Back in 1983 Peter and Fred Done, who were running their very successful betting operation, Done Bros (Cash Betting) Ltd, now trading as Betfred, came across a model of an independent Employment Law and Health & Safety Consultancy providing these sort of services to SME’s and they decided to replicate it – always keen to look for business opportunities, and started their own company on 1st September 1983. It was originally called PPMS Ltd (Professional Personnel Management Services), being renamed PBS Ltd some years later.
I have not been around for the full 30 years, but 27 of them, commencing on 12th June 1986.
When I started, the company was trading from Godwin Chambers, Bradford – on the first floor, with only 10 staff and 50 clients, and Peter Done, our current Managing Director, was on the road bringing in business, with a small team of some two or three other Sales Representatives.
Over the years, we have moved buildings four times. We moved to Bexley Square in Manchester in September 1986, to Stamford House in August 1988, to Riverside in May 2000 and finally to ‘The Peninsula’ in June and July 2010.
I joined as a Personnel Consultant, and in those days you had to undertake all three aspects of the Employment function, in terms of visiting clients to put in their contractual documentation systems, handling any Employment Tribunals (then called Industrial Tribunals) in which I specialised, and at the same time, whilst in the office, take advice calls as they came through. It wasn’t until 1991 that these three functions were split into three different departments: Employment Consultancy, Advocacy (now Legal Services) and Employment Advice.
We thereafter had a group of Employment Consultants concentrating only on providing contractual documentation for clients, a small number of Advocates handling Employment Tribunals, and the first dedicated Advice Service, with staff recruited specifically for that purpose. I became Advocacy Manager in 1991 and was delighted to be appointed as Director of Consultancy in 1995, which is the role I have maintained until this day; overseeing all the three Employment functions, as well as Health & Safety (now BusinessSafe).
Over the years I have seen many changes, but they have all been gradual. It’s not as if I had been with the company, left and come back, as they have been happening month in – month out, year in – year out. They don’t seem quite as stark as they would, had I left in 1995 and returned in 2005 for example.
One of the reasons I believe the company has been so successful in growing its client base year on year is due to the leadership of our Managing Director, Peter Done, who is still with the company and still leading from the front, 30 years on, as he seems to have a very clear focus in moving the company forward. Some of our competitors at other Consultancies have had different owners and managers over the years and hence, seem to have lost direction. We have grown now to some 27,000 clients by having a very effective sales force bringing in new business, but at the same time retaining existing clients by providing an excellent level of service.
Between 1986 and becoming Director of Consultancy in 1995, I handled over 500 Employment Tribunal cases personally and am still very proud that in 1991 I made case law history in Auguste Noel v. Curtis, being the case which determined that different elements of misconduct can be cumulative, resulting in a fair dismissal.
We first started trading in Northern Ireland in 1991 and in Southern Ireland in 1997, and in more recent years have expanded into the Channel Islands and Australia.
Certainly the growth in the amount of employment law has assisted us in gaining new clients – needing our expertise in dealing with this very complicated area, especially from 1997 onwards when the then Labour Government brought in a considerable amount of domestic legislation that they politically wanted to pursue, and also opted out of the Maastricht Treaty that John Major had negotiated, thereby opening the floodgates for a whole raft of employment and health & safety legislation from Europe, the first of which was the troublesome Working Time Directive, which we now have as the Working Time Regulations.
I was disappointed to lose access to the Register of Employment Tribunal Claims at Bury St Edmunds and Glasgow in 2004 and still hope that one day, through various avenues, public access will be restored.
When we first started in business in 1983, there were only two forms of discrimination – sex and race. Over the years, however, as the amount of employment legislation has increased, we have seen what are now known as ‘protected characteristics’ (brought together under the Equality Act 2010) extending the list of various forms of unlawful discrimination, as follows:-
- Religious Belief and Political Opinion (Northern Ireland)
- Pregnancy & Maternity
- Gender Reassignment
- Marriage & Civil Partnership
- Religion or Belief
- Sexual Orientation
Over the years, the Employment and Health & Safety Services we provide to clients have become more sophisticated – moving on with the times, and we now have excellent online offerings of hronline and BusinessSafeonline. We are handling nearly 1 million employment advice enquiries on an annual basis and certainly this department, more than any other, has seen the incredible growth of email over the years, in that over 50% of the advice enquiries are now via email, rather than by telephone. We are also handling over 3,500 Employment Tribunal cases each year.
We have also developed a wider range of products, with Taxwise, Health Assured and Graphite HRM. As far as I am concerned, being responsible for the consultancy function, we have the strongest management team we have ever had, with Alan Price (Employment Advice), Julie English (Legal Services) and Jane Lockhart (Employment Consultancy), along with David Price and Edward Mallett running our Australian company, Employsure Ltd.
One of the things I find perhaps most surprising, which I am sure comes from Peter Done downwards, is that, even with a company of 900+ staff and various tiers of management, people are always referred to by their first names.