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Sources of help and advice

Disclaimer – please read
This page does not apply outside Great Britain.
Last updated 21st June 2013 (part update 28th August 2019).

This page lists possible sources of help and advice (but does not aim to give recommendations). Some sources may not apply to the whole of the UK. There is a separate page linking to Guidance and Codes of Practice.

Trade Unions

Are you a member of a trade union? A trade union will very often have a free legal service for their members. This will typically cover work-related disputes but some unions cover any legal problem.

Equality Advisory and Support Service (EASS)

Contact details for this free service are on its website: www.equalityadvisoryservice.com.

It replaces the Equality and Human Rights Commission helpline, which closed in September 2012.

ACAS

ACAS (www.acas.org.uk) can be approached on employment issues. They have a helpline giving free help and information on work issues.

They can also arrange for a conciliation officer to help settle a potential or actual tribunal claim.

In Northern Ireland the Labour Relations Agency (www.lra.org.uk) has a similar function.

British Stammering Association (Stamma)

The British Stammering Association has a helpline service stamma.org/get-support/talk-someone. This does not offer legal advice but can:

  • provide support and a listening ear for people who stammer (or parents of children who stammer) on discrimination and other issues; and
  • help employers, service providers and others wanting to know how to deal with staff, job applicants, customers and other people who stammer.

Employment stammering networks

Some companies and organistions have networks of staff who stammer. There may be one in your employer, or you could start one up. They can provide support and networking with other employees who stammer, and may have links to management. See Employment stammering networks.

Education

Disability Rights UK runs a Disabled Students Helpline (link to disabilityrightsuk.org). STUC (Stammerers Through University Consultancy) at www.stuc-uk.org supports students and staff in higher education who stammer.

At a university, the disability officer or indeed one’s personal tutor will often be able to help. The other sources of advice on this page will often also deal with education.

Advice agencies (other than private solicitors)

Disability Law Service

Provides potentially free legal advice and information for disabled people throughout Great Britain (except that advice on welfare benefits is restricted to people living in the Greater London area). www.dls.org.uk

Citizens Advice Bureaux

CABs can often help, or may tell you a local organisation who can help. The Citizens Advice Bureaux website at www.nacab.org.uk helps you find your local office, and their online “adviceguide” gives basic advice and information on your rights.

Law Centres

Law Centres may provide free advice if you live or work in the catchment area. The Law Centres Federation website (www.lawcentres.org.uk) tells you about them and helps you find if there is one in your area.

Civil legal advice

Free and confidential legal advice in England and Wales if you’re eligible for legal aid.www.gov.uk/civil-legal-advice

Equality and Human Rights Commission

In exceptional cases, the Equality and Human Rights Commission may consider a case to be of a strategic nature, and be willing to take it on or fund it. See Equality and Human Rights Commission: Strategic litigation.

Solicitors firms

You can go to a solicitors firm. You should check they have expertise in the area you want. There is some guidance at Legal Advice: Choosing an Employment Solicitor (link to jobs.telegraph.co.uk). Find a solicitor (lawsociety.org.uk) lets you search for solicitors by expertise.

One solicitors firm which is active on behalf of individuals in areas covered by this website is Slater & Gordon (formerly Russell, Jones & Walker): see www.slatergordon.co.uk/employment-law/discrimination/. Another is Leigh Day: www.leighday.co.uk/Asserting-your-rights/Discrimination-claims.

Didlaw (didlaw.com) is a niche employment law boutique specialising in employment advice around disability and discrimination. Karen Jackson there is co-author of the Law Society’s book Disability Discrimination: Law and Case Management, published April 2013. (She and I are also contributors to Discrimination Law and Occupational Health Practice, published November 2012).

Outside of employment, in the field of provision of services and higher education, a firm which does a lot of work on disability discrimination is Fry Law – www.frylaw.co.uk.

Of course, many other solicitors firms will also provide advice on disability discrimination.

