We are here to provide you with support and advice if you have recently experienced, or are currently facing, redundancy.
As your membership body, we have gathered and developed a range of support and information, which you can explore on this page, including:
- Information outlining the redundancy process and procedures
- Information about your membership, including considerations and costs for keeping your PC or staying on the roll
- How LawCare can help if you would like someone to speak to, as well as what Lawscot Wellbeing can offer
- Careers support, with information about finding a new role and practical advice on CVs, applications and interviews
- Skills-building information including access to our main CPD programme for free if you are unemployed
- Information on managing your finances and debt
- Contacts at the Law Society for specific enquiries
This section is designed to give you an overview of redundancy. For more in-depth information, we advise visiting the ACAS website.
This information may also be a useful outline for employers who are having to make decisions about staff redundancies. It is critical to follow the correct procedures and we advise you consult an employment law specialist if this is not within your usual remit as, in accordance with our rules and guidance, you must ensure you only act in areas of law you are competent to do so. Failure to comply with the correct procedure could result in an employment tribunal.
If you are acting on behalf of an employer, you may also be interested to watch our free webinar: An introduction to helping clients avoid common pitfalls in staff restructuring.
The first point to be made is that a person is not made redundant, rather their post is. This basic principle underpins the statutory processes for redundancy. Posts are made redundant when an employer reduces their workforce, and there requires to be a justifiable reason why redundancies occur, such as:
- The employer is ceasing business altogether, ie the employer will cease to exist
- The employer is closing the branch or workplace, for example, the employer is reducing the number of geographic locations in which offices are sited
- The employer has less need for the kind of work undertaken than was previously the case, for example, a particular type of practice area is no longer profitable.
If your employer is contemplating redundancy, a reason for this will need to be provided to you.
If your post is being made redundant, then you will be held to have been dismissed by reason of redundancy.
There are statutory provisions for employers contemplating redundancies, and these include:
- Consultation requirements which vary according to the number of redundancies being contemplated. For example, if the employer envisages fewer than 20 posts being made redundant, then there is no statutory timescale for the consultation process. There is a sliding scale for a consultation timetable for numbers of redundancies above 20
- If an employer considers they require to make redundancies, they must ensure that dismissals by reason of redundancy are substantively and procedurally fair
- Any redundancies must also conform to discrimination legislation, i.e. an employer cannot select people for redundancy based on their gender, race, disability, religion or belief, sexuality, pregnancy, membership of a trade union, or age (unless they can justify this objectively)
To be substantively fair means that the employer can show that the redundancies are a genuine reaction to the economic business circumstances, and that selection of the posts for redundancy has taken place using criteria that are objective and fair.
To be procedurally fair means that your employer has consulted those affected in a meaningful way, and has communicated properly. The employer needs to consider any suggestions you or others potentially affected may make to avoid redundancies, and also needs to consider any concessions you may wish to make such as a reduction in hours. Bear in mind that this works both ways: your employer may suggest changes in your contractual conditions such as a reduction in hours or salary. In such circumstances, any proposal to change the terms of your contract can only be lawful if you agree to them. Some of your terms of employment will be clearly stated in your formal contract of employment, but there may be others that are either implied or have gradually evolved through custom and practice.
In circumstances where there is a number of employees carrying out broadly similar duties and the employer is proposing to reduce that number (as opposing to stop carrying out this area of work and so making all affected posts redundant) then a selection process for redundancy will need to be developed. Your employer will need to consult you on the “redundancy pool”, i.e. those potentially affected, and will need to publish to those affected the criteria that will be used. The criteria to be used may vary from factual information (e.g. attendance record and timekeeping as well as fees earned) to more subjective elements (such as knowledge and application of the relevant area of law).
At each stage of the redundancy process your employer should ensure you are informed of timescales, what to do if you disagree with any aspect of the process and what the implications are.
If, after going through the process, you are informed that your post is being made redundant, your employer is obliged to inform you of the appeals process, including timescales and who will determine the outcome of any appeal you make. This is a statutory requirement.
There are statutory entitlements as regards payments you can expect to receive, assuming you are an employee and that you have worked for your employer for at least two years (including any parental leave). Redundancy pay is not usually taxable up to a maximum limit. Redundancy pay is calculated as being:
- 1.5 weeks’ pay for each year of employment after your 41st birthday
- a week’s pay for each year of employment after your 22nd birthday
- half a week’s pay for each year of employment up to your 22nd birthday
A statutory maximum limit for a week’s pay exists and is usually set annually. There is also a cap on length of service, which is 20 years, as well as a maximum amount of redundancy pay, again set annually.
