Readers with longish memories may remember Alan Davies fronting a series of adverts for the Abbey National a few years ago in which the phrase “Because Life’s Complicated Enough” was used to sell the Abbey’s products and services. If that strap line was appropriate for financial services, how much more must it resonate with HR consultants or small businesses trying to keep on top of employment law?
Access to justice is as much an issue for SMEs as for individuals, especially in a legal environment that is popularly said to favour employees. The Government is trying to address that perception by consulting and introducing reforms that will roll back individual employment rights. Last year saw the length of continuous employment required for bringing an unfair dismissal claim increased from one to two years.
2013 will see issue and hearing fees introduced to Employment Tribunals; the maximum compensatory award will be restricted to the lesser of one year’s salary or £74,200 and redundancy consultation periods axed from 90 to 45 days.
On the face of it, that is all good news for hard pressed HR practitioners. But, what about other thorny employment law issues? How to handle employees who are frequently off sick? What about shared parental leave? Can you lawfully ask an employee not to wear a religious symbol and was the case of Eweida good or bad news for employers?
Both HR and lawyers alike, sinking under the weight of change, may recall Stevie Smith’s poem “Not waving but drowning” but still the job has to be done. Larger organisations will probably have large HR functions, with access to well developed knowhow resources or bespoke advice from a law firm. For smaller businesses they probably won’t have those luxuries. How they can get the advice they need?
This is where legal PR can assist. Just as many potential “consumers” of legal advice may feel isolated, there will be many providers of advice looking for an audience to whom they can demonstrate their skills. There is no better platform than an article in a newspaper or magazine to show not only the legal knowledge to solve a problem but the ability to communicate succinctly and directly; qualities not often associated with the legal profession. It’s a two-way street with both reader and writer benefiting.
Legal PR is often the act of informing, educating and perhaps even amusing an audience of individuals and businesses. Surely that has never been of greater importance than now.