An interview with Alex Kiernan, Loch Associates Group
We caught up with Alex Kiernan from Loch Associates Group. Read on to find out what's been going on in the world of HR and employment law, the challenges employers face in the lead up to Brexit and some tips for winding down when it all gets too much...
Tell us a bit about Loch Associates Group and what you do
Loch Associates Group provides solutions to help businesses manage and look after their people. We cover everything an employer might need, from Employment Law and HR support, health and wellbeing, mental health and health and safety services and also mediation to resolve conflicts at work.
I work as an Employment Lawyer, which means my focus is on providing strategic employment law advice to clients to help them resolve their employment issues.
Congratulations on featuring (once again) in the Legal 500 rankings of top law firms! What’s the secret to your success?
Thank you! I think what makes us stand out from the crowd is our pragmatic and commercial approach to providing employment law advice. We work with employers to identify what they want to achieve and then help them do it.
We also have the benefit of the wider Group, giving us access to a much broader set of skills than more traditional law firms. For example, we have qualified nurses, mediators, and of course our HR colleagues all bringing expertise to help solve problems for our clients.
What are the biggest HR challenges employers currently face, and what advice do you have to help them?
I think the biggest issue employers are facing is that employees are a lot more aware of their rights, and generally we’re in a much more litigious world nowadays. This means employers are experiencing more disputes in the workplace, more grievances and more disciplinaries. Since GDPR, we’re also seeing employers receiving many more Data Subject Access Requests than before too.
My one piece of advice is for employers to make sure their policies and contracts are up to date and that they enforce their policies consistently across the business. Having the right policies in place can really help protect an employer when disputes do arise, and of course, seeking legal advice is always a good idea before taking any action.
What is your favourite thing about doing business in Brighton?
This business community in Brighton is so diverse, it makes our work much more varied. It also means that we get to work with businesses across a whole spectrum from start up to really mature businesses. It means that no two days are the same, and we get to develop some really innovative solutions for our clients.
What are your top tips for anyone networking in Brighton?
My top tip is that nothing beats getting out and meeting people. The Brighton business community thrives on personal connections, recommendations and referrals, and it’s great that everyone gets to know each other, rather than just being stuck in their offices all day. Community events, like the ones hosted by the Chamber, are a fantastic way of becoming part of the community, getting to know each other, and building up business for everyone’s benefit.
What impact will Brexit have on HR and employment law?
The biggest challenge, and we’re already seeing it, is going to be recruitment and retention of quality staff. It’s an area that our HR Consultants have been working with clients on for some time – helping them to develop the strategic recruitment and retention policies to ensure their business has the right people in the right roles.
Recruitment is going to be harder, especially in those industries that rely on migrant or seasonal workers. This means employers have to focus on retaining their good staff, putting in place measures that encourage staff to stay and develop their career.
The world of HR seems to have moved away from just being contracts and procedures, with more of a focus on individuals and wellbeing. What’s the impact on businesses?
Contracts, policies and procedures are still the foundation of how to manage staff, as well as being good HR practice, but you’re right, employees do expect more from their employers nowadays. But this doesn’t have to be a bad thing for employers – having wellbeing or mental health support in the workplace is proven to help reduce absences and improve productivity. So taking a holistic look at what you offer to employees can ultimately have a positive impact on your bottom line.
Do you have any tips for improving your wellbeing (both inside and outside of the workplace)?
It’s easy to spend too much time staring at screens, so I think the simplest and easiest tip to improve wellbeing is to put the phone down, or step away from the computer and take a break – this is true both in and out of the workplace. Going for a walk at lunchtime is a great way of getting some fresh air and re-energising for the afternoon too.
What does 2019 hold for Loch Associates Group?
It’s an exciting time for us as we are growing, taking on new clients and new experts to help support them. We’re growing the team in Brighton too, adding more legal expertise to help the local business community thrive.
Thanks to Alex for writing this blog, and to Loch Associates Group, who are sponsoring our Chamber Breakfast series from January until March.