MLP Blogs Archives - 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.


Inheritance Tax Advice for Business Owners

Inheritance Tax Advice for Business Owners

Business Property Relief (BPR) is an important form of tax relief. It allows business owners to claim Inheritance Tax (IHT) relief on business assets they own, including shares in qualifying businesses.

Here we look at the basics of BPR, explain how it works and show how BPR can be used in Inheritance Tax planning.

How does Business Property Relief work?

If you own a business, or an interest in a business, your estate may be entitled to relief from Inheritance Tax.

Inheritance Tax is the tax paid on your estate after you have passed away. Your estate consists of everything you own. Every person in the UK currently has an IHT allowance of £325,000 – this is known as the nil-rate band (NRB). If the value of your estate is higher than this figure, you will need to pay IHT on the excess.

With BPR, qualifying business assets can be exempt from IHT either while you are still alive or upon your death. This form of tax relief reduces the value of a business or business assets in the calculation of your IHT liability.

To receive BPR, you must have owned the business or business assets for at least two years before your death. Therefore, if you pass away shortly after acquiring the asset, your estate will not be eligible for the relief. The exception here is if you inherit the asset from your spouse, who also owned it for less than two years. In this scenario, your period of ownership is added to that of your late spouse. If the combined period of ownership exceeds two years, you will be eligible for BPR relief.

What businesses qualify for Business Property Relief?

Not every business or interest in a business qualifies for Business Property Relief. Typically, BPR is available for:

  • A qualifying trading business or an interest in one
  • Shares in an unlisted qualifying company, including a minority holding
  • Shares in a qualifying company listed on the Alternative Investment Market (AIM) of the London Stock Exchange

Note that if the business mainly deals in securities, stocks, land, or buildings, or in the making or holding of investments, it will not be eligible for Business Property Relief. As such, BPR is not available to buy-to-let investors. Buy-to-let businesses are treated as investment businesses.

How much IHT relief is available?

Relief from IHT is available at either 100% or 50%. This depends on the type of business assets you own.

You can receive 100% IHT relief on:

  • A business or interest in a business
  • Shares in an unlisted company

Meanwhile, you can receive 50% relief on:

  • Shares controlling more than 50% of the voting rights in a listed company
  • Land, buildings, or machinery owned by the deceased and used in a business they were a partner in or controlled
  • Land, buildings, or machinery used in the business and held in a trust that it has the right to benefit from

How to claim BPR relief

Business Property Relief can be claimed by the executor of your will or the administrator of your estate when valuing the estate.

Two forms need to be completed. These include:

  • Form IHT400 (Inheritance Tax account)
  • Schedule IHT413 (Business or partnership interests and assets)

Bear in mind that HMRC assesses BPR when the estate makes a claim after you have died. Entitlement to the relief will depend on your business assets maintaining their BPR-qualifying status such that they qualify at that time.

Using Business Property Relief in Inheritance Tax planning

Business Property Relief can play a key role in Inheritance Tax planning even if you don’t own your own business. Investing in a qualifying business can be an effective way of reducing your IHT bill.

For example, if you are not keen to give away large sums of money during your lifetime in order to reduce your IHT liability, an investment in a BPR-qualifying investment could be another IHT strategy to consider. This strategy can provide you with greater control over your money. Unlike with a gift, you retain ownership of your money.

Another situation where BPR can be effective from an IHT planning point of view is where you would like your wealth to become exempt from IHT quickly. Unlike gifts and trusts, which generally take seven years before they are fully exempt from IHT, BPR-qualifying investments are exempt from IHT after just two years, provided they have been held for at least two years at the time of death.

An investment in a BPR-qualifying business could also be an effective strategy if you want to give the inheritance you plan to leave behind the opportunity to grow. A BPR-qualifying investment usually has the potential to increase in value. However, as with any investment, there are no guarantees.

Risks to consider

There are a number of risks to be aware of with Business Property Relief.

When you invest in a BPR-qualifying asset, your capital is at risk. It is important to understand that many BPR-qualifying assets such as unlisted or AIM-listed businesses are higher-risk investments. These kinds of investments can fall in value and be difficult to sell. You may not get back what you invested.

Another risk to be aware of is that tax rules and reliefs can change. There is no guarantee that companies that qualify today will remain BPR-qualifying assets in the future.

A valuable IHT relief  

Business Property Relief is a powerful form of tax relief that should not be ignored. A valuable IHT planning tool, it can provide relief of up to 100% after you pass away.

