You and the Law – 1st June 2011

Almost free

I suffered minor injuries in a fall and needed hospital treatment.  I saw a solicitor who, on a ‘no win, no fee’ basis, put in a claim to the other party’s insurers.  But I’ve been told that I could be liable for the other party’s legal fees if I lose the case, or might have to make up any shortfall in costs awarded if I win.  So I have told the solicitor I can’t proceed with the claim owing to the financial risks involved.  Can I be charged for the work done so far?  AH

The solicitor should have explained the ins and outs of the conditional fee system to you before taking on your case.  You should have been offered insurance which would cover you in the event that you lost the case.  If you win, you are entitled to claim your solicitor’s ‘success fee’ from the other party.  Discuss the issue with your solicitor again.

Sick leave

Our employment contracts state that we are entitled to 25 days’ sick leave with pay a year.  They are now proposing that in future we will only get paid sick leave if we spend the time in hospital.  New staff have to agree to this, but we have refused.  Can they force this change on us?  CF

Possibly, but they must follow the correct procedure.  In some circumstances your employer may be able to make this change by  terminating the contracts of all staff on reasonable notice, offering you new contracts on the new terms to take their place. 

Provided your employer was able to satisfy an employment tribunal that they have a reasonable basis for their actions, you would be unlikely to have an unfair dismissal claim.  You may be offered a sweetener, such as extra holidays, to sign the new agreement.

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