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What is a Trade Unions duty of care when advising on Employment Disputes?

Posted On: [10/06/2021]

Trade Unions Duty of Care

In the High Court case of Langley v GMB and ors, Paul Langley sued his trade union GMB, trade union Law (Unionline) and Katharina Koester who was a solicitor working for trade union Law. He sued them in tort and for breach of contract for the advice and representation he received from GMB and trade union Law following his suspension from work by Birmingham City Council until the signing of a Settlement Agreement on 27 February 2015.

He considered that the advice had been negligent and that he should have been advised to reject the offer since he considers that would have either retained his employment following a disciplinary hearing, or, if he had been dismissed he would have been successful in the employment tribunal. He calculated his compensation based on his wages had he remained an employee continuing to earn his salary or uncapped compensation or a reinstatement order from the employment tribunal of £500,000-£700,000 instead of the 1 year’s gross pay that he received from the Settlement  Agreement.

Mr Langley did not win his case, but the High Court took the opportunity to provide guidance on the duty of care owed by a trade union to its members when advising and acting in employment disputes. The duty is to provide reasonable skill and care in the provision of practical industrial relations and employment advice. It requires the reasonable knowledge and experience expected of a trade union in both individual and collective negotiations, including a general understanding of employment, HR, and industrial relations issues; to be reasonably well informed about employment law in general terms; to have a reasonable level of skill and expertise in persuasion and negotiation; and to be able to provide strategic and tactical advice on how to resolve a situation in the best interests of its members.