As with all areas of taxation, however, Business Property Relief is a complex area. If you are considering using it as part of your estate planning strategy, it is important to discuss this with a solicitor, and to take separate financial advice.

To find out more about how mlplaw can help you with inheritance tax advice for Business Owners, please don’t hesitate to contact us on either or 0161 926 1538

What Employers Should Know About the Employment Tribunal Process

Navigating the Employment Tribunal process can be a complex and daunting task for employers. As you prepare to face this legal challenge, you’re likely to have a host of questions swirling in your mind.

We’re here to provide clarity and guidance, and in this blog we address the ten of the most frequently asked questions regarding Employment Tribunal claims. From understanding the role of the ACAS conciliation process to the possibility of recovering costs, we’re ready to shed light on the key aspects of this legal journey.

Let’s dive in and demystify the Employment Tribunal process together.


1. What is the ACAS conciliation process?

Before an individual can submit a claim to the Employment Tribunal he or she must participate in the ACAS conciliation process. This means that ACAS help to resolve the dispute by reaching an agreement between the parties, without the need to go to an Employment Tribunal.


2. How do I defend a claim against my business?

First, you must ensure that you complete and submit a form outlining your response to the claim (called an ET3).  This can be done online or by post.  You must briefly outline the facts of the case from your point of view and it is also useful to include the legal grounds of your defence. Then, either you or your lawyer must argue your case before a Judge.


3. Can an Employment Tribunal reject or ‘strike out’ a claim?

Yes, but it is unusual.  A claim can be rejected if some of the essential information is not contained in the claim form (also known as an ET1). In certain circumstances, the Employment Tribunal may ‘strike out’, for example, if it has no reasonable prospect of success, is brought or conducted vexatiously, or is not actively pursued.


4. How long do I have to respond to a claim?

You have 28 days to submit your response to the Employment Tribunal once you have been notified of the claim.


5. What happens after the ET3 has been submitted?

Once both parties have submitted the relevant forms, the Employment Tribunal will set out a timetable, outlining further documents that may be required and setting dates for any evidence to be shared between the parties. The Tribunal may also set a date for the final hearing, at which evidence will be given (either in person or remotely).


6. What is the difference between a preliminary hearing and a final hearing?

In some claims, a preliminary hearing may be held to determine specific issues, such as whether an employee has a disability (in disability discrimination claims). A final hearing is usually the final stage of a claim, where the Employment Tribunal hears evidence and determines whether the claim succeeds or not.  If the claim succeeds, there may also be a remedy hearing to determine how much compensation should be awarded to the Claimant.


 7. Do all claims go to a final hearing?

No. In fact, most claims do not go all the way to a final hearing. Many cases settle before reaching a final hearing, others may be discontinued or struck out for a variety of reasons. However, it is often best to prepare for the claim to go all the way.


8. What sort of evidence is considered in an Employment Tribunal claim?

This may vary from claim to claim, but will typically include witness evidence from people who witnessed key events or made decisions relating to the claim, as well as any relevant documents such as contracts, meeting notes and policy documents. It is common for WhatsApp messages, social media posts, and CCTV footage to be referred to.


 9. Should I just settle the claim?

It is always worth considering whether settlement might be a viable option. In many cases, there may be commercial merit in reaching a settlement, where this avoids the risk, time, and cost of the claim going all the way to a final hearing.


10. If the claim is successfully defended, will I be able to recover my costs?

Possibly, though this is unlikely. Costs awards tend to be the exception, rather than the rule, in Employment Tribunal claims and will only be awarded in limited circumstances, such as where the claim was pursued vexatiously or had no reasonable prospect of success.


We hope you find this overview of common questions about Employment Tribunal claims to be informative and helpful. Remember, when it comes to navigating the intricacies of the Employment Tribunal process, having the right legal guidance can make all the difference.

If you find yourself facing an Employment Tribunal claim, or if you have additional questions not covered in this blog, don’t hesitate to get in touch with our team of experts. We’re here to provide you with the support and representation you need to protect your interests. Your peace of mind is just a click or a phone call away.

Contact us today on 0161 929 9969 or to schedule a consultation and ensure you’re well-prepared for whatever the Tribunal process may bring.

Pre/Post Nuptial Agreements: Are they legally binding?

This article will consider and explore the law relating to nuptial agreements, advantages of having one and how the Courts are approaching them.

What is a nuptial agreement?

