Juliet Carp, consultant solicitor at Keystone Law, has recently been elected chair of the UK Employment Lawyers Association (ELA), which represents the interests of more than 6,000 employment lawyers up and down the country. People Management caught up with Carp to find out what upcoming legal issues she thinks employers need to have on their radar.
Why did you become an employment lawyer?
I became a lawyer by accident. I was studying economics and didn’t like it, so switched to law. Becoming an employment lawyer wasn’t an accident, though. It is by far the most interesting area. I’ve always believed in equality and like people – employment lawyers can make things better.
What do you hope to achieve as the new chair of the ELA?
I don’t think it is as much about ‘me’ as it is about ‘we’ achieving. The ELA is a big association with lots of employment lawyers doing lots of different things. My election won’t change the good stuff that is already happening, such as our award-winning pro-bono work. However, times are changing and there are some areas I think we need to focus on more. One example is sexual harassment. Another is Brexit.
How has the employment law landscape changed following the Brexit vote?
I don’t think the landscape has changed a great deal because of Brexit yet. The abolition of tribunal fees has probably had a bigger impact. However, it’s very likely that things will change and it’s inevitable that people will look to employment lawyers for guidance. We must make sure that politicians, HR and ordinary people have the information they need to make the right decisions. We’re not a political organisation and we don’t lobby or campaign, but I, for one, would hate to lose good employment laws by accident.
How has the #MeToo movement changed the way employers approach sexual harassment?
Harassment has always been an issue and, as importantly, other forms of discrimination have been an issue as long as I’ve been working. Media headlines have created more opportunity to make positive changes quicker. People want change.
What other issues are employment lawyers facing at the moment?
There’s a lot of commercial pressure facing specialists at the moment. There’s some rebalancing reflecting increasing employer need for more experienced advisers. There’ll also be a lot more work following the removal of tribunal fees.
How has the work of employment lawyers changed relationships with HR after the abolition of fees last July?
I’m not sure that abolition of fees has changed relationships with HR departments. There’s certainly a higher volume of claims and a greater need to work to manage risk.