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Legal Expenses Insurance - Instructing Your Own Lawyer

Employees facing the prospect of issuing an employment tribunal claim, often face difficulties when funding solicitor fees.  Firms may offer a “no win no fee” – however this has disadvantages for both employee and solicitor firm.  Often, employees will have legal expenses insurance (LEI) – which can be attached to home insurance policies. 

LEI usually provides cover for the employee’s legal fees when bringing claims such as unfair dismissal.  However, insurers will often insist on the employee instructing a solicitor from the insurer’s panel...

BUT… good news for employees...in a recent case involving an LEI company, the question arose:

  • Can an insurance company insist on the employee using its own panel’s solicitor?
  • The answer was no.

The employee in the case wanted to bring a claim for unfair dismissal and sought to use a lawyer of his own choice.  The insurance company relied on a term in the insurance policy that said that the employee could only instruct its own lawyer, if it was authorised by the insurance company. 

The Court held that the employee’s freedom of choice, to instruct their own lawyer, should not be dependent on the insurer’s view, on whether it was necessary to instruct a lawyer...but did say that the insurance company did not necessarily have to meet all of the incurred costs.

Practical steps:

  1. When considering a claim update your insurance company.
  2. Contact a solicitor of your own choice – make them aware of your LEI policy.
  3. Be wary of the short three month (less one day) time limit in which to bring a claim.

Employment Law Timetable – Looking ahead - 2014

The ever changing employment law landscape, is set to continue to twist and turn...we highlight some of the key dates in 2014 , for both employers and employees:

  • 6 April 2014 – ACAS early conciliation to be introduced.
  • Employers beware! – introduction of penalties of 50% of any financial award for employers who lose at tribunal – up to a maximum of £5,000.
  • October 2014 – employment tribunal to be given power to order equal pay audit whereby an employer is found guilty of gender pay discrimination.
  • 2014 – the right to request flexible working is to be extended to all employees.

If you want to discuss any of the above issues, then please do not hesitate to contact us on 020 7353 6660.

30 November 2013

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