October 15th, 2018
Confidentiality clauses (also known as non-disclosure agreements, or ‘gagging’ clauses) are often found in employment contracts for senior executives, or in other commercial contracts.
They are also common in settlement agreements that bring employment to an end if there has been a dispute between you and your employer. They are usually in place to protect legitimate business interests.
You might have heard concerns in the news that confidentiality clauses are being misused to cover up potential crimes such as harassment.
How would you feel about signing a confidentiality clause? What if you had been harassed at work and your employer offered you a settlement on the condition you signed one?
It’s good to know you have got rights in these situations…and also that any lawyers involved have got responsibilities.
Here are our top 4 things to know before you sign a confidentiality clause:
- they can’t be used to try and cover up potential crimes or to stop you or someone else reporting them to the police
- they can’t be used to stop you ‘whistleblowing’ and giving information to public authorities or certain regulators
- if you are asked to sign a settlement agreement at work, your employer should make sure you have access to independent advice from someone like a lawyer or a trade union – for example ACAS can help you negotiate these settlements
- you have the right to be given a copy of the agreement in writing
So – make sure you get advice about what you’re signing first, always ask for a copy, and remember that it can’t stop you speaking up about a criminal act or whistleblowing.
September 20th, 2018
Looking to make a holiday sickness claim? Think you might need legal help?
Holiday companies are cracking down on claims that are made dishonestly and you could go to prison if you make a claim that is not true. But, if you have a genuine claim, you might be wondering how to find a solicitor with the right skills to help you.
To search for a firm of solicitors by name, town or area of law (for holiday sickness expertise look under personal injury) visit the Law Society’s site, or to search for a Chartered Legal Executive, visit the CILEx Regulation site.
If you’re not sure whether you need a legal professional, check out what we’ve said here about sources of legal advice.
Once you’ve found a firm that you think might be able to help, ask them these questions before giving them your case.
Do I have a claim?
You need to give all the facts and background to the lawyer so that they can help you.
You should deal directly with the lawyer yourself. Don’t let anyone else deal with the lawyer for you, unless you have asked them to.
How long will the case take?
How long the case is going to take will depend on the type of case it is.
The more information you give your lawyer, and the faster you respond to their requests, the earlier your case will be resolved.
How much will it cost?
Your solicitor must talk with you about costs and payment arrangements that suit you.
Legal aid is not usually available for legal advice about personal injury. But ask your solicitor whether you should apply for legal aid. After asking you about your legal problem and your personal finances, your solicitor should be able to tell you whether you can get legal aid (at no cost to you). Remember that, even if you do get legal aid, it may not cover all your costs.
If you can’t get legal aid, your solicitor should explain other options. For example, perhaps you have household or holiday insurance which covers legal costs. Or a “no win, no fee” agreement might be right for you.
There are two types of “no win, no fee” cases: conditional fee agreements (CFAs) and damages-based agreements (DBAs), sometimes called contingency fees. In CFA and DBA cases, your solicitor only gets paid if they win your case.
What happens if I lose my claim?
Depending on the fee arrangements you have signed up to, you might need to pay both your own legal costs and those of the other side if you lose the case.
You might be able to get insurance to protect yourself from having to pay some legal costs. This is called “after the event” (ATE) insurance because you can buy a policy after the event that triggers the legal case. Your ATE insurer pays the other side’s costs if you lose the case. An ATE policy may also cover other expenses. Your solicitor will talk to you about the benefits of ATE insurance and what it includes.
Keep in mind that some lawyers get a commission for arranging insurance. Your lawyer must tell you if they will get a commission for arranging ATE insurance for you.
What costs do I have to pay if the claim doesn’t go ahead?
The costs you pay if your claim doesn’t go ahead depend on what you have agreed with your lawyer.
If you withdraw your claim, you may still need to pay your legal services professional for their work on the case and other costs. If the firm says they no longer want you as a client – for example, because the medical evidence doesn’t support your claim – you may still need to pay the firm. At your first meeting with the lawyer, they will explain what you will need to pay if this happens.
If you lie about events, your lawyer has the right to refuse to act for you. You will still need to pay them for work they have dones on your case.
How might the other side respond to my claim? Will they challenge my evidence?
In 2013, the rules about claims were changed to encourage early settlement – when the two sides come to an agreement without going to court.
If the other side has evidence that contradicts your evidence, or if they believe your evidence is lacking in some other way, they are less likely to settle your claim. And they may well launch a series of long and complex challenges to your claim. Your solicitor will tell you what to expect and how to respond.
Remember that if you tell the court something that is proved to be untrue, you may well be prosecuted. You could even go to prison.