A nuptial agreement is a form of agreement entered into between couples anticipating marrying (pre-nuptial) or who have already married (post-nuptial).

It sets out what should happen to the family finances if the marriage breaks down. For example, it may include a clause ringfencing either party’s assets accrued prior to the relationship.

It will often include clauses about what property is to be kept separate and what property will be considered as joint.

It may also include provision on jurisdiction and consider what should happen in the event of the untimely death of one party.

What is the law?

Nuptial agreements are not technically legal binding in England & Wales.

However, over the last 13-years, the Higher Courts in England & Wales have increasingly recognised that such agreements should be given weight. In some cases, they have can have decisive and very compelling weight, meaning that parties will be held to the terms of the same.

In the Supreme Court decision of Radmacher the Court upheld the provisions of a nuptial agreement and took the time to set out in what circumstances nuptial agreement should be given weight as follows: –

  • Parties must enter the agreement voluntarily, without pressure and be informed of its implications.
  • Whether foreign elements should enhance the weight of the agreement.
  • Whether the circumstances at the time the Court considers the matter make it fair or just to depart from the agreement. In other words, if the agreement is fair the Court should not look behind the agreement.

A nuptial agreement cannot prejudice the reasonable needs of a child of the family. However, in the right case, a nuptial agreement will be given compelling or decisive weight, as aforementioned.

Additionally, the Court usually like to ensure each parties’ needs are met in the event of divorce. However, as we see below, this is not always the case now or if they are considered it is for a defined period.

In 2014, the Law Commission set out what it considered should be the main ingredients of a qualifying nuptial agreement as follows: –

  • That it must be a valid contract;
  • Must be freely entered;
  • Must contain a statement that both parties understand it is a qualifying agreement and it will remove the Courts discretion to make financial provision;
  • Should be made at least 28-days before the marriage;
  • Both parties should receive, at the time of making the agreement, disclosure of the other party’s resources;
  • Both parties should have sought independent legal advice

Note; the above is not statutory guidance e.g. parties don’t have to follow this. It is only recommendations from the Law Commission. Therefore, the absence of any of the above may not make a difference as to the weight to be applied but equally could be critical if they are not followed.

Jurisdiction / oversees assets

It is of utmost importance for you to consider seeking the advice of international lawyers in the Countries you have assets to ensure you are fully abreast of all advantages and disadvantages of entering a Nuptial agreement.

It may also be beneficial to include a jurisdictional clause within the agreement e.g. you may have significant property oversees and the law in that country treats Nuptial agreements as legally binding – unlike England & Wales. Again, specific international law advice will be required in these types of cases.

How the Court are approaching Nuptial agreements

There has been a major shift in the Court’s approach to Nuptial agreements following Radmacher. More and more cases now indicate that the Courts are giving significant weight to such agreements unless there are compelling reasons not to.

Even in case where parties argue that their needs are not met by the agreement, the Court are upholding Nuptial agreements. For example, in the 2023 case of MN v AN, the husband had assets of £32.5m and the wife £62,000 – prior to the marriage. The wife tried to argue that the agreement did not meet her needs and was vitiated by pressure. The Court found there was no vitiating factor and no other factor which meant it should be given less weight. In this case, both parties had instructed top divorce lawyers. The Judge in this case said ‘these agreements are intended to give certainty. Those signing them need to know that the law in this country will provide that certainty. Litigants cannot expect to be released from the terms that they signed up to just because they don’t now like what they agreed.’ The Nuptial agreement was considered fair with the wife receiving £11.75m.

In the 2014 case of Luckwell v Limata, although the Court made an award based on needs in awarding the husband a home, it was only a reversionary interest. This meant that the property reverted to the wife in the event of a certain event arising.

In the 2022 case of CMX v EJX, the Court found that the marriage contract had been freely entered into by each party. In this case the Court even held that the lack of independent legal advice or full disclosure was not fatal, the Radmacher test for upholding the marriage contract was satisfied. The Court went on to consider the Wife’s needs based on the facts it was a long marriage and she had contributed fully.

Advantages of Nuptial agreements

A Nuptial agreement entered freely with a full appreciation of the implications, legal advice, disclosure etc is very likely to be given significant weigh by the Court and upheld in the event there are any disagreements.

