Zara Green, Author at MLP Law

Celebrating 25 years at mlplaw

We asked our Accounts Manager, Anna Adamson, about her remarkable 25 year career at mlplaw.

 

  • What has kept you at mlplaw for 25 years?

 

I genuinely enjoy working here. The work is interesting and no two days are the same, which when working with figures everyday is important 🙂 . It also has the best bunch of people and I’ve made lifelong friends along the way. The biggest thing for me though is the value mlplaw puts on the work life balance. I think the flexibility mlplaw allows with the hybrid working is unrivalled and makes being a working mum so much easier.

 

  • Thinking back to your first day at mlplaw – did you ever think you’d be here for 25 years?

 

I honestly cant believe its been 25 years I really doesn’t feel that long.  I started out as a 16 year old straight from school with no real idea of what I wanted to do but It became apparent really quickly to me it was place I wanted to stay. Ive done all my training and achieved my ILFM qualifications whilst working.

 

  • How much has changed since you started at mlplaw?

 

Its changed a lot in terms of the work we do and the way we work.    I think the biggest change though has been the introduction of home working. Before Covid I think the opportunities to work from home were limited but now we have a really flexible working from home policy where we can choose our own timetable to suit us it makes being a working mum less stressful.

 

  • What advice would you give to someone starting their career at the company based on your extensive experience?

Find something you enjoy doing and that’s makes you feel motivated

 

  • Significant moments or accomplishments during your time?

There has been lots I’m proud of but I think surviving the pandemic and finding new ways to do my job and keep the on top of  everything without being in the office is a big one.

 

 

 

From Office Junior to Operations Manager

From  an Office Junior to Becoming an Operations Manager, Alissa reflects on nearly 10 Years at mlplaw and shares her highlights in our Q&A!

 

  • What’s your proudest achievement over the 10 years you’ve been here? Have there been any key changes or major milestones?

I would say that my proudest achievement over the years is becoming part of the Senior Leadership Team and being a team lead to mlpower.

I feel privileged to be able to contribute to the future of the business and to help make it a great place to work. Being a team lead is also one of my proudest achievements because for me, being able to support, encourage and help others grow and develop is a great opportunity to have.

I was lucky to have great support when I started nearly 10 years ago (and still do!). The challenge and encouragement I had throughout my journey allowed me to grow and progress, and to be a team lead now and to have the opportunity to be that manager to someone else, is something that makes me really proud.

 

  • What else do you get involved with?

Well, being in Operations, I get the opportunity to be involved in lots of different areas. I like to say that in my role, I wear a lot of different hats!

I am currently a member of our MLParty team which arranges the social events each year such as our annual summer BBQs and Christmas parties. We also host and arrange more informal socials, such as dinners, and activities after work. One of our social events that stands out to me, was a Halloween themed social doing a walk around Altrincham learning about its ‘horrible histories’’. It was definitely memorable!

I am also really proud to be a member of our People and Wellbeing team, which works hard on being a great place to work with great people. We’ve had many wonderful highlights as a team and 2023 was a particularly successful year for us being shortlisted for a number of People awards, and becoming the first (and currently only) law firm to be members of the Greater Manchester Good Employment Charter.

I also have the opportunity to help our other internal teams that do such wonderful work, such as our marketing team, and our Doing the Right Thing in our Communities team.

 

  • What do you do as part of the Great People and Great Place to Work team?

As part of the Great People and Great Place to Work team I help deliver on our strategy that focuses on what it means to be a good employer, such as training and development, communication, recognition, growth, vision and values, benefits and much more!

Examples of how I help the team include leading our firm communications, and arranging and actioning on team and business feedback. From an operational point of view, ensuring we are doing the hard work behind the scenes to be in a position and have the opportunity to be a great place to work for new and current talent.

The work we do in the team is not only about maintaining a great culture, but how we can improve, take responsibility, and continue growing and supporting our people.

 

  • How have your roles and responsibilities changed?

In the nearly 10 years that I’ve been at mlplaw, there has been a lot of change to the roles I have done. However, what hasn’t changed throughout the years is no matter the role I was in, I always knew that no matter your title, you played an important role in providing excellent client service.

