Ashfords LLP win Employment Team of the Year

Published 08 July 2016

Winner: Ashfords

Ashfords claims the title of employment team of the year after representing a senior doctor and NHS whistle blower who was unfairly discriminated against and dismissed while in hospital.

Dr Raj Mattu, a senior cardiologist was suspended for five years by the University Hospitals of Coventry and Warwickshire NHS Trust five months after going public about practices that were endangering patients’ lives.

Mattu’s whistleblowing related to the hospital’s “five-in-four” policy, which was designed to cut costs by placing five beds in bays designed for only four. The initiative led to a patient dying after staff could not reach him with vital lifesaving equipment. He also raised concerns about the transfer of Birmingham heart patients to Coventry, which led to the death of patients.

In 2010 due to a pre-existing auto-immune disorder he was forced on sick leave. While in he was in hospital the Trust conducted a disciplinary hearing and summarily dismissed him.

The work carried out by partner Stephen Moore and solicitors Emily Felton and Jean Norton highlighted the need for NHS whistle blowers to be treated as a victim rather than a problem. As a result of their successful case Mattu was awarded £1.22m.

Second place: UNISON Legal Services

UNISON Legal Services also impressed the judges with its work acting for British Gas employee Joe Lock in his legal case against his employer. The landmark case led to the ruling that regular commission payments should be paid to employees during annual leave.

The case of Lock v British Gas was first won by UNISON Legal at the Court of Justice of the European Union in 2013 and was subsequently successful in the Employment Tribunal in 2015. The case was then passed on to the Employment Appeals Tribunal where UNISON Legal again won.

Solicitors Camilla Belich, Shantha David and Jeanette Sainsbury worked to secure this win for their client, whose regular salary consisted of 50 per cent commission payment. As a result Lock and his colleagues were reluctant to take annual leave as they would only have received half their pay.

The victory not only benefits UNISON members but also all workers in the UK and Europe. The case has now been passed to the Court of Appeal.

Third place: Eversheds

Eversheds has won third place for its work advising British Gas during a case of national importance for employers in England, Scotland and Wales.

Lock V British Gas is a leading case fundamental to the calculation of holiday pay in relation to the Working Time Directive. The Eversheds team took the case to the Court of Justice of the European Union in Strasbourg before it returned to the English legal system.

Partner Simon Rice-Birchall and his team’s tireless work were instrumental in allowing the case making its way to the Court of Appeal. Eversheds has represented British Gas in relation to the litigation since it began in 2012.

The defence relied on inventive and subtle legal arguments focusing on whether UK legislation can be read in line with EU requirements pursuant to the Marleasing principles. So far Eversheds’ work has benefited most employers and prevented them having to make extra payments in respect to holiday pay.