Other advantages include:

  • Protecting inherited wealth, gifts, family businesses, property owned before the marriage;
  • Minimises issues on divorce;
  • It saves money. It is cheaper to enter a Nuptial agreement than dispute matters in Court;
  • Parties can freely agree their own terms. If disputed at Court, financial arrangements can be very unpredictable;

One significant advantage is that the Court are unlikely to apply the s25 checklist (consideration beyond the scope of this article) in the event the parties are held to the Nuptial agreement. When applying the s25 checklist the Court must consider several matters before making Orders such as transfer of property, pension sharing, spousal maintenance etc. The Courts have a wide discretion.  In absence of a Nuptial agreement, this is often where the Court can award a significant share of the available resources to the economically weaker party, irrespective as to where they came from, e.g. this could mean one party is awarded some of the inherited wealth of the other party if the assets generated during the marriage are not sufficient to meet their needs.

A Nuptial agreement can therefore significantly curtail the Courts discretionary powers and ensure any award regarding needs is limited to those which are absolutely essential.

Concluding comments

In short, a Nuptial agreement is still not a legally binding agreement in England & Wales. However (emphasis added), the Court’s are now very likely to uphold the agreement if disputes arise, especially if there are no vitiating elements. The Court may go behind the agreement if a parties’ needs have been totally disregarded but as we have seen in recent case law, this may mean the property reverts backs to the other party.


This article should not be relied upon as legal advice. You are strongly encouraged to seek independent legal advice if you are considering a Nuptial agreement. This article does not consider every single aspect of the Nuptial agreements as there are other factors which may render a Nuptial agreement unenforceable / unreliable. Each case is fact specific and specific legal advice is needed to ensure you appreciate all aspects.


This article was written by Colin Hornby, a Family Parter at MLP Law specialising in divorce and associated financial matters.

If you would like to speak with Colin about Nuptial agreements, please email him or call his direct dial 0161 926 1581.


Proposed Legislation aimed at Tackling Bullying at Work

Legislation that aims to make preventing bullying at work a stand-alone right has been proposed in Parliament for MPs to consider.

The Bullying and Respect at Work Bill, tabled by Labour, seeks to strengthen workplace processes to assist in the reporting and investigating of incidents and introduce guidance on best practice regarding respectful work environments.  This will be done through a Respect at Work Code, to be enforced by the Human Rights Commission.

Not only does the Bill introduce a legal definition of bullying, it also intends to impose robust mechanisms in relation to:

  • reporting incidents of bullying;
  • Investigating claims of bullying; and
  • Enforcing the outcome of any such investigation.

Currently, employees rely on protections offered by the Equality Act 2010 or the right to claim constructive dismissal, to legally challenge workplace bullying.  The Bill is in its early stages and will be watched with interest, by staff and employers alike, as it progresses through the legislative process.

Navigating Social Media in the Workplace: A Comprehensive Guide

The increasing use of social media presents both benefits and risks for employers and employees. The ability to connect with others, create a network and communicate quickly to a wide and often targeted audience can enormously benefit an organisation when used positively. However, those same features of social media sites can also cause significant problems for an employer when the use of social media by an employee or former employee is not in the organisation’s best interests, particularly if controversial comments are re-tweeted, shared, re-posted or ‘go viral’ and reach a mass audience.

In this blog post, we will delve into key aspects of social media in the workplace, addressing issues such as setting rules and standards for employee use, tackling online bullying and harassment, understanding the role of digital evidence in HR processes, and determining ownership of employees’ professional social media profiles. By exploring these topics, we aim to provide a comprehensive understanding of the implications and best practices associated with social media in the workplace.

What is Social media?

First, let’s define what social media actually is. There is no legal definition of social media. It generally means internet-based applications which people use on computers, tablets and smartphones to connect, keep in touch and interact socially by creating and sharing content in the form of text, photos or video. There is a wide range of different types of social media sites including social and professional networks, community sites, blogs, microblogging sites, wikis, web forums, social bookmarking services and user rating services. Indeed, we have all no doubt heard of Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin and Instagram.

Setting Rules and Standards for Employee Social Media Use

One of the fundamental steps in managing social media in the workplace is establishing clear rules and standards for employee use. Acas recommends the implementation of a social media policy that outlines guidance for employees regarding acceptable behavior, both online and offline, for instance by clarifying what employees can and cannot say about the organisation. The policy should address the distinction between personal and professional use of social media, protecting the organisation’s reputation, and minimising reputational risks. Additionally, it should clarify the consequences of breaching the policy, emphasising that disciplinary action, including dismissal, may be taken in response to inappropriate social media conduct.