When I first started, I was an Office Junior who also helped with Reception. I then became a Legal Assistant and then transitioned into an Accounts and Operational role.

I am now a member of the firm’s Senior Leadership Team working on the Operations of the business as well as working on strategies to implement improvements and innovations which enhance our client service, and the day to day efficiency of the firm.

In addition, I look after the business’ support team, which works hard to provide high quality support service to our departments and clients. I believe that my years at mlplaw and the experience I have had within my different roles has given me useful insight when it comes to being a team lead and looking after my team.

 

  • Are there memorable projects you have worked on?

I’ve had a lot of memorable projects since being an Operations Manager, and can think of a couple of  that stand out.

I led the innovation to our new online HR system which has streamlined and automated our HR process and has allowed us a new way to recruit, onboard new starters, and allows current team members to have access and visibility to their personnel information, book their holidays, see their entitlement, and much more!

Lastly, and more recently, I arranged the migration of our IT system and Case Management system. This was probably the biggest project I have led to date, and the most impactful (all whilst planning a wedding and getting married within a couple of weeks after the migration live date. It was a memorable month to say the least!).

Moving onto a more modern and efficient system is important in ensuring we are providing a first class service and prepares ourselves in the best way for what the future of tech looks like in the legal industry.

The nature of operations means that there’s always more to improve, learn and research so I’m intrigued to see what projects the next 10 years in my role brings me.

 

What does the Philip Schofield Saga tell us about how Employers should handle Relationships at Work?

The recent controversy involving Philip Schofield of This Morning fame is hard to ignore. Following his turbulent exit from ITV after a confession of an ‘on/off’ relationship with a younger colleague, whom he allegedly met when the colleague was 15 years old, questions are being asked of his employer, ITV, and their role in the relationship Schofield described as ‘unwise but not illegal’. Levi Grant, an intern for the Employment team, considers the news story from an employment law perspective.

 

Relationships at work and in the office are not a new concept and it’s understandable when co-workers, who can often spend the majority of their waking time together, become involved in romantic relationships.  Indeed, almost 60% of people have admitted to having work relationships with colleagues.

 

As an employer, however, there is a duty of care owed to employees to ensure their safety and well-being are protected in the work place and that can encompass certain responsibilities when it comes to work-place relationships.  Many employers therefore encourage the disclosure of romantic relationships at work, to help ensure that there is no abuse or harassment of either party.  This not only helps to protect those involved in the relationship but also extends to team or department members, who may have concerns about the impact such a relationship may have on their working life.

 

Such work practices are often supported by specific policies, outlining that employers understand that they have a duty to safeguard members of staff against any detriment or discrimination that can result from workplace relationships, especially if they are between a senior and junior member of staff (as with Schofield).

 

ITV claim to have investigated rumours of the relationship and it would generally be considered good practice for employers in similar situations to speak to those involved, to ensure they are satisfied that there is no abuse of power or, indeed, wider concerns amongst other members of staff, which can negatively affect morale if not tackled.

 

Essentially, relationships are a normal part of life so it is generally viewed as unwise and impractical to forbid relationships between colleagues but that does not mean that employers should not be alive to the fact that certain actions will be expected of them, to regulate and manage such relationships, when connected to the workplace.

 

If you would like advice from the Employment team at MLP Law in respect of any of the issues raised here or more generally, please do not hesitate to get in touch on 0161 926 9969 or employment@mlplaw.co.uk, or follow us on Twitter @HRHeroUK.

The right to request a more predictable work pattern

Julie Sabba, an Associate in Employment at MLP, considers The Workers (Predictable Terms and Conditions) Bill (the Bill), which proposes to give eligible workers a new statutory right to request a more predictable working pattern.  The Bill, in an effort to reflect the 2018 Good Work Plan, aims to end ‘one-sided flexibility’.

 

The right to request a more predictable work pattern

 

In essence, eligible workers (not just employees) will have the right to make a request where:

 

  • there is a lack of predictability as regards any part of their work pattern (the work pattern being the number of working hours, the days of the week and the times on those days when the worker works, and the length of the worker’s contract)

 

  • the change relates to their work pattern

 

  • their purpose in applying for the change is to get a more predictable work pattern

 

An application must state that it is a request for a more predictable working pattern, and specify the change applied for and the date on which it is proposed it should take effect.