Another possibility is www.yesslaw.org.uk, a charity but it charges (fixed) fees. It offers a service of helping claimants settle claims without litigating. (Any solicitors firm should also help you try and reach a settlement.)

Paying for legal advice – insurance, no win no fee etc

Legal aid

See below Legal aid.

Legal costs insurance

You may have insurance covering legal costs, without realising it. Check your home insurance, car insurance, and any insurance that may come as a benefit with your bank account. Legal costs insurance should include fees of a solicitor to advise and represent you.

No win, no fee

Alternatively, a solicitor may also be able to give advice on a ‘no win no fee’ basis. You should discuss this with the solicitor. One thing to discuss will be whether or not there are any further costs you might have to pay (such as court fees, or the other side’s legal costs).

More…

Finally, this page (and www.etclaims.co.uk/getting-advice/) includes various possible sources of free legal advice.

See also blog post: Should I pay for legal advice (link to etclaims.co.uk), August 2010.

Legal aid

Free legal advice through legal aid may be available for those whose income and capital is below certain limits. (There is a different legal aid scheme in Scotland (mygov.scot), not discussed here.)

Legal aid is available for discrimination claims under the Equality Act 2010 (LASPO Act 2012 Sch1 Part 1 para 43) if one meets criteria as to one’s financial means and the merits of the case. Civil legal aid generally falls into two categories: ‘legal help’ which encompasses initial advice and assistance, including help to correspond and negotiate with the other party; and ‘legal representation’ by a solicitor or a barrister. Legal representation is not available in the employment tribunal other than on appeal, only ‘legal help’, unless exceptional funding is granted. Other employment claims such as unfair dismissal are not normally eligible for legal aid. There is a Telephone Gateway to access legal aid for discrimination.

Legal aid: Exceptional case funding

Normally legal aid is only available for specified types of case. However, legal aid by way of ‘exceptional case funding’ can be given where human rights or EU rights require. One relevant factor will be if the person has a characteristic which makes it difficult for them to represent themself, such as a communication issue. www.publiclawproject.org.uk/exceptional-funding-project and www.gov.uk/guidance/legal-aid-apply-for-exceptional-case-funding

Exceptional funding might include funding for advocacy in an employment tribunal, or help in a non-Equality Act case for which legal aid would not normally be available at all. You still need to be financially eligible for legal aid.

There are forms and guidance (link to gov.uk) on exceptional funding, including the Lord Chancellor’s Exceptional Funding Guidance (Non-Inquests) (pdf). (Note that the courts found another piece of guidance on exceptional funding to be inaccurate: The Queen on the application of Joanna Letts v The Lord Chancellor (Iink to bailii.org), February 2015).

In February 2019 the government said in Legal Support: The Way Ahead (pdf, gov.uk), page 14, that by end of 2019 it would seek to improve and simplify guidance and processes for accessing exceptional funding.

Volunteer lawyers

LawWorks (www.lawworks.org.uk) is a charity which aims to provide free legal help to individuals and community groups who cannot afford to pay for it and who are unable to access legal aid.

The Free Representiation Unit (www.thefru.org.uk) provides legal advice, case preparation and advocacy in tribunal cases. Individuals cannot approach it direct, but only through a referral agency such as a subscribing Citizens Advice Bureau or solicitor (there is a list of agencies on the FRU website).

Also the Bar Pro Bono Unit (www.barprobono.org.uk) can put people in touch with barristers who are willing to advise or represent clients free in deserving cases. In Anderson v Turning Point Eespro (2019) a employment tribunal had referred the claimant (who had a mental health disability) to the Bar Pro Bono Unit, which enabled her to be represented by a lawyer free of charge. The Bar Pro Bono Unit covers England and Wales and requires a referral by, for example, an advice agency or lawyer. Its website has links for Scotland and Northern Ireland.

Further sources

Links to relevant websites are also available on specific webpages and generally on the links page.

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