reason will depend upon the circumstances of the case that can involve:
- Investigating the situation.
- Consulting with the employee.
- Warning the employee of the risk of dismissal.
- Giving the employee an opportunity to state their case.
- Exploring alternatives to dismissal.
- Balancing the needs of the employer and the employee.
Acas early conciliation
In almost all unfair dismissal claims, employees are required to commence the Acas early conciliation process. There is then an automatic extension of time to the usual time limit for submitting a claim (see below). Broadly speaking, time stops running when the Claimant contacts Acas and starts again when the Claimant receives an early conciliation certificate. Furthermore, if the time remaining at that point would be less than a month, it is automatically increased to a month.
Subject to the rules on the automatic extension of time for Acas early conciliation, a claim for unfair dismissal must be presented within three months from the effective date of termination. For example, if the last day of employment is 13 March, the claim must be received by the tribunal on or before 12 June.
If an employment tribunal finds that an employee has been unfairly dismissed, the remedies that it will consider are: reinstatement, re-engagement, compensation
In the vast majority of cases reinstatement or re-engagement are impractical and therefore compensation is by far the most common remedy.
Compensation will consist of a basic award and a compensatory award. The basic award is calculated in a similar way to a statutory redundancy payment, based on a formula that takes into account age, length of service and the amount of a week’s pay. A compensatory award will be based upon what the tribunal believes is just and equitable based on the financial loss caused to the employee by the unfair dismissal, and is usually made up of loss of salary, pension and other benefits. A compensatory award is subject to an upper limit (save for dismissals due to whistleblowing or health and safety reasons). The maximum compensatory award is the lower of 52 weeks’ pay or a numerical figure set by the government in April each year.