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Rather than using its own human resources team, the group uses Collinson Grant's retainer service to provide instant assistance for its home managers on everything to do with employment law and managing people.

Avery Healthcare Group owns 30 care homes in England, from Salisbury in the south to Sunderland in the north. Founded in 2005, it employs 2,000 people. Rather than using its own human resources team, the group uses Collinson Grant's retainer service to provide instant assistance for its home managers on everything to do with employment law and managing people.

If managers are uncertain what to do about any given situation, or if they need a template for a letter to an employee, they call Collinson Grant's helpline and speak to one of our experienced employment lawyers or human resources advisers. In the case of claims to the employment tribunal, Collinson Grant consultants handle all the paperwork, including interviewing witnesses, preparing statements and representing the company, when necessary, at tribunal.

The retainer service saves the group money by enabling it to employ fewer people in its head office, but this was not the main reason for switching away from the previous supplier, an insured provider. Directors felt that the advice given to managers by the staff of the insured provider's call centre made it less likely that appropriate action would be taken to manage performance and maintain standards.

Ian Matthews, commercial director, explained:

"With an insured provider, you can't do anything without their agreement because they are paranoid about the risk to the indemnity. Managers become timid and nervous about taking any action for fear of not having every comma and full-stop in the right place. The danger with this is that you are abdicating your responsibility to somebody who has no accountability and no understanding of the local circumstances. I think that is detrimental to the sort of employment relations you need to have, especially when the business is growing rapidly and when you are commissioning new homes and the turnover of staff is bound to be high as people settle in."

"The Collinson Grant retainer service is exactly how an employment support package should operate. We feel it gives flexibility but also puts decision making in the hands of home managers and area managers. We empower our managers and Collinson Grant helps in that process by giving them risk-based support and good, sensible, commercial advice. It works really well. The managers also learn on-the-job by speaking to the consultants."

"The human rights of our residents are the most important focus for our business. We are firm in the way we handle employment relations, and the reason we are able to be firm is that we are confident in the advice we get from Collinson Grant."