Regardless of the statutory allowances, many employers will exceed these. Some will publish their redundancy processes, including what employees can expect should their posts be made redundant. Examples of ways in which an employer may vary the statutory provisions are:
- Reducing or eliminating the two year qualifying period for redundancy pay
- Ignoring the current statutory limit
If your post may be made redundant you should check to ascertain whether there are any published indications of what your employer offers by way of enhanced redundancy payments.
If your post is made redundant with immediate effect, then you will also be entitled to receive your salary for your contractual notice period. However, this payment of salary for notice will be liable to tax, unlike redundancy pay itself.
Sometimes, particularly if you hold a senior post within your organisation, your employer may offer you the option of a compromise agreement. The purpose of such an agreement is to provide you with a payment in return for your agreement to confidentiality about the circumstances of your redundancy and your agreeing not to make any future claim against your employer in relation to your redundancy. For a compromise agreement to be lawful you must be given access to independent advice from an employment lawyer.
If you are concerned that your employer may be contemplating redundancies, or if you are already aware that a redundancy process is in progress, there are various sources of advice. There are several online redundancy pay calculators so you can work out what the statutory amount of redundancy pay will be for you – you will need to know your start date with your employer and your current salary. In addition, the ACAS website offers a good description of redundancy guidelines.
You may be concerned about how your membership might be affected by redundancy, including whether it is a good idea to retain your practising certificate or look at different membership options. The two main pages with information are below, but you may want to explore the membership and fees section in more depth, or get in touch if you have any specific questions.
Whether you retain your practising certificate or not will depend on your personal circumstances and what plans you have for securing a new position.
If you are made redundant and your former employer has already paid for your practising certificate, then we recommend that you retain it until it expires at the end of October. Even if you do surrender it, any refund will go to the whoever paid the fee which is more likely to be your previous employer. For the avoidance of doubt your employer cannot surrender your practising certificate on your behalf without your consent.
While the cost of a practising certificate is not insignificant (reduced as part of our support package to £460 plus £105 roll retention fee for the year 2020-21*), you will need to consider the time it takes to apply for a new practising certificate if you surrender it. Part of the application process requires new Standard Disclosure if you have not held a practising certificate for 13 months, and that can take up to six weeks to process.
If you are planning to do locum or short-term contract work or you are reasonably confident of securing a new role in the legal sector quite quickly, then we would recommend that you hold on to your practising certificate. Having your practising certificate in place lets your prospective employer know that you are ready to start work immediately.
If you decide that you cannot afford the cost of a practising certificate, we would recommend that you switch membership and simply have your name retained on the roll. This charge is £105 per annum and it is good to be able to demonstrate your status to any potential employer and for keeping connected with the Law Society. It also means that should you wish to reapply for a practising certificate, you won't have the additional step of having to rejoin the roll first.
*Be aware that if you have a practising certificate at the end of June and you are not employed, you will still be liable for the additional charge of the SLCC levy which is currently £120.
Going through a redundancy process is one of the most stressful career changes people can go through. Before you start thinking about 'what's next', pause to think about whether you're in the right headspace, or whether it would be beneficial to talk to someone.
You might prefer to speak to family, friends or professional contacts, or you might be more interested to speak to someone anonymously. In this case, the best organisation to speak to is LawCare.
LawCare is a free helpline, with an online chat function, that connects legal professionals and their families with a listening ear. The LawCare lines are staffed by people who have experience working in the legal profession. There is no 'one thing' people call LawCare about - you can speak to them regarding anything from general anxiety, to issues with substance abuse or financial concerns. You can certainly speak to them in relation to redundancy and how you're feeling, whether you're an employee or a business owner.
If you have been made redundant, there may be an immediate pressure to find another job without thinking carefully about what might be the right choice. However, spending a bit of time to analyse your options can really help your future career as well as making it more easy to find an opportunity, as it is beneficial to be quite targeted in your approach.
Also as a word of caution, do not be tempted in working in a legal area in which you do not have sufficient expertise and knowledge (see Rule B1-10).
The legal profession is multi-faceted and a lot of solicitor roles are completely different dependent where you're working. Some places where you might be able to get insight into different segments of the profession:
- Visit our web pages about working in-house
- Explore our support for sole practitioners or solicitors working on the high street
- Read our blogs and opinions, which are frequently penned by guests and can give an insight into their working lives
- Find out about working as a Scottish solicitor in England & Wales
- Learn about becoming an accredited specialist, solicitor advocate or partner in our career growth section
- Explore legal technologist and innovation-related roles, which are an area of growth, particularly within big firms and some in-house organisations
More and more people are opting to undertake freelancing work on a temporary or permanant basis.
Find out more about freelancing on our dedicated webpage, including where to find opportunities, the considerations you might need to make before freelancing and read case studies from people who have chosen this option.
