Dallas McMillan – serving Scotland’s Polish community
Glasgow law firm Dallas McMillan has fostered close links with the Polish community in Scotland, whom it has served for more than 15 years. Speaking to SLN, the firm explained how this relationship began and why Polish workers are particularly vulnerable.
As a Glasgow-based firm, Dallas McMillan initially became a go-to firm for Polish people in Glasgow. However, it now serves the wider Polish community across Scotland, including Grampian, Inverness-shire, Morayshire as well as Edinburgh, Fife, Perthshire and Tayside.
While the firm provides a variety of different legal services to Poles, its core work for the community consists of pursuing no-win, no-fee compensation claims for personal injuries in all types of accident. The firm says that because Polish people are often employed in traditional industries – agricultural, timber, fishing, factory and construction work – they are often at a greater risk of injury than the average worker.
Partner Gordon Bell heads up the firm’s litigation department. He and his solicitors are assisted in their work by claims assistant Marta Matusiak, a key member of the team. Ms Matusiak is a bilingual Polish national who has been living in Scotland for over 15 years and is usually the first point of contact for the firm’s clients. She ensures cases run smoothly by liaising with clients and translating paperwork and correspondence.
Moreover, she also attends meetings between the firm’s solicitors and Polish clients and, in the case of personal injury claims, often attends medical appointments the firm arranges for injured clients, to facilitate straightforward communication between medical experts and clients. With her help, Polish clients receive the clearest legal advice and most comprehensive legal service the firm can offer.
Ms Matusiak said: “From my dealings with Polish clients, they often greatly appreciate being able to communicate in Polish rather than in English. It greatly reduces the stress of dealing with their claims or legal transactions.”
Mr Bell explained that the firm regards the Polish community in Scotland as a vulnerable one for a number of reasons, amongst them that “Polish workers can often receive little sympathy or support from managers and even some work colleagues. They can sometimes be seen as a hassle or even as a threat rather than as a highly valuable resource for employers”.
Furthermore, Polish workers are often not directly employed and commonly work for companies through employment agencies. They can also be given inconsistent shift work, restricted to part-time work and placed on temporary rather than permanent contracts.
Mr Bell said: “If Polish workers raise employment grievances or make a personal injury claim following an accident, they can often suffer from prejudicial treatment meted out by their employers, such as a reduction in hours, removal to less attractive work duties, or even early termination of placements or /employment contracts. The language barrier and a lack of full understanding of their employment rights often place Polish workers at a considerable disadvantage with their employers.”
He added that Polish workers “are often cut-off from their family members and close friends left back in Poland. This reduction in their personal support network can add to their difficulties, for example when they require day-to-day help with activities during their recovery period in the wake of a serious accident”.
The firm has, however, obtained justice for its clients in numerous serious cases.
Take the case of 20-year-old Mr G, a young general assistant employed in a timber-making factory in Morayshire. He was given insufficient training and instruction on working with large and complex timber machines in the factory.
In the course of his work, his dominant hand was inadvertently drawn into a machine, as he was unaware that the feeding mechanism was not working properly. As a result, he suffered serious hand injuries and psychiatric injury. His employment was terminated by the company soon after the accident – notwithstanding that their failures had led to his severe and permanent injuries – and Mr G was unable to work at all for years while he recovered.
At the time of settlement of his claim, Mr G was unfit for moderate to heavy manual work on a permanent basis and was re-training for his planned alternative career in office-based IT work. Thanks to Dallas McMillan, his claim was successfully settled for £420,000, a substantial part of which was for expected future loss of earnings and loss pension fund.
Mr Bell said: “We at Dallas McMillan are delighted to have been able to assist Polish nationals living in Scotland for so many years, not only in securing vital compensation for personal injuries suffered at work, in road accidents or in accidents in public places, but also with employment law advice and representation, with house purchase/sales and in other areas.
“We hope our close relationship with the Polish community will continue for many years to come.”