Employer-owned social media accounts require clear guidelines. In any social media policy, employers should emphasise the account’s value and their ownership rights. Access to login credentials should be ensured, and rules must be set regarding information disclosure and expressing opinions. Confidentiality, political neutrality, and adherence to legal requirements should be addressed. For businesses reliant on client connections, additional rules on engaging with business contacts can be considered in the social media policy.

Who Owns Your Employees’ Professional Social Media Profiles?

Due to the grey area as to who ‘owns’ social media accounts or the connections made on them, it is better for an employer to make this clear from the outset in its social media policy. The policy should therefore outline whether work-related social media accounts are owned by the employer and establish rules for connections made with business contacts during employment. Contracts and settlement agreements may also need to include provisions related to social media contacts and post-termination restrictions.

Indeed, in the case of Whitmar, the claimant company successfully applied for an interim injunction to prevent former employees from, amongst other things, misappropriating and misusing its confidential information. This included four LinkedIn groups managed by one of the former employees on behalf of the claimant in the course of her employment.

Employees using personal accounts for work or professional purposes raise ownership and confidentiality concerns. While an individual’s LinkedIn network is typically considered their private property, this is not always straightforwardly the case. Factors such as creation during employment and relationship development of clients and suppliers of the employer can mean that the employer also has a vested interest. To protect against breaches, post-termination restrictions can require employees to disconnect from employer clients and prohibit reconnecting during a specified restraint period. Employers should therefor ensure employment contracts or settlement agreements include these provisions for effective safeguarding.

Dealing with Cyber-Bullying and Harassment Online

The rise of social media has unfortunately brought forth instances of cyber-bullying and harassment. It is crucial for employers to take such incidents seriously and address them as disciplinary matters. Making it explicitly clear to employees that online harassment and bullying will not be tolerated is essential. An illustrative case is Otomewo v Carphone Warehouse, where an employer was found vicariously liable for harassment related to sexual orientation on an employee’s Facebook page. Employers must ensure that their response to online harassment is proportionate and aligned with their established policies and procedures.

Misconduct Relating to Social Media

Employee misuse of social media can lead to various forms of misconduct that require appropriate disciplinary action. Instances such as bullying, disclosure of confidential information, writing disparaging comments regarding the employer, employees or customers, or publishing offensive material can significantly impact an employer’s reputation and relationships. When addressing such misconduct, employers should consider factors like the nature and seriousness of the offence, any previous warnings, the impact on customer relationships, and the reasonableness of the employer’s disapproval. Dismissal for a first offence will rarely be fair, although may be justified in certain circumstances, but fairness and proportionality should always be assessed.

Another important matter to consider is whether rights under the European Convention of Human Rights (ECHR) – such as the right to privacy – might be engaged. On some social media sites, such as Facebook, there are privacy settings that employees may use to limit the number of people who can view their posts. Although a tribunal will take into consideration range of users who can view an individual’s posts, a tribunal may recognise the lack of control a user has regarding reposts etc. Users of social media can publish content to a limited audience of their friends, but that content can easily be ‘shared’, ‘Retweeted’, ‘reposted’ and can go viral to thousands of other users, therefore the lack of control over the information is likely to remove a reasonable expectation of privacy.

Even if the right to privacy is engaged the employer may still be able to justify interference with that right if the employer’s actions are proportionate in the circumstances, for example, if necessary to protect the employer’s legitimate interest in protecting its reputation and relationship with customers.

The Role of Digital and Online Evidence in HR Processes

Digital and online evidence plays a vital role in HR processes, including disciplinaries, grievances, and sickness management. Employers can rely on screen-grabs or screenshots of relevant social media posts as credible evidence. Verbal testimony from involved parties can also contribute to understanding social media interactions. However, it is important to give employees an opportunity to respond to allegations based on social media posts, allowing them to provide explanations or clarifications. This ensures fairness and a comprehensive evaluation of the evidence.


Social media in the workplace presents numerous opportunities and challenges for employers and employees alike. By setting clear rules and standards, addressing cyber-bullying and harassment, understanding ownership of professional social media profiles, and effectively utilising digital evidence in HR processes, organisations can navigate the social media landscape more effectively. It is essential for employers to proactively establish policies and procedures that strike a balance between protecting their interests and respecting employees’ rights to privacy and freedom of expression. Through careful management and clear communication, organisations can leverage the benefits of social media while mitigating potential risks.