 

The Bill does not contain other earlier government commitments to introduce a right to reasonable notice of working hours and compensation for shifts cancelled without reasonable notice.

 

Eligibility

 

A worker is expected to be able to apply for a change to their working pattern if they have been employed by the same employer for a month before a ‘prescribed period’ – expected to be 26 weeks, although such service is not expected to need to be continuous.

 

A worker can only make two applications in any 12-month period and will take account of any flexible working requests that have been made by the individual.

 

Agency workers will also have rights to make such requests under certain conditions.

 

Lack of Predictability

 

There is no definition of ‘predictability’ in the Bill.  It does, however, specifically state that workers on a fixed term contract of 12 months or less may request that the term is extended or becomes permanent.  Other than that, it seems that a ‘lack of predictability’ will cover any worker whose hours or days vary in a way which provides them with uncertainty, such as zero hours workers or workers with unpredictable shift patterns.

 

Dealing with requests

 

There is no obligation on the employer to agree to a request, but they must deal with the application in a reasonable manner and respond within one month.  An employer can only reject an application for one or more of the specified reasons, which are:

 

  • the burden of additional costs

 

  • detrimental effect on ability to meet customer demand

 

  • detrimental impact on the recruitment of staff

 

  • detrimental impact on other aspects of the employer’s business

 

  • insufficiency of work during the periods the worker proposes to work

 

  • planned structural changes

 

Remedies

 

A worker will be able to bring an employment tribunal claim if an employer fails to follow the requirements set out above which, if the claim is successful, could result in an order for reconsideration of the request or compensation. The amount of compensation will be set by regulations and could be limited to eight weeks’ pay as it is under the flexible working regime.

 

Comment

 

It is important to note that the Bill only provides for the right to ask for a more predictable working pattern, not a right to a predictable working pattern.  Affected businesses will therefore have to establish policies and procedures to deal with such requests.

 

If you would like advice from the Employment team at MLP Law in respect of any of the issues raised here or more generally, please do not hesitate to get in touch on 0161 926 9969 or employment@mlplaw.co.uk, or follow us on Twitter @HRHeroUK.

My legal journey; reflecting on my career

My Legal Journey – Leanne Sodergren, MLP Laws Chief Operating Officer, reflects on her career.

As we celebrate International Women’s Day, Leanne Sodergren, MLP Laws Chief Operating Officer (COO), reflects on her journey as a woman in the legal industry.

30 years ago, my career started as an Admin Assistant back in 1993. It was a different era, Meatloaf topped the charts, smoking in offices and pubs was still legal and Jurassic Park had just hit the cinemas. Back then, going to university was increasingly popular, however I knew I wanted to go straight into work, learning on the job and climbing the ladder the traditional way.

Starting out, the work place was very different. Women were expected to wear high heels and skirts, you wouldn’t see a woman in a brightly coloured trouser suit and trainers like you would today. And men were always in suit and ties. And of course, like many young interns, my job expectations were determined by my photocopying and coffee making skills.

Working for multiple firms across Huddersfield and Leeds, I eventually settled in Manchester in 2004 and joined Myers Lister Price as an Accounts Manager, which would grow to become the MLP Law of today. Having the opportunity to work with a team of legal professionals and make a significant impact on the company’s growth was so exciting and I applied myself with enthusiasm. Over time, I was promoted to Practice Manager, giving me the opportunity to lead my own team where I gained valuable experience.

In 2010, my whole world changed. Becoming a Mum, to my wonderful daughter, Mia, made me even more determined to succeed in my career. I wanted to show my daughter that with hard work and a supportive network, women can achieve anything. MLP Law provided that supportive network, and I am so grateful for the opportunities that they provided.

At the time it was extremely common for law firms to operate under a partnership, meaning only qualified lawyers could become partners and it looked like I had reached the summit of my career. But, to my surprise, Stephen Attree and Michael Lister called me into the boardroom one day and announced they would be changing the firm’s structure to an Alternative Business Structure (ABS), allowing non-lawyers to become partners to sit around the board table. This change provided an opportunity to achieve my career goal of becoming a Partner, and it wouldn’t have been possible without the companies unwavering support.

