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Delivering continuous improvement in employee relations

For most large organisations the fair and equitable resolution of workforce issues is essential. Failure to put in place the right processes can result in significant costs, both in legal spend and management time. When one organisation with over 170,000 employees and 500 places of business approached us, they wanted a new approach. In essence it wanted complete cost certainty over this area of legal spend for three years, irrespective of the obvious unpredictability of grievances.

The challenge

Our client is probably among the most complex of businesses in the UK from an employee relations perspective.Inevitably, given the size of its workforce and true commitment to fair treatment of staff, employee relations issues can arise. These issues can be time consuming, costly and cause significant brand damage, particularly if they are escalated to Employment Tribunal level.


It was keen to find a new way of working with its employment lawyers to:

  • Foster a culture of continuous improvement
  • Relentlessly drive up standards
  • Address issues early through targeted pre-emptive measures
The system supplied meaningful management information to the client's HR and legal functions in the format they specified. This gave rise to a programme of continuous improvement and training running through the client business.

The solution

Pinsent Masons was instructed on a fixed-fee, sole-adviser basis for all standard employee dispute work. For each year of the engagement the fee was reduced by 15% to incentivise improvement.


To achieve this in a commercially acceptable way, Pinsent Masons developed a unique, proprietary case management system for the handling of employee disputes for the client.

This was configured to the specific needs of the client and delivered the following benefits:

  • A quality-assured, consistent service
  • Real-time management information
  • A focus on trends and risk areas, so these could be addressed, and the costs of claims and resolution reduced

Matters were progressed through the system in a pre-defined workflow or series of steps. This automatically prompts the legal team to complete necessary actions in line with critical dates and criteria. It also provides complete transparency over the status of matters from instruction to completion.


The system was fully tailored to the bespoke protocol agreed with the client. This ensured they could receive what data they wanted, when they wanted it and in the form they required.


Qualified lawyers were used only where necessary. Complex cases were identified and escalated quickly to a member of the client's Pinsent Masons' team. This ensured that experts in the variations of the legal framework across England & Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland were involved quickly and only when appropriate.


Further, the system supplied meaningful management information to the client's HR and legal functions in the format they specified. This gave rise to a programme of continuous improvement and training running through the client business.

The results

Using the case management system we presented our client with:

  • A quarterly ‘dashboard’ outlining the number and type of claims in progress
  • The form of resolution for completed claims (e.g. struck out, settled, won, lost)
  • The average size of award or settlement
  • The types of claims raised
  • The areas of the business from which they were arising

Those quarterly reports also included a ‘bite-sized’ update for the client, with:

  • Key learning points taken from the previous quarter’s disputes
  • A note of key changes to employment law which might affect claims in the future

Strategic reviews were then conducted to identify common trends and where pre-emptive steps could be taken. An example would be the provision of training on particular issues or to particular parts of the business.


Our team delivered tailored training courses for targeted groups of senior people managers. The sessions were designed to enable easy cascading of information throughout the business. Learning materials were developed which would empower delegates to deliver courses to their own staff.


By investing in its decision-makers in this way, our client benefited from:

  • Improved awareness and management of the risks inherent in day-to-day management
  • Increased managers’ confidence in dealing effectively with colleagues at work

A significant reduction in the number of claims passing through the system has been recorded relative to previous years, and this was all achieved within the agreed budget.

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