Bullying in the Workplace

The issue of bullying in the workplace has come to the fore recently, particularly in light of the report into Dominic Raab’s conduct at work and the finding that some of his behaviour amounted to bullying.

Following this report, there has been much discussion in the media about appropriate conduct at work, what style of management gets the best out of staff and how employers should react to allegations of bullying. What is one person’s ‘hard taskmaster’ is another person’s ‘bullying tyrant’.

Moreover, in 2021 there was a 44% increase in claims to the Employment Tribunal mentioning bullying. So, what should employer’s take from the recent furore?

In answering that question, we will consider aspects of bullying in the workplace, including:

  • The effects of bullying in the workplace;
  • Potential legal risks; and
  • How to manage and respond to allegations of bullying in your organisation

 What is bullying?

Before delving into the finer detail of the issue, it’s useful to describe bullying more fully.

Although there is no legal definition of bullying, it can be described as unwanted behaviour from a person or group that is either:

  • offensive, intimidating, malicious or insulting
  • an abuse or misuse of power that undermines, humiliates, or causes physical or emotional harm to someone

Bullying might:

  • be a regular pattern of behaviour or a one-off incident
  • happen face-to-face, on social media, in emails or calls
  • happen at work or in other work-related situations
  • not always be obvious or noticed by others

Examples of bullying at work could include:

  • spreading malicious rumours about someone
  • consistently putting someone down in meetings
  • deliberately giving someone a heavier workload than everyone else
  • excluding someone from team social events
  • someone consistently undermining their manager’s authority (know as upwards bullying)
  • putting humiliating, offensive or threatening comments or photos on social media

One of the key issues with bullying is its inherently subjective nature. Indeed, in a report into the complaints against Mr Raab, Adam Tolley says he heard a “good deal of evidence” about Mr Raab’s “use of physical gestures in communication”. In one case, he said: “This was put as extending his hand directly out towards another person’s face with a view to making them stop talking.”

“Another example of such an allegation was loud banging of the table to make a point.”

However, the report stated: “I was not convinced that the DPM used physical gestures in a threatening way, although those unused to this style of communication might well have found it disconcerting.”

What was found to be bullying, however, was referring to the Civil Service Code in a way that Mr Raab should have known could be seen as a “threat”, the report said. Essentially, threatening the job security of the employee by holding over them the fact that a serious complaint might be made about their conduct.

Essentianly, bullying can take many forms and has to be viewed in context, taking into account the nature of the working relationship and the impact of the behaviour on the ‘victim’.

The effects of bullying in the workplace

 Where bullying does take place, in can have a very serious and detrimental impact not only on the individual but also on the workplace as a whole.

Mental Effects

People who have been bullied in the workplace experience a wide range of problems. Impacts of bullying at work can include post traumatic stress disorder, in part because people self-identify so strongly with their work. Prolonged bullying may cause panic attacks, depression, stress breakdown, poor concentration, insecurity and compromised memory. Victims may become irritable, obsessive, hyper-vigilant or overly sensitive. They experience mood swings, indecision or a loss of humour, and may begin biting their nails, grinding their teeth or a relying on such substances as caffeine, nicotine, alcohol or sleeping aids.

Physical Effects

Bullied employees experience a wide range of physical effects, largely due to stress, such as chronic fatigue syndrome. Bullying also causes anxiety and a lowered resistance to such things as colds, coughs, flue and fever. Other reported symptoms include high blood pressure, migraine headaches, pains in the back and chest, hormone disturbances, physical numbness, irritable bowel syndrome, thyroid problems, skin irritations and ulcers. The impact of workplace bullying includes a greater risk of cardiac disease.

Researchers are also exploring whether there is an indirect link between bullying and such diseases as asthma, allergies, fibromyalgia, multiple sclerosis, diabetes and some forms of cancer.

Workplace Productivity Effects

Workplace bullying has effects on those who witness it as well as those who experience it, affecting the overall health of an organization. Victims spend much of their time trying to gain support and defend themselves from the bullying, time that would otherwise be spent working. Those who witness workplace bullying may look for another job that offers a better working environment. Other effects of bullying on the workplace include greater absenteeism and turnover, more accidents, lower quality customer service, higher costs for employee assistance programs and decreased motivation and morale.

Legal Risks

Unchecked bullying can result in potential legal risks, particularly:

  • Constructive Dismissal
  • Discrimination – if harassment is based, or perceived to be based, on a protected characteristic.

