Gateshead Citizens Advice Bureau launches social enterprise in response to Legal Aid employment law cuts

With a team of two, Job Law has been set up to offer support to those who can not afford employment lawyers' standard fees

Vikkie Wilkinson, commercial manager of Gateshead CAB Enterprises, and Richard Owen, employment adviser
Vikkie Wilkinson, commercial manager of Gateshead CAB Enterprises, and Richard Owen, employment adviser

A social enterprise which aims to mitigate the impact of Legal Aid cuts on employment law has launched in Gateshead.

Gateshead Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB) Enterprises, a community interest company formed to put profits back into the Gateshead advice centre, has launched Job Law.

The service aims to help people with employment grievances who might otherwise find it impossible to access professional legal assistance since the abolition of legal aid for employment law in 2013.

The Gateshead social enterprise is offering legal advice and representation to clients at around half the cost of a commercial lawyer.

So far around 150 people have been supported by the organisation which has helped in recouping £530,000 compensation.

All profits from the venture are put back into the operation of the Citizens Advice Bureau on Swan Street in Gateshead.

Job Law says it is not a threat to existing employment lawyers and is hoping to work with firms who can refer individuals they are unable to help, and supporting the community.

The service is led by business development manager Vikkie Wilkinson and employment specialist Richard Owen, who has over 35 years’ experience in advising and tribunal representation in employment and discrimination cases.

His duties include advising on the merits of potential cases, drafting claims, witness statements and representation in Employment Tribunals hearings.

Mr Owen said: “Since 1 April 2013, many people with a genuine employment grievance have had nowhere to turn. They often can’t afford commercial law fees which can be more than £190 per hour and if they go to No Win, No Fee solicitors they can end up losing up to 35% of any compensation awarded.

“As a result of this and the Tribunal fees which are now payable, many people in this situation end up doing nothing or representing themselves which puts them at a disadvantage as most employers are legally represented.

“So they usually end up losing out and rogue employers go unpunished. At Job Law, we’re delighted to have helped so many people get the justice they deserve at a fraction of the cost of a commercial solicitor. What’s more, the service helps to fund the valuable work of the Citizens Advice service in Gateshead so it’s a huge win-win all round.”

Job Law is based out of the Swan Street centre but may handle queries from anywhere in the country.

Another Citizens Advice centre in Stevenage has launched a similar service as part of its day-to-day operations.

Job Law offers help on matters of redundancy, sick pay, flexible working, unfair dismissal, breach of contract, working time regulations and unpaid wages, among other areas.

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