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Practice Areas

  • EMPLOYMENT LAW
  • OTHER SPECIALISMS

Melvyn Harris

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YEAR OF CALL: 1997

Background

I came to the Bar after a long and successful career in business. I then obtained the only first class LLB degree in my year at my university as well as 7 prizes.

I was called to the Bar by Lincoln’s Inn in October 1997.

After accepting a tenancy at 7 New Square in April 1999 I was later elected Deputy Head of Chambers and Treasurer.

I joined 5 Essex Court in April 2010.

I am qualified to accept Public Access work.

Employment

I advise and represent both Claimants and Respondents in about equal measure and regularly appear in Employment Tribunals and the EAT. I deal with all aspects of employment law including unfair dismissal, TUPE, advising on and drafting employment contracts, and I have a particular interest in discrimination issues.

In late 2008 I successfully represented a quite lowly paid part-time disabled Claimant in an unfair dismissal and disability discrimination claim against a Respondent, a charity whose main function was to assist carers of disabled persons and, having obtained judgment in my lay client’s favour, I negotiated a settlement prior to the remedies hearing approaching £100,000. Although only a first instance decision, the case was cited in “Focus on Disability”, a feature in the June 2009 issue of IDS Employment Law Brief.

In early 2010 I obtained an award of £150,000 for a 61 year old lay client in an unfair dismissal claim on the basis which the Employment Tribunal accepted that he was unlikely to obtain work before his retirement age.

Recent Employment Cases:

In October 2011 I was successful in persuading an employment judge at a pre-hearing review that that there had been a Service Provision Change under TUPE in the case of an employee who was a legally qualified solicitor and a senior executive of a company engaged in PFI work that went into administration and who was dismissed shortly after that.

For some time prior to the administration the main part of the employee’s work was concerned with the disposal of PFI contracts to raise finance for the company. Over a period of months during the administration the remainder of the PFI contracts were either disposed of or cancelled. The legal work for that was carried out by one of the country’s leading firms of solicitors. I submitted, and the employment judge agreed, that she could distinguish between the activities that were previously carried out by the employee and were then carried out by the firm of solicitors, and the other work the solicitors did for the administrators that had no connection to the disposal of the PFI contracts. She also agreed with me that the exception for a single specific event or task of short term duration did not apply and that the client was the company in administration.

The appeal of the firm of solicitors was heard and determined by the EAT in July 2012 where they were represented by a QC. Three grounds of errors of law were put forward, that the employment judge was wrong in deciding that the activities could be separated (“the activities ground”), that she was wrong as regards her decision about the single specific event or task of short term duration (“the time ground”), and that she was wrong in deciding that the “client” in the relevant section of TUPE was the same (“the client ground”).

The EAT dismissed the activities ground. It decided that there were omissions and errors in relation to the employment judge’s findings of fact on the time ground such that they could not stand. It upheld the client ground primarily on the basis of cases that had been decided after the employment tribunal’s decision although those cases are going to the Court of Appeal. The EAT therefore decided that the time by which the employee must apply for permission to appeal should be extended to some time after the Court of Appeal decides those cases in late Autumn 2012.

In November 2012 the Court of Appeal confirmed that, in order for there to a service provision change, “the client” must remain the same.

The case is reported at [2012] IRLR 966, [2012] AllER (D) 215 Oct), and in IDS Brief 962 December 2012.

Chancery and Commercial:

My work falling within these areas covers a wide range and includes partnership, probate, property, and an extensive range of commercial matters including not only dealing with all kinds of disputes but also advising on and drafting terms and conditions of contracts.

Lectures:

I regularly provide CPD lectures for solicitors and HR managers on all aspects of employment law.

Education:

ICSL, 1996-1997

Middlesex University 1993-1996

Interests:

Tennis, Skiing and Travel