Constructive Dismissal

One of the key components in a claim of constructive dismissal (where the employee’s position is that they were forced to resign due to the treatment of them by the employer) is that there was a fundamental breach of the employment contract. The term that is often said to be breached is that of the implied term of trust and confidence.

A range of unpleasant behaviours may amount to a breach of the implied term.

In the case Protopapa, an employee who had been absent from work for a short time because of toothache was rebuked in a manner which was ‘humiliating, intimidating and degrading’. This was a breach of the implied term of trust and confidence.

Over the years case law has established that the fact that an employee receives very substantial remuneration does not buy their employer the right to threaten the employee with instant dismissal and use obscene language and insults.

Nor does the alleged nature of a particular industry justify lower standards of behaviour towards employees – for instance banking in the City.

One of the key features of such claims is the reaction of the employer, once bullying allegations have been brought to their attention. Taking such complaints seriously, considering disciplinary action where appropriate, thorough grievance procedures and the use of meditation are all measures which can be used by an employer to minimise the risk of such a claim.


Unlawful discrimination will often, but not always, amount to a breach of the implied term of trust and confidence (which can mean that the employer is on the receiving end of 2 claims; constructive dismissal and discrimination).

Harassment on the grounds of a protected characteristic can often be an example of the most insidious form of bullying – picking on a someone because of a protected characteristic. Again, however, context can be everything, as demonstrated by the case of Evans.

Here, the EAT upheld the employment tribunal’s conclusion that the comment ‘fat ginger pikey’ did not amount to harassment (despite the individual having links to the traveller community), taking into account the context in which the comment was made and also the relationship between the claimant and the person who made the comment. The facts found by the tribunal included that:

  • the office culture was one of jibing and teasing among friends
  • the claimant often said ‘c***’ and called another employee ‘fat paddy’ on a regular basis
  • the claimant was an active participant in inappropriate comments and behaviour in the workplace and seemingly comfortable with the office culture and environment

In these circumstances, the EAT reasoned that:

  • the comments were not unwanted, since the claimant was such an active participant of the culture of banter (for want of a better word for it)
  • the comments did not have the purpose of violating the claimant’s dignity or creating an intimidating etc environment for him
  • the comments did not have the effect of violating the claimant’s dignity or creating an intimidating etc environment for him, as he was not offended
  • it would not have been reasonable for the claimant to have considered his dignity was violated or the environment was hostile etc given the particular circumstances and all the context and material facts relevant to the claim

Claimants should take note that if they actively participate in a culture of offensive ‘banter’, they may struggle to satisfy a tribunal that they were subjected to harassment, in accordance with the elements of the statutory test, in respect of any comments made to them within that environment.

Nonetheless, taking all we have discussed into account…

How should employers best manage/respond to bullying in the workplace?


Needless to say that robust policies – focussing on outlining standards of expected behaviour and conduct – are the first line of defence. Comprehensive policies governing diversity, equality and general civility in the workplace should be made available to all members of staff at the outset of their employment.


Policies alone, however, are not wholly sufficient and should be supplemented by relevant training (especially for managers and supervisors) underpinning expected behaviours and reminding managers about processes for performance management of staff and those governing conduct.

All too often, bullying behaviour can be the result of a manager who does not have the appropriate tools for addressing underlying problems, such as performance, which can result in heavy handed and bullying behaviour.

Leading by Example

Research has also shown that where those at the top of an organisation can lead by example, promoting a culture of appropriate and professional behaviour, the rest of the organisation follows suit. Behaviours at work, which promote ‘psychological security’ (where employees feel comfortable to share problems or mistakes) enhance performance and morale.

Disciplining for bullying behaviour

If you do get to the stage where you have to discipline an employee for potential bullying behaviour, the usual process should be followed, with a few pertinent factors to be noted.


This should be carried out as soon as is reasonably possible once the bullying allegations come to your attention and will help establish an understanding of the facts before deciding whether to discipline. You need to ensure that this is carried out with an open minded approach and avoid jumping to conclusions.

Once you have completed your investigation you should determine if the conduct is serious enough to warrant some form of disciplinary sanction (it would not normally be reasonable to proceed to a disciplinary hearing if, even at its highest, the misconduct alleged is clearly too trivial to warrant any form of disciplinary response).

An investigation can be carried out without giving the employee any warning or allowing them to be accompanied – this is often the moment in the process when you are most likely to get truthful and credible accounts of events, as the individuals in question have not had time to prepare (or concoct!) a more sanitised version of the truth.