Lawscot Jobs operates a locum register for people interested in looking for temporary work as a locum, matching them with firms and organisations looking to fill posts.
Visit the locum page on our website, to find out more about locums, how to sign up as a locum and register for job alerts.
You may be considering a move away from the law as a potential option. It could be a good idea to consider where you see your career in the mid-long term before making this decision, to work out if it would be a good move.
It is possible to come back to the solicitors profession at a later stage after a break, although bear in mind the considerations you would need to make regarding your membership of the Law Society of Scotland and practising certificate if you take a career break. Additionally, if you have been out of the legal profession for some time, it may be that you need to plan a return move quite strategically as you might not be able to immediately get the type of role you have left.
There may be many non-legal roles you are an attractive candidate for as a solicitor, particularly within governance positions, professional services companies and roles requiring a knowledge of risk and strategy. Some positions may prove to be beneficial to your career as a solicitor later on if you did want to return, particularly if you develop an in-depth knowledge of a specific area of business for example, or technical skills.
Having access to experienced legal practitioners can greatly enhance the quality of Diploma in Professional Legal Practice courses for future solicitors. Tutors generally run small-group seminars in their specialist area. While the hours involved in tutoring are not often substantial and many tutors do this alongside their work as a solicitor, it could provide an opportunity to explore a potential new career, grow new skills and help the future workforce develop.
If you are interested in tutoring, we recommend contacting the Diploma in Legal Practice Coordinator at the relevant university. There are six universities offering this course:
University of Aberdeen
University of Dundee
University of Edinburgh
University of Glasgow
Robert Gordon University
University of Strathclyde
Themes from this recorded webinar include:
- reflections on the job market (autumn 2020)
- where can you get support in your job search
- how to manage stress, be positive and stay resilient when job-seeking
- how you can stand out as a candidate
- staying in employment - considering your options
There is no single place to find all potential job adverts, so make sure you keep tabs on a range of forums:
- Lawscot Jobs
- S1 Jobs
- myjobscotland (public sector positions)
- Scottish Legal News
- Via recruiters directly (see below)
- Local press/ job boards
- Social media, such as Twitter and Facebook
- Employer websites directly (not all will use portals to advertise roles)
The find a solicitor function of our website can help you identify employers by geographical area and specialisms. You can use this to learn about potential employers to research and approach.
Not all jobs are offered as a result of an advert; some may be a result of a speculative approach. If there are firms or organisations you are interested in working for, you can send them a copy of your CV and covering letter. They may choose to keep your information on file if something comes up in future, or they may have been considering taking someone on and your application has dropped onto their desk at the right time.
Recruitment consultants can play a large part in finding you a new role. Some employers will use recruitment consultants to handle the promotion and sifting stages of the recruitment process.
You can apply for a particular role if its advertised by a recruitment consultant and get to know them that way. Alternatively, you can proactively get in touch with them as a jobseeker and have a chat about your experience and what you're looking for in your next role. They can keep you on their books and pass on any roles that could be of interest to you and should have a good insight into what the role entails and employer is looking for, making you feel more prepared to make an application.
Not all employers will use a recruitment consultant and keeping an eye on other job websites will ensure you cast your net as widely as possible.
While you may not think about speaking to the HR team at the organisation you will be leaving, often they are able to offer support. This might relate to CV and interview guidance, as well as offering reassuring guidance about how to pitch yourself to new jobs and speak about any gaps on your CV with confidence.
The HR team might also be able to point you in the direction of an Employee Assistance Programme offered to members, or any Mental Health First Aiders who might be best-placed to have a chat if you need.
The HR team can also advise on whether your organisation offers outplacement services, to help employees transition into new roles. These would usually be provided by a consultancy firm and might include things like career coaching, support with job search and skills development.
As much as you can, speak to your networks about looking for a job, as they can be helpful sets of eyes and ears.
Your contacts might also offer a general chat about your options, specific advice, intel from their own networks about job opportunities or local employers, which can all prove useful.
Some examples of networking groups are:
- Faculty groups and Bar associations, some of which are listed on this page
- In-house networks and sectoral interest groups, such as Society of Local Authority Lawyers & Administrators in Scotland (SOLAR), the Edinburgh conveyancers forum, Forum of Insurance Lawyers (FOIL), Employment Law Group, NDPB Advisors' Group.
LinkedIn can be a helpful online community and give you the opportunity to engage with a cross-section of legal professionals. Engaging with networks like this can help you feel more connected to the profession, give you the opportunity to chat with new people and find out about topical issues, events and other updates within the sectors you're interested in. You can also use LinkedIn as a platform for promoting your skills and expertise, by doing things like proactively writing blogs; this could help raise your profile and lead to opportunities.
A great way to develop your skills is exploring online learning.
