Want to talk to an expert employment law solicitor?

You'll receive a callback from a specialist within an hour

Trade Unions have been a part of the fabric of employment and labour disputes in Britain for centuries. But what duty of care do they owe their members? This was the question considered by Mrs Justice Stacey in the Queen’s Bench Division of the High Court recently, when ruling on a claim of negligence in relation to a settlement agreement. The claim was brought by Mr Paul Langley, formerly employed by Birmingham City Council (‘the Council’), and the defendants were the GMB, and the firm of solicitors which they had instructed to represent Mr Langley.

The background to Langley v GMB & Ors [2020] EWHC 3619 (QB)

Mr Langley had worked as a binman for the Council for many years, during which time he was an active and enthusiastic member of the GMB. During 2014, the Council instituted a ban on overtime, which resulted in financial pressure for many union members, in some cases to the tune of £600pcm.

In another unpopular decision, at the end of 2013 the Council had introduced a charge for garden waste at £35 per year. This was lambasted by the press, and resulted in many local residents taking matters into their own hands and fly tipping or leaving their garden waste out over the city. In order to deal with the accumulated garden waste, the Council arranged for two special overtime sessions in which the binmen would collect and take it away.

Mr Langley contacted the local media, which resulted in a front-page story and also a radio interview. He was clearly irked by the way the Council had been treating union members, pulling and re-instating overtime “when it suits”. As a result of his interviews, Mr Langley was suspended.

The negotiation

The GMB’s fulltime officer, Ms Gill Ogilvie, represented Mr Langley at the investigation, and considered that he had a weak position. She advised that the best course would be to prolong the negotiation to build his pension privileges, but eventually to look for some sort of exit package, as she considered it unlikely that the Council would reinstate Mr Langley.

After a protracted set of negotiations, Mr Langley was offered a year of pay tax-free, as well as 12 weeks’ notice. Ms Ogilvie considered the deal to be the very best offer which Mr Langley could hope to get, and so, with his agreement, the GMB passed instruction to their solicitors Trade Union Law. The relevant formalities were undertaken, and Mr Langley secured his package by signing a settlement agreement.

The claim

Mr Langley, in 2016, began to have second thoughts about having left the Council, and issues claims against the GMB and his solicitors. The claim was that the GMB ought not to have pressured him into signing his settlement agreement, and should have advised an interim payment application in the Employment Tribunal.

Stacey J considered that, although union representatives had strongly encouraged Mr Langley to seriously consider the agreement that was being offered, this did not amount to pressuring or bullying him, not least because many of them were his friends. She ruled that the GMB had represented him well, and that the standard they were to be held to was that of an ordinary trade union representing its members.

In relation to the Employment Tribunal point, Stacey J indicated that Mr Langley would have a weak case, as his disclosures to the local media would not count as protected disclosures, so he would not be covered by whistleblowing legislation.

The case was dismissed.

Our lawyers’ comments on the case of Langley v GMB & Ors [2020] EWHC 3619 (QB)

Chris Hadrill, Partner in the employment team at Redmans, commented on the case: “This case shows that employees must give careful consideration to settlement agreements before deciding to enter into them (or not, as the case may be), as once the decision is made to accept a settlement agreement they are very difficult to ‘reverse out of’. Employees who have been offered settlement agreements should take prompt advice from specialist employment solicitors so that they have a good understanding of their options.”

Link to judgment: https://www.bailii.org/ew/cases/EWHC/QB/2020/3619.html


Redmans Employment Team deal with employment matters for both employers and employees, including drafting employment contracts and policies, advising employers and employees on compromise agreements, handling day-to-day HR issues, advising on restructures, and handling Employment Tribunal cases for both employers and employees Call 020 3397 3603 to speak to one of the members of our employment team or email us on enquiries@redmans.co.uk. Redmans have offices in Richmond, Chiswick, Hammersmith, Fulham, Kingston, Wimbledon, Ealing, Kings Cross and Marylebone (meetings strictly by appointment only).