What are my chances of success?
Your lawyer should explain how likely it is your claim will succeed. They will use the information you have given them to assess your chance of success.
Remember that you and your lawyer can be prosecuted if you make a fraudulent claim.
Will a solicitor or a paralegal handle my case?
In many firms, lawyers and paralegals work closely together on cases. A solicitor is someone who is qualified to give legal advice and handle your case by taking it to court and speaking in court on your behalf. In some cases, they may ask barristers to speak in court on your behalf.
A paralegal might be involved in your case to help the solicitor prepare and gather information about your claim.
Find out more about what barristers, paralegals and other types of lawyers do.
September 6th, 2018
Sometimes speaking up is pretty straightforward.
If you’ve ever challenged a queue-jumper in a shop or complained about bad food in a restaurant, you’ll know that it felt good to get your point of view across.
But some things, like sexual harassment, are much harder to speak up about. These situations can be upsetting – and getting help can be confusing.
Here are three top tips if you think you might have a problem:
Don’t suffer in silence
If you’re uncomfortable with the way you are treated at work and you think it might be sexual harassment, don’t wait until things gets worse.
Your employer has a duty to protect your health and safety at work. They might have a confidential helpline you can use. If not, get advice and support from Safeline.
You don’t have to put up with banter
Sexual harassment is any unwanted behaviour that is of a sexual nature. It’s illegal under the Equality Act 2010. You can find out more about sexual harassment and how it’s defined from Citizens Advice.
Speak up about online harassment
More and more sexual harassment takes place online and on social media. A recent study of the Twitter accounts of 150 women in the public eye found that 12 per cent of tweets they receive are gender-specific slurs, threats, or sexual harassment.
You can report sexual harassment on social media to the social media channel (such as Twitter, Facebook, etc). Or if you are being threatened, you can report this to the police through the 101 telephone service. For more information, visit Victim Support.
July 27th, 2018
Did you know that more than 2 million Britons jump on a bike at least once a week?
Bicycle sales are up, along with sales of cycling clothing. More dedicated cycle lanes are being created in our cities, and the NHS extols the health benefits of being a bike rider.
There’s never been a better time to get in the saddle. But there’s a legal side to cycling that’s important to bear in mind.
Here are some facts for cyclists that we at Legal Choices think are good to know.
- It’s illegal to cycle on a UK public road after dark without reflectors and lights. For more information about reflectors and light requirements, visit Cycling UK.
- It’s perfectly legal to cycle side by side with another cyclist on a UK road. To learn why, and find out how it can benefit both cyclists and motorists, see the Cycling Weekly Post.
- UK road speed limits do not apply to bicycles, but dangerous or careless cycling is an offence that can lead to heavy fines.
- If you or your bicycle are unlucky enough to be involved in a cycling accident, there are time limits for making a compensation or personal injury claim: see our own article on making claims for money owed.
- There’s no legal requirement for cyclists to have any insurance, but many cyclists do take out insurance.
- It’s illegal to cycle on the pavement, according to the Highway Code, even if sometimes it is safer to do so.
April 27th, 2018
Problems faced by the ‘Windrush’ migrants are putting the UK’s immigration system in the spotlight.
By law, your right to live and work in the UK must be checked in everyday situations. Banks, landlords and hospitals carry out these checks.
But it can be hard to prove you have a right to be in the UK. The ‘Windrush generation’ came from Commonwealth countries to live in the UK before 1971. But some of them have recently had trouble showing they have a legal right to live and work here.
People often turn to experts for help with problems. Here are some useful facts.
Who can help me with immigration in the UK?
Immigration advisers and lawyers can help with:
- applications to enter or remain in the UK
- documents needed for employment
- nationality and citizenship issues.
In the UK, advising people about immigration is a regulated activity. It is a criminal offence for anyone to provide such advice if they are not properly regulated.
Immigration advisers in the UK are regulated by OISC (Office of the Immigration Services Commissioner).
Legal executives, barristers and solicitors can also help you with immigration.
There are different regulators for lawyers. So, before you take immigration advice from anyone, make sure they are legally allowed to help you. Ask them who they are regulated by and check that they are regulated with that regulator. If they say they are regulated by OISC you should check that they are included in the OISC Advisor Finder.
Visit our Types of lawyer page to learn about regulators
How much will it cost? Finding someone to help you with immigration advice
Search online for local immigration advisers. Ask if they offer a free consultation and be clear about fees.
You can get free advice about your situation from charities such as Citizens Advice, or by visiting a Law Centre or a free legal advice clinic.