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Melanie provides practical employment advice to businesses, directors, partner/members and employees, particularly to clients in the financial services and technology sectors. She has 18 years’ experience in this area and has expertise in negotiating contracts and settlement agreements.
Melanie is Joint Head of the Irwin Mitchell French Group.
Melanie advises boards on their business structures and throughout reorganisation proceedings. She also assists businesses on making their acquisitions and sales.
She has experience in handling a variety of cases, including:
She is ranked as an expert in legal directories Legal 500 and Chambers and Partners.
Melanie qualified as a solicitor in 1998.
“We at Irwin Mitchell welcome the publishing of this report and support its aims of ensuring that allegations of unlawful discrimination and sexual harassment discrimination in the workplace are dealt with fairly.
“Some of the report’s proposals are radical and if implemented will lead to widespread change.
“The report suggests that compensation needs to be substantially increased – to both compensate the successful victim and "punish" employers, presumably in the expectation that businesses will stamp out cultural problems in their workplaces if their bottom line is affected.
“It also recommends that tribunals work on the assumption that an employer will be ordered to pick up the legal of costs of the successful employee – something it refers to as ‘one way cost shifting’. This is significant because annual statistics for 2017/18 indicate that the average award for sex discrimination was just over £13,000. Complex sex discrimination claims can be extremely expensive and many employees don’t have the resources to pursue them. If awards were increased and costs awarded, more solicitors may offer the sorts of ‘no win no fee’ arrangements common in personal injury claims. This is likely to encourage more victims to bring claims.
“The other interesting suggestion is that employers should pay more to ensure that employees receive full legal advice before they enter into settlement agreements.
“Settlement agreements are already subject to strict rules and have to be counter signed by a solicitor, or someone else who is authorised to advise on them. The committee suggests that these rules are not robust enough and that employees don’t receive enough advice about whether the terms on offer are reasonable.
“That’s not my experience, in fact most lawyers will advise their clients about what they could expect to receive if their claim went to tribunal and ultimately, deciding whether or not to accept the offer is one the client has to make – not their lawyer.
“Most employers will also make a contribution towards the employee’s legal costs of taking advice. These are rarely sufficient to cover the costs and it’s interesting that the committee suggests costs should reflect the actual cost of providing advice and should be made even if the employee then decides not to sign the agreement. Many employers will be very uncomfortable with that suggestion and amazed that they might be asked to pay their employees legal costs of negotiating a higher settlement.”
Whilst we’re proud to be part of the first wave of law firms leading the way on this front, we hope more will follow so collectively, we can make a real difference. Addressing biases, which act as barriers to improving diversity and inclusion, is something we all have a responsibility for. We believe that ultimately by doing so, we will be adding value to both our clients and colleagues.
“This is a major a step forward in terms of transparency and should help people who work variable hours to understand their pay more clearly. This move by the Government is a direct response to the Taylor Review and it will be interesting to see when the other accepted recommendations are made law.”
"In order to find and retain a good workforce, employers must think about what attracts people to a job now and in the future and must adapt their recruitment strategies to changing priorities. An attractive and amenable workplace is seen as increasingly important in today's ever competitive market place, particularly for the millennials."
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