Irwin Mitchell has lauded the value of conditional fee agreements after winning in the Supreme Court last week for an NHS worker whose bosses attempted to make her redundant whilst she was on holiday.
The landmark ruling could trigger changes to all employment contracts in the UK.
The long-running dispute focused on the timing of Sandi Haywood’s dismissal from the redundant role of associate director of business development for Newcastle and North Tyneside Primary Care Trusts.
Whether the official date when notice was effectively at an end fell before or after her 50th birthday was significant because it determined whether she would receive a higher pension.
The trust stated Mrs Haywood’s contract should have terminated 12 weeks after the letter of redundancy was sent. Mrs Haywood claimed it should be 12 weeks from when the letter was read.
The lower courts sided with Mrs Haywood, awarding her just under £400,000 in past and future losses, as did the Supreme Court.
Jane Anderson, a senior associate at Irwin Mitchell, said: “The judgment also results in a new term which will be implied into every employment contract in the UK.
“This means that in practice, if an employer makes an employee redundant via a letter, the employee must have a reasonable opportunity to read it before notice is officially given.”
She added: “It’s also an important case for Irwin Mitchell as it shows how the firm is open to using alternative funding arrangements to represent private individuals against large organisations.
“Sandi was funded by legal expenses insurance in the first instance claim. We then acted for her on a conditional fee arrangement with an after-the-event insurance policy for the Court of Appeal and Supreme Court.
“Without that she would not have had the ability to resist the two appeals made against her and the original judgment.”