You could also explore:
- Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) available through websites like FutureLearn
- Online courses relating to general business skills like project management, people management and commercial skills
Providing hints and sources of advice if you experience financial worries as a result of redundancy. This includes claiming benefits and dealing with any debt problems you might be facing.
One of the difficulties facing a solicitor whose post has been made redundant is making sure finances are properly managed. While some employers pay more than the statutory redundancy amounts, others do not. In any case, depending on your circumstances and financial commitments, you will need to consider how you can manage your finances as economically and effectively as possible.
Depending on your salary level and the stage in the tax year when your redundancy takes place, it may be possible to obtain assistance from HMRC in reducing your liability for income tax. If, for example, your redundancy has taken place relatively early in the tax year, but you have received salary for your notice period (which will be taxed at whatever level is appropriate for your previous circumstances) it may be possible for HMRC to consider repaying some of the tax that has been deducted from your final salary payment – on the basis that at this stage you have no guarantee of further salary income during the tax year. This possibility is particularly relevant if you were paying income tax at one of the higher levels.
You may well have thought you would never be in a position where you would be contemplating claiming benefits, but you may well be entitled to certain state benefits as a result of your redundancy.
The nature and eligibility for benefits is changing regularly and your best source of up to date advice is probably from the Citizens Advice Scotland. They provide up to date advice on what you may be entitled to.
The UK government website will provide up to date information on the various benefits available.
In order to claim any benefits, make sure you have full information on your finances, including any savings that you / your spouse or partner have, as this may affect your entitlements.
Many solicitors will never have had to “sign on” at a Job Centre and may find the thought of this difficult to contemplate. However, most people in receipt of Jobseekers Allowance do require to go physically to their nearest Job Centre regularly, and to be able to demonstrate that they have been actively seeking alternative employment. If you do qualify for Jobseekers Allowance it is normal for an agreement to be reached on the sort of job that would be appropriate for your own situation.
The best advice is to ensure that you do indeed claim for any benefit to which you are entitled, and to use the various websites available to contact the right people to advise you on any point that is unclear.
If the savings threshold applies to you it would be sensible to work out an expenditure plan so that if and when your savings reduce below the threshold, you can look at your position and eligibility for benefits again.
No matter how carefully you manage expenditure post redundancy, there is clearly a danger of falling into debt. You may already have commitments such as a mortgage, school fees or credit card debt, and if you do not have redundancy protection or other insurance, you may experience problems.
The main steps to consider are in many ways common sense, but nevertheless worth stating here as in the aftermath of a redundancy, especially if it has been unexpected, you may not always be thinking logically.
- Reduce and manage expenditure and spending: look especially at large items such as running car(s) and subscriptions. The sooner you do this, the earlier you will feel more in control of your situation.
- Are there ways to increase income, even by selling unwanted items online? You may also be able to monetize hobbies and look at non-core sources of income.
- Managing your household’s money: think about your credit card providers, mortgage lender or landlord and whether there is any room for negotiation on these items? Have you used websites that compare prices for significant items such as gas and electricity? Think about having a weekly or monthly budget to make what money you have last longer.
Despite best intentions, some who have faced redundancy go on to experience debt. If this affects you, there are many sources of free advice, such as the Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB) and the National Debt Line. You should be honest, not only with yourself and your family, but also with your bank and creditors. If considering seeking assistance from companies who claim they can negotiate with your creditors, be very careful to read any agreements they ask you to sign and be aware that often their service may be restricted to specific areas of debt.
Another source of advice is LawCare, a charity that offers help and support to Solicitors on various issues including the effects of redundancy on health, career and finances.
Sensible hints to assist with you in managing debt are:
- Think about putting your debts in priority order, taking into account the consequences of falling behind with paying them. These consequences will vary in seriousness.
- Don’t increase your debt by taking out more credit.
- Set and stick to a realistic monthly budget, and use a debt adviser to assist you work this out.
- Links to the websites which might be helpful include: National Debtline (Scottish edition) and Citizens' Advice Scotland
The addresses below are for our main teams who might be able to help, but if you're not sure who to contact with something specific, just get in touch with one team and we can pass your enquiry along to the right person internally.
Member Services team: firstname.lastname@example.org
- More information on our business support services
- CPD & training courses
- Information about working in-house and on the high street, including networking opportunities, contacts, relevant training and events
Careers & Outreach team: email@example.com
- Support with CVs, applications, interviews and our mentoring scheme
Registrar team: firstname.lastname@example.org
- How to update your contact details and record of employment so that we can keep in touch with you
- Queries about renewing, retaining or relinquishing your practising certificate
- Information about professional indemnity insurance, accreditation as a specialist, ID cards, the levy to the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission, and queries about your CPD