Keeping Up to Speed Witha Wave of Employment Law

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INCE Labour came to power in 1997 there has been a dramatic increase in both the volume and breadth of employment law legislation. Landmark bills on working time regulations, the minimum wage and trade union recognition have not only increased complexity but made it harder for companies to keep up to date with law changes.

With the maximum basic award on lost tribunal cases increased from [pound]12,000 to [pound]50,000, companies are having to focus more on compliance.

Although much of the employment law advisory market is still dominated by locally- provided legal and personnel consultancies, there is a growing move to a continuous unlimited service available for a monthly fee, delivered via the telephone or by personal visits.

This is an alternative to an in-house personnel manager for smaller companies. For larger companies, which may not have specialist legal skills within their personnel departments, it can be a useful back-up.

A typical five-employee business taking a basic service would expect to pay around [pound]40 a month while a 10-employee company would be charged around [pound]60 a month. A more comprehensive service suitable for larger businesses wanting more on-site support will typically cost around [pound]200 a month for a business with 25 staff and [pound]325 a month for a business with 50 workers. The three leading players in the UK market are Peninsula, IRPC and Mentor.

Gill Howells, divisional director of Mentor, estimates the market totals [pound]4bn for professional advisory services across Europe.

John Wilson, director of IRPC, which shares market leadership in the UK with Peninsula, says: 'It's a tidal wave, driven as much by the EU as anything else, as well as by employee recognition of their new rights.'

Wilson sees new legislation as an opportunity for companies to 'strike a balance between the rights of employees and the needs of their business'. Companies that comply can gain a competitive edge.

Peninsula believes strongly in telemarketing while IRPC and Mentor have both developed marketing partnerships with banks and insurance companies.

Mentor is a division of the Royal Bank of Scotland and Howells admits that 80% of its 2,500 clients are the bank's own customers. IRPC, part of Croner, has formed strategic alliances with the other leading Scottish bank, Bank of Scotland, as well as with Lloyds TSB.

Annual fees vary according to payroll and size of the company. …