Tom is Head of DTM Legal’s Employment & HR team, advising commercial clients and senior executives on bringing and defending employment tribunal claims.
- What made you want to specialise in employment law?
It was the area of law I enjoyed the most by far when training. It’s all about dealing with people, which is what I like – the relationships between people and employment. It’s an area of the law that deals with both litigious and non-litigious cases, and I enjoy both sides.
- What do you like most about your job? And what do you like least?
I like the variety. On any given day I could be in a tribunal representing clients or in client meetings or running training sessions or seminars for clients.
I also like working with clients at a strategic level too. I regularly attend client board meetings to give proactive advice to prevent business issues happening to ensure businesses use their most important asset: their people, productively.
What do I like the least? Well, I’d say it’s more about certain aspects being a greater challenge than being something I dislike. I do a lot of shareholder/ director disputes and I enjoy it, but it can become very emotional for a lot of people, understandably – it’s their livelihood and their business. It’s all about diffusing the emotional side so the client can focus on the facts and achieving the best result.
- What’s your proudest work achievement so far?
It would have to be obtaining strike out of spurious discrimination claims brought against a national retail client and then successfully defending an appeal to the Employment Appeal Tribunal. It’s great when you get a positive result for employer clients in circumstances where they have done nothing wrong and they take a stand.
- What specific impacts do you think Brexit will have on the kind of cases you deal with day to day?
A significant proportion of the UK’s employment law comes from the EU, including discrimination rights, collective consultation obligations, transfer of undertakings regulations, family leave, working time regulations and duties to agency workers. On 6 March 2019, the government published a policy paper, “Protecting and enhancing worker rights after the UK withdrawal from the European Union”, in which it committed to ensure that UK workers’ rights remain aligned with EU employment protection even after the UK’s withdrawal. In the short term it therefore appears there will be little legislative change upon the UK’s exit from the EU. The long-term position is less clear and will depend on the government of the day at that time. One thing is for sure, that from the point of exit, the ECJ will, subject to a few narrow exceptions, no longer have jurisdiction over the UK courts and its future decisions will not be binding.
In terms of my workload, if there’s a hard Brexit and the economy dips, employment lawyers are likely to see and advise upon cost saving processes such restructures and redundancies and changes in employment terms such as pay.
- What’s the most common problem you help your clients to solve?
I would have to say getting the best out of their employees in whatever role they perform as this has the biggest impact on the company’s profit. Attitude and performance problems crop up very regularly.
We’ve seen a big increase in Employment Tribunal claims. Tribunal fees were scrapped in 2017, having been introduced in 2013.. Whereas it used to cost claimants north of a thousand pounds to get to a hearing, there’s now no court fees whatsoever, which means proactive advice is important to ensure employer clients minimise risk of claims as far as possible.
- Who do you admire the most, professionally or personally?
If I had to choose one person, as a keen golfer, I’d have to go with Arnold Palmer for his competitive nature and will to win – but doing so with personality and, most importantly, always looking like he was having the time of his life!
- If you could give employers one piece of advice, what would it be?
I think the classic Richard Branson quote of “Clients do not come first. Employees come first. If you take care of your employees, they will take care of the clients” is spot on. If employers can create the right culture and employee engagement then it is far more likely to be a successful business with less need for employment lawyers!
- How do you manage to strike a work-life balance?
With great difficulty as I have a one-year old at home! However DTM are very good at the work life balance so I’m lucky from that perspective and self-discipline, organisation and planning ahead are key.
- How would your clients describe you?
Straight-talking and solution-driven. It’s all about getting to the desired result in the best way for that particular client, which may involve more or less risk depending on the client and the situation.