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Employment Rights Service

Thompsons NI provides a full range of legal services including advice and representation to trade union members and employees in the area of employment law. Matters covered included contracts of employment, Unfair Dismissal, Redundancy, Discrimination, Equal Pay and Compromise Agreements.

The substance of employment law in Northern Ireland has until recently generally been the same as in England and Wales but there are an increasing number of differences as more changes are made to the law in Great Britain. The main differences are in relation to Unfair Dismissal and Discrimination Law, including the fact that the Equality Act 2010 does not apply in Northern Irelan. We also have a Fair Employment and Treatment (NI) Order 1998 which outlaws discrimination on the grounds of religion and political opinion - further information on discrimination law is available from the Equality Commission for Northern Ireland.

We have recently (April 2012) produced a new series of Information Sheets which deal with the main aspects of employment law in Northern Ireland. We have a team of 3 solicitors who specialise in employment law.

Recent successes

Payout of £250,000 expected as ex-Pattons workers win tribunal claim

107 ex-employees of insolvent building company, David Patton & Sons, have won their claim at the Industrial Tribunal for a ‘Protective Award’ and should receive average payments of around £2,500 each.

An award of 90 days pay was made to each employee on the basis that Pattons did not comply with their legal obligation to consult with representatives of the workforce before making them redundant. The law requires that where 20 or more persons are to be made redundant within a 90 day period the employer must consult with unions or other representatives of the employees to discuss ways to avoid or reduce the number of redundancies or to seek to lessen the negative effects of any such redundancies. If a Tribunal finds that such consultation did not take place it may make an award of up to 90 days pay to each affected employee.

You can read the full news story here.

Unite Legal Services force healthcare technology giant to back down over maternity pay row

A woman from County Tyrone who took on Randox Laboratories Ltd following a dispute over maternity pay has successfully settled her case against them, with the support of Unite Legal Services.

Caroline McDaid had been employed by Randox Laboratories for over two years as a marketing executive when she went on maternity leave in October 2011. During the course of that leave, her employers paid her an additional four weeks’ occupational maternity pay, in addition to her statutory maternity entitlement.

You can read the full news story here.

Test Cases victory could mean £2m for IBOA Members

Two successful test cases brought on behalf of members of the Irish Bank Officials Association, Jamieson & Others and McAlarney & Others, could result in payments totalling over £2 million to hundreds of IBOA members. The Tribunal found that the First Trust Bank / Allied Irish Bank had acted unlawfully in refusing to pay salary increments and performance related bonuses to junior bank staff. The Bank had argued that the current financial condition of the Bank was a legal justification for such a unilateral action – this argument was robustly rejected by the Tribunal who decided that there was a clear contractual entitlement to these payments. The cases have been appealed by the Bank to the Northern Ireland Court Of Appeal.

You can read the full news story here.

UNITE Wins Protective Award payments for Redundant Workers

Sacked Unite members in Nortel Networks UK Limited (In Administration) in Monkstown and J& G Engineering (NI) Limited (In Liquidation) in Belfast were recently awarded the maximum 90 days award in two separate cases brought by the union represented by Thompsons McClure.

You can read the full news story here.

Three year battle for permanent status successful.

A claim brought on behalf of a UNISON member who was a fixed term employee for permanent status was settled in her favour. Such claims are important in enforcing the under-used right to acquire permanent status and other rights given to fixed term workers. Read the press release.

Other successes at the Tribunal include:

Andrew Biggart -v- University of Ulster where a university lecturer and UCU member was awarded £38,000 for Unfair Dismissal when he was made redundant at the end of a fixed term contract without the employer giving proper consideration to seeking suitable alternative employment.

Gary Scott –v- First Trust Bank where a bank employee and IBOA member was awarded in excess of 2 years pay because his employer had suspended him without pay without any contractual right to do so.

Most cases are resolved without a Tribunal hearing and we regularly achieve very good settlements for our clients. Our expertise is widely recognised and the independent Chambers Guide of the UK Legal Profession rates us as the top legal firm in Northern Ireland for trade unions and Applicants.

For more information about specific employment rights please see the main Thompsons website.

The following differences in terminology should also be noted:

• In Northern Ireland most employment matters are dealt with by Industrial Tribunals. The equivalent bodies in England and Wales are known as Employment Tribunals.

• In Northern Ireland the organisation which provides free advice, conciliation and arbitration services in relation to employment matters and disputes is the Labour Relations Agency. The same role is carried out in England and Wales by ACAS (Advice Conciliation and Arbitration Service).