Laura Livingstone is an employment lawyer with Davenport Lyons in London and is www.workingmums.co.uk’s newest expert, covering employment law. She tells workingmums.co.uk how she got into law and current developments in her field as well as how she balances what can be a challenging job with two children.
Laura Livingstone is an employment lawyer with Davenport Lyons in London and is www.workingmums.co.uk’s newest expert, covering employment law. Her practice focuses on contentious and non-contentious employment work, but she leans towards the non-contentious. She has advised a wide variety of corporate clients in all areas of employment. Here she tells workingmums.co.uk how she got into law and current developments in her field as well as how she balances what can be a challenging job with two children.
What attracted you to employment law?
The human element. Even if you are acting for companies you are involved in employees’ lives and dealing not only with the legal aspects of any problem but how it might impact on these individuals personally. It helps if you are a good listener and a bit of an agony aunt!
You have worked with employers advising on maternity, part time work and diversity issues. What are the main issues that tend to come up with regard to these?
On the maternity side the issues often relate to pay and dealing with someone’s position while they are away. Recently, unfortunately, I have been consulted on a number of potential redundancies involving those on maternity leave and the timing of consultation. Increasing numbers of companies are considering part time working requests more seriously, but with the economic climate as it is and some businesses having to have recruitment freezes, trial periods are the norm and more requests are being refused than accepted, depending on the position. On diversity, sex (including pregnancy/maternity) and race claims are still the favourite, although I have dealt with a few Disability Discrimination Act reasonable adjustment cases and some age issues.
Have you seen a rise in employers coming to you over redundancy issues in the last year?
Yes. There has been a great increase in advice on redundancies and reorganisations as well as changes in terms and conditions, particularly pay and hours.
What are their main concerns? Do women on maternity leave tend to be more in the firing line despite the protection the law affords them?
Their main concerns centre on the process to be followed but also on the particular individuals they have to lose and how they can cope without them going forward. I do not believe that women on maternity leave are
more in the firing line. In fact the businesses I have dealt with where this issue has arisen have been more reluctant to dismiss someone on maternity leave rather than waiting until they return and then dismissing after the special protection has been lost.
Having said that, where a larger scale exercise is being conducted, then certain companies are becoming bolder about including the maternity person within those being made redundant on the basis that the person on maternity leave should be treated no differently to anyone else. Many are not aware of considering someone on maternity leave in priority for alternative positions.
How do you balance your own family and work life?
Strictly and with discipline. I have worked with all types of different arrangements since having children ie 3, 4 and 5 days a week. I have found that working 5 days a week but being strict about the time I leave each evening has worked best for me. I take the kids to school in the morning so I feel I am involved in the "school run" and make sure I am back for stories and bed almost every evening. I achieve this by forcing myself to be more efficient in the hours I have and giving realistic expectations to my clients about deadlines. The clients seem happy so I must be doing something right!
If you want to send Laura a question about any aspect of employment law, you can do so via the workingmums’ Q & A page.