Family law firm Lawcomm Solicitors has been ordered to pay a former employee nearly £13,000 after a tribunal ruled she had been unfairly dismissed and her contract had been breached after the organisation’s failure to make a bonus payment.
Sarah Lightfoot-Webber, former head of family law at the Hampshire-based firm, resigned due to a change in bonus structure without consultation, failure to make her a director as promised upon obtaining the relevant qualification, breach of trust and confidence, and criticism in an email, which was also addressed to the orgaisation’s IT consultant.
Lightfoot-Webber will be awarded £12,878.04 as part of her claim for unfair dismissal, which includes a basic award of £3,426, a compensatory award of £1,228.61, £1,187.68 for failure to give employment particulars and £7,035.75 in relation to breach of contract, which totals the same amount as a bonus payment that she should have received on 29 April 2022.
The quarterly bonus was 33% of the net billing above her target, however the firm stated it was non-contractual and may be revoked or altered at any time upon immediate notice. The employment tribunal judge argued that this only entitled the firm to alter or revoke it without notice in advance of each quarter.
Employment judge Volkmer said: “In my finding, there was one breach of the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (Acas) code by the firm in that there was no appeal offered to the claimant. I take into account that the Acas code was applied to some extent and that the failure appears to be advertent in that the respondent was not treating the claimant’s emails as a formal grievance.
“However, notwithstanding the small size of the respondent, it is a law firm which holds itself out as specialising in employment law, and had an employee, the practice manager, who dealt with HR matters. For those reasons, in my finding the failure was unreasonable.”
Lawcomm Solicitors was contacted for comment prior to publication.