Hill Care has grown by acquisition and by the autumn of 2012 it operated a chain of 19 homes, with a total of 1,054 beds, in the North East, the North West, Yorkshire and Derbyshire. It employs more than 1,000 people. Until 2009, it used an insured provider for employment law advice but became dissatisfied with the service it was getting.
'It was the frustration of going through disciplinaries and suspensions but not being able to terminate employment because we were constantly being advised not to,' said Wendy Waddicor, managing director.
'We then had to bring the person back to work, even though that meant the manager losing face among the staff. If people can do things and get away with it, it makes a mockery of your training and the standards that you work towards.
'With Collinson Grant, I feel the advice we get is the right advice for Hill Care, whereas before the advice was what was right for the insurance company. If we never dismissed anyone, they would never have to pay out.'
With an insured provider, the employer is not covered if it does not take the advice given. With Collinson Grant, the final decision still rests with Hill Care's operational managers after they have discussed the problem with one of our consultants.
Mrs Waddicor added: 'We get speed of reaction and clear and concise advice. We are told clearly if what we want to do is not the right thing. Generally, though, it is more a case of talking around the issue with the consultant and them finding out what we're trying to achieve. If the manager still isn't comfortable, they can always go to their line manager to discuss it further. Ultimately, the decision on action to be taken is ours.'
Another reason for switching to Collinson Grant was quality of service. With the insured provider, home managers had to log a call and wait to be called back within an hour. If they missed the return call because they were out of their office, they had to log another call and again wait up to an hour for a call back.
'When a home manager wants to deal with something, she wants to deal with it there and then,' said Mrs Waddicor. 'When we ring Collinson Grant we get through straight away. It saves a lot of time.'
Having acquired homes from owner managers and inherited employees with varying terms and conditions, Hill Care has often come to Collinson Grant for advice on the Transfer of Undertakings (Protection of Employment) Regulations 2006 (TUPE).
Mrs Waddicor said this had helped the company to ensure that it complied with TUPE when it wanted to alter terms and conditions, in particular where there was a need to change working hours and shift patterns to introduce more flexibility.