Introducing our new expert

Vanessa Wheeler has joined the expert panel and will be giving advice on questions relating to employment legislation.

Vanessa Wheeler is one of new employment law experts and specialises in issues such as maternity and discrimination law. She has a wealth of knowledge of employment legislation and has previously done case work for people calling the Working Families helpline as well as commenting on employment law for the Guardian and for BBC Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour.

Vanessa works for Kasler Solicitors LLP on a self-employed basis which means she can work around her two children, aged eight and five. The office is based in Canary Wharf, but she often works from home in Kent. It can mean she works fairly long hours, she says, depending on client demand.

One of her cases involved acting for an employee claiming unfair dismissal and sex discrimination at an  Employment Tribunal. The employee was awarded substantial loss of earnings and £12,000 injury to feelings.

As well as employment rights she specialises in franchise law so can answer any questions relating to the legal aspect of becoming a franchisee or franchisor.

She recognises that law can be a difficult job in which to find work life balance, particularly for those working in the City. “If clients are paying £400-£500 an hour they do not expect to have to wait for that service. There are some jobs where you cannot have everything. You have to look at it from a business perspective and be pragmatic,” she says.

She adds that if you have a lot of experience you tend to be able to get more flexibility. Newly qualified lawyers have to work around 70 hours a week in the City, she says. “It’s different if you have already got that experience and they want to retain you. It’s another thing for prospective talent.”

However, she says that there has been “a massive change in attitudes” towards flexible working in recent years. “Even fairly senior people are working flexibly now and more men are working flexibly which is encouraging,” she says. Indeed she says it can be more difficult for men to work flexibly. For instance, a woman is made redundant because she is expecting a baby and may want to work flexibly can claim unfair dismissal or indirect discrimination. However, it is much harder to prove that a man has been treated badly because he is a man.

Vanessa says she enjoys being self employed. “The downside is that I am reliant on the next instruction for my income,” she says. The lack of a regular income and the risk of work drying up at certain times are the constant complaint of freelances across the land. However, the upsides are considerable in terms of the freedom it gives her. "I can work around my other commitments," she says. 

To send Vanessa a question about employment law or franchise law, go to our Q & A page and fill in the box.

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