As a Partner, I hadn’t envisaged much more career progression, but to my surprise, in March 2021, I was promoted to Chief Operating Officer (COO) at MLP Law. I am proud to continue my growth and journey in such a supportive company. Without which, the goals of a young, ambitious woman of the 90’s may not have been realised, let alone surpassed.

The supportive culture, that MLP Law has nurtured, allows those who join, no matter their gender, race or religion to progress and fulfil their opportunities and potential in their journey as a legal professional. A quality that has not gone unrecognised.

In 2018, the company was awarded the Lawnet ‘Team of the Year,’ a remarkable achievement, with a team of partners made up of 50% women. We are also proud to be the first law firm to be appointed a Member of the Greater Manchester Good Employment Charter – a scheme working to improve employment standards across Greater Manchester.

We are committed to providing equal opportunities for all, and this is an important part of our recruitment at MLP Law. We hire the best person for the job, and we are proud to say that presently, 70% of our workforce are women.

As we celebrate International Women’s Day, let us continue to strive towards creating an inclusive and supportive environment that allows everyone to reach their full potential. So that more people, like myself, can achieve their dreams without struggle or compromise.

High Court refuses to strike out a claim for misuse of private information by an ex-employer

Gareth Matthews, Head of Employment at MLP Law, reviews the High Court’s recent refusal to strike out a claim for misuse of private information by an ex-employer.

 

In the case, an employee (F), a solicitor, brought a claim against her employer (R) after the latter had obtained 18,000 private WhatsApp messages sent from F to her partner and best female friend and used them against her in Employment Tribunal proceedings. R argued that the messages were found on F’s work laptop after her dismissal or received via letters from an anonymous source. F stated that R had hacked her WhatsApp messages.

 

Master Davidson, sitting in the High Court, stated that F’s WhatsApp messages contained information regarding her personal and professional life, including details concerning her health and sex life, therefore, she had a reasonable expectation of privacy.

 

R tried to argue that F’s claim was Jameel abuse, i.e. no real or substantial wrong had been committed and litigation would yield no tangible or legitimate benefit to the Claimant proportionate to the likely costs and use of court procedures. Master Davidson stated that this argument was so unrealistic as to call into question whether the defendants (the managing partner of a law firm and two law firms connected with F’s employment) had any genuine or honest belief in it being a proper basis for strike-out. The breach of F’s privacy was enormous and could yield thousands of pounds in compensation if she was successful at trial.

 

Other abuses of process arguments were made by R, including Henderson abuse, i.e.  F should have asked the Employment Tribunal to determine the hacking allegations, and breach of the implied undertaking arising under CPR r.31.22. Master Davidson rejected all these arguments.

 

The case contains interesting obiter comments concerning privacy law relating to WhatsApp messages. You can read the full judgment here.

 

If you would like advice from the Employment team at MLP Law in respect of any of the issues raised here or more generally, please do not hesitate to get in touch on 0161 524 1956 or employment@mlplaw.co.uk, or follow us on Twitter @HRHeroUK.

 

 

 

UK Government Rejects Calls To Make Menopause A Protected Characteristic

The Government has published its response to the Women and Equalities Committee’s Menopause and the workplace report, rejecting several recommendations including the suggestion to make menopause a protected characteristic.  Julie Sabba, an Associate in the Employment team, considers the implications of the Government’s stance.

 

The decision not to add ‘menopause’ as an additional protected characteristic under The Equality Act 2010 (The Act) was largely considered to be due to the fact that affected women are already protected by the Act through its sex, age and disability provisions. The news has, however, been met with disappointment by the Women and Equalities Committee as well as many organisations that support women in the workplace. Writing to the Government, the Chair of the Committee Caroline Nokes, voiced concern that the Government has “ignored the significant evidence base” for equality law reform and called on Westminster to review its position. Ms Nokes also set out the low cost but high impact opportunities provided by model workplace menopause policies and leave.

 

Yet, there have also been concerns raised about the negative impact a distinct category of ‘menopause’ as a protected characteristic may have on women in the workplace; potentially causing women to be viewed as vulnerable and less able than their male counterparts.

