There’s a change happening in the way HR teams develop their expertise and knowledge of employee relations (ER) and employment law issues. And it could transform the way your team works.

For an HR team, ER is a permanent daily focus, so it would make sense that having contact with a legal advisor should boost your HR team’s understanding and application of the law.

That’s the theory, but in most cases this just doesn’t happen.

In reality, there just isn’t enough time and pressure is laid upon you when every minute of time costs.

When that pressure is removed, that’s when your HR team can really start growing, improving their skills and legal knowledge to lessen the company’s reliance on traditional law firms. Read here about the right (and wrong) time to use a traditional law firm.

How to upskill your HR team to deal with ER and employment law issues

This is how it works.

Very few traditional law firms can offer unlimited, day-to-day operational advice as they are, typically, set up to provide detailed and specialist advice on a PAYG hourly rate pricing model. This is fine for large-scale and complex transactional work (which is what the traditional law firm ‘pyramid-based’ business model has been built around) – but it doesn’t work for the more regularly required ER advice (no matter how basic or complex the issues are).

However, the Legal Services Act changed all that and opened the door for new model law firms to offer a way of delivering highly commercial and business-focussed legal advice which fits in with what HR teams are really looking for; day-to-day ‘option-based, peer review’ advice direct from a practising employment lawyer – without worrying about an uncapped (and often unbudgeted) cost.

This means HR professionals can spend as long as they need discussing detailed issues with the lawyers without either side needing to “clock watch”.

When this is combined with a depth of online HR resources and toolkits the team can access at any time – this becomes a powerful way of really upskilling your team quickly.

Through a combination of online resources and direct commercial legal guidance, your HR team will be empowered to solve problems and become far more self-reliant in the process.

As soon as an issue arises and the team member has the freedom to pick up the phone and speak with their personally allocated lawyer, the process becomes a real combined learning experience. The HR professional can opt to make changes to key documentation resources with their lawyer and the lawyer has time and space to explain the commercial nuances and detail.

Integrating online HR tools with commercially-focussed personal legal advice has the power to revolutionise how HR teams work.

Online resources and specialist legal advice are often viewed as two separate pieces of the advisory puzzle.

By connecting and integrating online resources with personally focussed legal advice – and, even better, having the lawyers who drafted the online documentation and toolkits on the end of the telephone, email or online chat, you have a real opportunity to build genuine employment law expertise and experience within your HR team.

What if your employment lawyer was also educating your HR team?

Already, organisations which opt for a model which allows for unlimited, day-to-day specialist advice are benefitting from the additional exposure to employment lawyers.

According to one of our customers, Yolanda Wijesinghe, HR Director UK & Ireland at PVH, she says:

“Speaking to our own dedicated team of employment lawyers is good exposure and experience for the HR team; it has been excellent for their professional training and development.”

(You can read more about how we’ve helped PVH in the case study right here.)

The bottom line

Having a team of specialist employment lawyers just a phone call away, integrated with a host of online HR resources that have been created, updated and ‘owned’ by this same legal team, sounds like a dream to most HR teams. Yet, this is a reality for many leading HR teams we work with.

The benefits of having a lawyer with prior knowledge of your business and your employees builds valuable relationships which don’t just save time and money when dealing with HR issues, they upskill your HR team enabling them to deal with complex legal issues with minimal guidance. And that is surely the way forward for visionary HR leaders? (Are you an HR visionary? Click here to find out.)