Want to talk to an expert employment law solicitor?

You'll receive a callback from a specialist within an hour

Share →

Our awards

Request a callback

    Your first name (required)

    Your last name (required)

    Your email (required)

    Your telephone number (required)

    Brief details of your enquiry


    4.80 Average

    320 Reviews


    Efficient and quick service!

    Posted 1 hour ago

    Karen B

    Quick response very helpful Issue raised dealt with very quickly

    Posted 3 days ago

    Carmen T

    Redmans give Great service and advice on reading contracts. They can explain all the solicitors jargon into words that you can understand. I received excellent service an I will use them again and again.

    Posted 5 days ago


    Very grateful for Mel’s efforts in handling my case from start to finish which I would have found very stressful without it. She was very professional, friendly and we had a positive outcome. Highly recommend.

    Posted 3 weeks ago

    Nalin W

    Mel Chin was my Legal Executive when I engaged the services of Redmans Solicitors to help with a redundancy matter. She was incredibly approachable and professional from start to finish. Specially I have to mention regarding prompt reply to all my email queries, It was super quick. I would thoroughly recommend Mel Chin. Many Thanks

    Posted 1 month ago


    I'd highly recommend Redmans Solicitors. Mel was very helpful and assisted me throughout my case.

    Posted 1 month ago


    Sacha was very thorough and very helpful, with great advice on when to act and when to wait on my case.

    Posted 1 month ago


    I have been very pleased with the support I got from Redmans Solicitors on my case with my employer. Caroline has always helped me to put things in perspective and showed me different scenarios ultimately to help me taking the right decision. She was very professional and always available when I needed, and at the same time also emphatic which I found also really important to establish a strong relationship. Will definitely recommend!

    Posted 1 month ago


    Prompt and efficient response to my enquiries. Excellent negotiating skills with my employer which considerably improved the terms of my settlement agreement.

    Posted 1 month ago


    Very quick and professional service , Rana was very helpful

    Posted 1 month ago

    James G

    Very professional, knowledgeable and kept me informed at every stage of my case. I would highly recommend Redmans.

    Posted 1 month ago

    Pravina P

    Chris was really good and help solve my issues with current company. I would recommend him to anyone.

    Posted 2 months ago

    Paul L

    Sacha was extremely helpful in my matter. I would not hesitate you use Sacha or Redmonds again. Everyone was very helpful.

    Posted 2 months ago

    Monique N

    I had Mel Chin helping me with a settlement and she was very professional and reliable throughout my case. Mel provided me with a good understanding of what was happening and gave suggestions on routes I could take. My case was resolved and closed promptly although the opposing side were very difficult to deal with. A very big thank you to Mel and Chris.

    Posted 2 months ago

    Jackie C

    My first ever experience needing the services of a solicitor; cannot speak highly enough of Mel and Chris’s personable, reassuring and straight to the point advice in dealing with my settlement agreement. They put me at ease during an extremely stressful time. I am equally as happy with the outcome, as l am their professional services.

    Posted 2 months ago


    Really happy with the service. All very efficient. Mel rattled through things very fast, however was great whenever I needed to stop and ask a question! Would definitely return to Redmans if I ever needed Legal advice.

    Posted 2 months ago

    Peter F

    Very helpful and clear advice, would highly recommend.

    Posted 2 months ago

    William A

    Second time I have had to use Redmans. They did not disappoint. They are fast , efficient and friendly. I have already recommended them to friends and colleagues. I hope I dont have to use them again but if I have to , they are the solicitors for me.

    Posted 2 months ago

    Fleeta C

    Great service with tantastic communications. The solicitor responsible is extremely knowledgeable and was responsible for bringing a timely and desired solution.

    Posted 2 months ago

    Veronica M

    Extremely helpful, starting from a request for advice at very short notice, to dedicating time for me to understand and review all documents thoroughly.

    Posted 2 months ago

    Sophie R

    Very efficient and professional service. Chris was very empathetic, knowledgeable and personable. Highly recommended.

    Posted 2 months ago