 

Although many employers are likely to be relieved that menopause is not to be made into a protected characteristic, it is becoming increasingly common in modern workplaces for employers to take steps to be fair and supportive of its employees, whatever challenges they may be facing.  Therefore, despite the Government’s decision, there is still a desire for employers to create menopause policies and support procedures of their own accord, where not already being used.

Working like a dog? Literally! The Pro’s and Con’s of bringing pets to the workplace

Gareth Matthews, Head of Employment, considers the recent trend for pets in the workplace.

 

Employee Perks – Pets at Work?

 

Pet loving employees (and most commonly dog lovers) have increasingly been voicing a desire to bring their pet to work. Indeed, dog ownership radically increased during lockdown and now that huge numbers of employees are no longer working exclusively from home, a shortage of doggy day care centres and walkers, coupled with the increased cost of such services, means that pet-owning employees are much less keen to leave their pets unattended at home, whilst they are at work.

 

Whilst such a request may previously have been dismissed out of hand by employers, some are considering the potential benefits – and possible risks – of accommodating employees and their pets. Gareth Matthews, Head of Employment at MLP considers this relatively new phenomenon.

 

Disability discrimination and pets in the workplace

 

At present, there is no blanket legal obligation on employers, to allow employees to bring their pet to work. There are some circumstances, however, where it might be necessary in law to allow a pet to attend with its owner, as a reasonable adjustment under the Equality Act 2010. This would be applicable where the pet is in attendance in order to support an employee with a physical or mental impairment, such as a guide dog for a blind or visually impaired employee. There is also increasing use of assistance dogs to help with a variety of health issues, such as hearing difficulties, diabetes and epilepsy.

 

Furthermore, some individuals with mental health issues advocate the use of emotional support dogs, to help reduce the negative effects of such an illness.

 

Employers should treat any request by an employee to bring their pet to work on health grounds sensitively and cautiously.

 

How employers should respond

 

Where such a request is made, the employee should be asked to identify if it is made on health grounds and, if so, to explain the basis for how having their pet at work will assist with overcoming the difficulties associated with the health condition. The employer should then consider the request in the context of reasonable adjustments, required under the Equality Act 2010.

 

Employers have a duty to maintain the health and safety of all of its employees (not just the person making the request), and it is important to assess that the dog is well-behaved and will not cause problems for other employees. For example, if another employee has a dog allergy, an employer needs to consider the effect on the other person (someone with a severe allergy could themselves be classed as disabled).

 

Employers could implement a trial period before committing to a policy for pets in the workplace.

 

Some employees may simply be making the request for reasons of convenience and/or morale and employers may wish to consider this in a positive light in the context of the current cost of living, in a way that does not impose significant costs on the business.

 

Benefits to pets at work?

 

In a challenging recruitment market, some employers are looking for an edge to make them more attractive to new employees and pets in the workplace may be a novel way of doing just that. Before any pets are permitted, however, an employer should set out clear guidelines in writing about expectations regarding pet behaviour and conduct, to prevent any members of staff from being driven barking mad!

 

If you would like advice from the Employment team at MLP Law in respect of any of the issues raised here or more generally, please do not hesitate to get in touch on 0161 926 9969 or employment@mlplaw.co.uk, or follow us on Twitter @HRHeroUK.

My Internship Experience at MLP

In my half term, I completed a 1 week paid internship at the Head Office of MLP Law Altrincham. I applied for this program through college, got a response quickly for an interview with Samantha Kennedy (Associate Solicitor – Wills, Trusts and Probate) and Jane Hunter (Partner and Head of Private Client) who explained everything that I would do in the week very clearly. I am currently in the second year of college at Trafford College studying Applied Law and Business.

I started my first day with the Wills, Trust and Probate team and had a very warm welcome from Katie Davies (Paralegal Apprentice). Katie gave me an overview of what her team does and then I started some training, which consisted of UK GDPR for Law firms, SRA (Solicitors Regulation Authority) Codes of Conduct, Equality and Diversity, Anti – money-laundering training. Stephen Attree (Managing Partner) came and sat down with me and welcomed me to the firm, this settled down my nerves as he was very engaging and delightful to talk to. Following this, I begun completing the work that had been assigned to me. First, was to send a Will Review Letter to those who had not updated their will in three or more years. It was explained to me the benefits of updating clients of any changes in circumstances which may affect their wishes.  I really enjoyed this as I gained a better understanding of the different stages of estate planning.