In speaking to witnesses, some may wish to remain anonymous and this should be considered, especially if the allegations are against a person who is more senior than them.

Disciplinary Hearing

Prior to the hearing, the employee should have been given written notification of the details of allegations against them, which should include, where possible, dates and times of relevant events. The more opportunity the employee has had to defend themselves, the harder it will be to challenge any decision at the end of the process.

The employee should also be given all the evidence which will be considered at the hearing (anonymised where required). You should also be prepared for quite a tense meeting, as the accused individual may be become angry or upset.

Finally, in reaching a decision, you should work out how to articulate an appropriate justification for that decision. Obviously, in the most egregious cases of proven bullying, dismissal for gross misconduct can be appropriate.

Grievances during the disciplinary process

It is often the case that during a disciplinary process the employee who is under investigation will raise a grievance, especially if the reason for the disciplinary is related to attitude or behaviour. The general consensus is that the disciplinary process should be postponed and the grievance dealt with but that is not always necessary. If the issues in both are intrinsically linked then the issues can be looked at side by side/concurrently.

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.

Manchester Law Firm, MLP Law Unveil New Brand Identity

Northwest based, MLP Law has unveiled a new Brand Identity to position them as legal leaders in supporting Business Owners & Directors.

A new modernised company logo, identity and communications will now be rolled out across digital platforms, print and working environments.

Following discussions with its partners, the firm identified the need to refresh and refine the overall brand and messaging to communicate to the regions SME’s and organisations.

MLP Law’s Managing Partner, Stephen Attree explained,

“We wanted to develop our brand to fully embody who we are, and what we do.

We’re quite different to other law firms in the fact that we are experts in assisting businesses from starting up, scaling up, or looking to exit, whilst also considering matters outside of the office, like creating wills, advising on trusts and inheritance planning.

Our legal experts aren’t just corporate lawyers.”

Whilst the firm’s ethos and values support and understand client requirements for reactive legal services, it has become increasingly important to help plan, protect and proactively assist.

The purpose of the rebrand is to clearly communicate and reinforce the proactive nature of the firm and the importance of building client relationships with business owners across the region.

At the heart of the rebrand remains the existing strapline line ‘Successful outcomes for you and your business’, which is felt that it’s just as valued today as it has been in the past.  It recognises that many clients rely on us to support them not just in business, but also personal matters too.

“At MLP Law we see business, and individual’s personal lives as a journey, explains Stephen.

Over many years, along with our legal expertise, we have devised frameworks and models to help businesses grow and individuals to feel protected.

Importance of the firm’s uniqueness in its DNA and approach in legal support will be at the forefront of all communications.

Let this be the start of the firms next chapter, building on successes and remaining one of the leading corporate and commercial law firms in the Northwest.”

Baldness – The New Frontier in Workplace Harassment?

Tony Finn (TF), had worked for a manufacturing firm, The British Bung Company, for 24 years before being dismissed last May. TF raised various claims in the Employment Tribunal, including one of harassment, which related to the fact that his lack of hair had been commented on during an argument at work.
He stated that during an altercation with his supervisor he was threatened with being ‘decked’, sworn at and called ‘bald’. TF claimed that the use of the word bald amounted to harassment on the grounds of his sex.
In essence, harassment under the Equality Act 2010 is where unwanted conduct has the purpose or effect of:
· violating the victim’s dignity; or
· creating an environment that is intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive to the victim.
The conduct must also be related to a protected characteristic, such as sex, race or age.
In arriving at his decision the Judge determined that calling someone bald is an insult that amounted to harassment. He found that there is a connection between the word ‘bald’ on the one hand and the protected characteristic of sex on the other, due to the fact that baldness is much more prevalent in men than women.
The Judge concluded that baldness is inherently related to sex and that the derogatory comments in relation to TF’s appearance had been intended to hurt his feelings, and therefore amounted to harassment. The Judge continued by stating that commenting on a man’s baldness in the workplace is equivalent to remarking on the size of a woman’s breasts. 
It is important to ensure that staff are aware that unpleasant or negative behavior or comments towards colleagues are completely forbidden, whether they relate to appearance or to any other factor (such as mimicking the way someone talks). Policies promoting equality and diversity, underpinned by training, provide employers with the means to challenge accusations of discrimination between members of staff, in addition to encouraging a kind and collegiate atmosphere in 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, or follow us on Twitter @HRHeroUK.