By Colin Young
In such unprecedented and uncertain times, it is reassuring to know that lawyers at the heart of Aycliffe Business Park are staying ahead of the game and their clients are reaping the rewards.
Any law firm which can advise local companies to save more than £500,000 in holiday-related pay during a pandemic is bound to be popular.
But the success at Greystone Legal is no accident. The company, based at Parson’s Court and run by partners Paul Humble and Ben Healey, have been using their expertise and experience to establish themselves as one of the region’s leading legal firms in employment, business and commercial law.
And while the 2020 health crisis and subsequent lockdown forced a re-think for many businesses, it thrust a partnership with more than 30 years’ experience between them, into immediate action to support clients and businesses across the park and beyond.
Greystone Legal have kept abreast of the government’s ever-changing advice and law changes to provide contemporaneous and vital information through blogs and updates to their clients.
And when it came to the furlough scheme and holiday pay, the company were able to save employers thousands of pounds through providing timely advice on managing holiday entitlement during the lockdown period.
Paul said: “We have had a particularly busy few months with the pandemic and consequential closure of many factories and places of work and spent a lot of time advising on furlough and the implications of that impact on employees.
“One of the key things, that was probably missed by a lot of employers, is the ability to require your employees to take holidays while they are still furloughed.
“Because we advised our clients to make use of that provision and to take holidays while they were on furlough leave, we calculated that we made a saving of over half a million for our clients in holiday pay collectively.
“The other unfortunate consequence, certainly in the last few weeks, is that we have had to advise on redundancy exercises. It is a sign of the times and I would imagine that it’s going to carry on through to the end of October when the furlough ends altogether.
“The key thing for us is to advise employers to manage the redundancies carefully to ensure no claims arise because of it, which can be very costly and a distraction to business owners, and also to ensure that businesses retain the required skills within their workforces.”
The Covid-19 crisis has also forced numerous businesses on the park to recalibrate their premises under the strict new guidelines which cover social distancing, general cleanliness, hygiene and safety.
Greystone Legal work in partnership with local firm Northern Safety to carry out risk assessments on workplaces and deliver packages to make their working environments safe, with temperature testing, hand sanitisers, protective screens and staggered break times among the measures taken to reduce risk levels.
Ben said the service is another example of Greystone Legal using their own expertise, or extensive contacts, to provide valuable and tangible advice.
He said: “The coronavirus has been completely unprecedented and it has been very difficult for employers to see their way through all the legislation and regulations.
“But we have been able to keep abreast of the legislation and take all that pressure away from employers so they have a very clear and concise summary of all the new changes to the law.
“If there is anything more specific they need they will come to us, but sometimes it is changing so quickly you don’t have the answer immediately, often because the government hasn’t yet got the answer themselves!”.
As if to demonstrate their increasing influence in the area, Greystone are building on their relationship with Ebac, one of the park’s largest employers, who have retained Greystone to provide complete legal support in employment and commercial law.
Ben said: “We have worked closely with Ebac, assisted with HR support, and provided manufacturing and commercial contracts which has included negotiating with external suppliers for their water coolers in France, Ireland, Japan and the United States.”
Graham Currie, Ebac’s group financial director, said: “Over the last 18 months it’s been great to have Ben and Paul retained and helping the team at Ebac. They are good guys to work with, understanding our issues quickly and providing timely and competent solutions.”
Ebac managing director Amanda Hird said: “Like most businesses 2020 has provided many challenges, and Greystone have kept us updated on the ever-changing legislations regarding Covid-19 – their services have been invaluable.”
Ben added: “With our expertise, we are a one-stop shop that offers peace of mind to small, medium or large local businesses throughout the North East.”
Find out more about Greystone Legal at greystone.legal.