I assisted the Wills, Trust and Probate department in some of their everyday administrative roles. This included closing files, scanning and preparing documents for post. This gave me a good insight into the day to day responsibilities of a junior team member in a law firm and what would be expected from me. I helped with filing of important documents and post that had come in on particular files. This helped to improve my organisation skills and attention to detail, to ensure they were correctly stored.

The next day I was with the corporate team, who were also very welcoming. I was given a good explanation on what corporate law is and what kind of issues they deal with. I assisted the team with a research task about corporate law and to find out what the difference between asset sales and share sales were. This was of interest to me as I am undertaking a combined course of law and business.

Towards the end of the week I was with the conveyancing team who were very friendly and lovely to talk to. I was given an insight on conveyancing and what kind of matters they deal with. I found this quite intriguing as some of the cases that I looked at had some interesting facts and details about what both parties wanted from the matter.

Overall, I had a very positive, enjoyable and fun time at MLP law as I learned many things that would help me in college and in the future. In addition, it allowed me to gain confidence in communication and improve some of my skills like organisation and attention to detail. Everyone was extremely welcoming and helped me with all aspects of the experience. I want to give a special thanks to Jane Hunter (Partner and Head of Private Client) and Samantha Kennedy (Associate Solicitor – Wills, Trusts and Probate) for making this happen and also to Katie Davies for helping me throughout the internship with any issues that I had.

Employer loses Menopause Age Discrimination case after telling Employee to ‘Calm Down’

A 55 year old women successfully claimed age discrimination and unfair dismissal, after being told to ‘calm down’ and not let her ‘hormones get out of control’.  Julie Sabba, an Associate in the Employment team considers the case, which resulted in an award of over £125,000.

 

Facts

 

Louise McCabe was employed as a Finance executive by an IT business, Selazar.  She was managed by her 29 year old male boss, Gareth Burns.  During a heated exchange at work, Ms McCabe was told by her boss, “Calm down, don’t let the hormones get out of control”.  Mr Burns also admitted to viewing Ms McCabe as a “menopausal woman” and describing older people as “not familiar” with e-commerce.

 

Furthermore, it was established that Mr Burns had told a recruitment consultant to find a younger team member, who was ‘more in tune’ with a young tech start company.

 

Ms McCabe was dismissed for allegedly sharing confidential information and raised a claim for unfair dismissal and age discrimination.

 

Law

 

Age is one of the characteristics protected by The Equality Act 2010, with individuals being protected from discrimination on the grounds of their age.

 

An employer has a duty not to treat employees less favourably, on the grounds of their age.

 

Decision

 

In upholding Ms McCabe’s claims the Judge determined that at least part of the reason for her dismissal was her age and that she had been upset and humiliated by the treatment that she had endured at work.  She was awarded over £125,000 with £20,000 of that representing an award for injury to feelings.

 

Comment

 

This case is a pertinent reminder to employers of the expense and reputational damage associated with making personal and hurtful comments to employees in the workplace.  To minimise risk, employers are advised to ensure all staff, particularly management, are trained in using appropriate language at work and avoiding slurs of any nature but particularly those connected to protected characteristics under equality legislation.

A Week at MLP Law

During a break from my college education, I interned at MLP Law. I was introduced with a warm welcome from the Wills and Probates department and given an overview of MLP Law’s DNA and what I should expect to experience and learn during my time with the firm.

I began my internship by participating in training that consisted of the rules and regulations set out by the SRA and Money Laundering Regulations 2017. The training consisted of four courses, which were Equality and Diversity, SRA Codes of Conduct for Support Staff, UK GDPR and Anti-Money Laundering. This training ensured I had a good understanding of the rules and regulations that all law firms must adhere to.

Ella, a Trainee Solicitor, currently working in the Wills, Trusts and Probate department showed me an example of a Will and explained the law surrounding Will drafting and the importance of ensuring a lawyer pays close attention to detail when drafting legal documents.

I had the opportunity to attend a client meeting with Sophie, a Solicitor Apprentice who works in the Wills, Trusts and Probate department. It was interesting to watch how she interacts with the client, what the necessary procedures are for signing a Will and the importance of making sure Wills are thoroughly checked through with the client to ensure they achieve the client’s wishes.

With the Archive Administrator Emma, I looked over a Will that was dated 1935 and property Title Deeds dated from 1800s. It was incredibly interesting to see old legal documents and compare them to the format and wording of modern legal documents. I was shown how to use the electronic case management system, as well as organising and filing paper files.

Katie, a Licensed Conveyancer, demonstrated how to use the Land Registry website to obtain copies of the Title Register for properties and how to register forms with the Land Registry to change the ownership of a property.
In the employment department, Gareth, Partner, and Julie, Associate Solicitor, provided me with some background on what Employment Law is and what their job entails. To further develop my understanding of Employment Law, I was assigned a legal research task to write a report on what a disciplinary meeting is.

In summary my experience with MLP Law firm was a great experience from the friendly environment to working with a team who all are extremely passionate about their jobs and the firm.

Is Being an Ardent Supporter of a Football Club a Characteristic Protected by Equality Law?

Julie Sabba, an associate in MLP’s employment team, considers a recent employment tribunal decision, which held that supporting a particular football team cannot be considered a philosophical belief worthy of protection under the Equality Act.

Facts

Mr McClung, an avid supporter of Glasgow Rangers Football Club, brought a claim for discrimination on the grounds of religion or belief against Doosan Babcock, a construction company.

Mr McClung had carried out work for Doosan Babcock between January and June 2019. He alleged that his manager, who was a Celtic fan, did not offer him later work due to his support of the rival Glasgow team, which was therefore an act of discrimination.

As a result, Mr McClung claimed that his support of Rangers was so strong and such an intrinsic part of his existence that it was akin to a philosophical belief and should therefore be protected by law.

In evidencing his assertion, Mr McClung described how he had supported the team for 42 years, spending most of his disposable income on attending games. He also outlined that he considered his support for the team a “massive” part of his life that had created memories with his father and son, whilst also receiving a birthday card from the football club each year.

In addition, Mr McClung added that he supported some of the philosophies that came with being a Rangers fan, including allegiance to the Queen, support for the UK union, support for Northern Ireland to remain part of the UK and some involvement in the Orange Order or attending marches.

Mr McClung asserted that supporting Rangers was a way of life and it was as important to him as it was for Christians to attend church.

Law

The Equality Act 2010 defines a belief as ‘any religious or philosophical belief, and any reference to ‘belief’ also refers to a lack of belief’.

To determine the question of whether or not a certain belief amounts to a philosophical belief, guidance is provided in case law:

• the belief must be genuinely held;

• it must be a belief rather than an opinion or viewpoint based on the present state of information available;

• it must be a belief as to a weighty and substantial aspect of human life and behaviour;

• it must attain a certain level of cogency, seriousness, cohesion and importance – it must have a similar status or cogency to a religious belief; and

• it must be worthy of respect in a democratic society, be not incompatible with human dignity and not conflict with the fundamental rights of others.

Decision

In rejecting Mr McClung’s arguments, the Judge of the Glasgow Employment Tribunal stated that she considered support for a football club to be akin to a lifestyle choice, rather than relating to a substantial aspect of human life and behaviour.

In summary, she held that support for Rangers Football Club does not amount to a philosophical belief within the meaning of section 10(2) of the Equality Act 2010, and cannot constitute a protected characteristic for the purposes of claiming discrimination under the Equality Act.

Comment

In an ever changing cultural landscape, where what constitutes a belief can be challenged – with some now advancing veganism and climate change as capable of legal protection – employers should always ensure that employees treat each other with respect, to minimise the risk and expense, associated with this type of claim. Policies on equality and diversity, supported by appropriate training, are useful in underlining this approach.

If you would like advice from the Employment team at MLP Law in respect of any of the issues raised here or more generally, please do not hesitate to get in touch on 0161 926 9969 or employment@mlplaw.co.uk, or follow us on Twitter @HRHeroUK.