OVERVIEW OF EMPLOYMENT LAW
Employment law is in place to guarantee a fair and safe working environment for employers and employees. Statutes and strict rules outline, for the employer, how their employee’s should be treated within the workplace. Many employers and employees and employees ofen do not realise how many rules and regulations are covered by employment law and this subsequently leads to confusion for employers and employees alike. There are many different aspects covered by employment law which means employees can take legal action if they feel they are being treated unfairly.
It is advisable that before recruiting new employees, employers should ensure they are up to date with all aspects of employment law.
It is mandatory that employers and employees have a sound, equal understanding of employment law. For example, if an employee feels they are being treated unfairly it is important they realise it is not acceptable and they can take legal action against an employer. Employers need to have a sound understanding of employment law so they can ensure they are providing a fair working environment for employees. Failure to adhere to employment law can be costly for an employer and some offences can carry out a fine of up to £5000 and even a custodial sentence for more severe offences.
Equality within the workplace ensures that everyone has equal opportunities and can’t be denied promotion or training for prejudicial reasons. Employers cannot discriminate against employees because of age, gender, nationality, pregnancy and maternity leave, sexual orientation,, disabilities, race, ethnic background, religion and beliefs. Legal action can be carried out, should an employee believe they are being treated unfairly due to prejudice.
The National Minimum Wage (NMW) ensures that if an employer should choose to pay a low wage, there is a minimum legal amount. This prevents slave labour and ensures unskilled trades pay enough for workers to live off. There are four different groups of NMW; the lowest being apprenticeship wages, followed by 16
and 17 year olds, then 18-‐20 year olds and finally 21 upwards. NMW tends to rise with inflation so employers and employees should regularly check the correct amount is being paid.
Working time regulations are in place to ensure that employers cannot make their employees work more than 48 hours a week, unless the employee agrees to “opt out” of the 48-‐hour week. This is an agreement that employer and employee sign to say the worker can work more than 48 hours a week. Unpaid lunch breaks, regular travel to and from work, voluntary unpaid overtime and paid or unpaid holidays are not counted as working hours. Paid overtime, working lunches, working abroad for a UK based company and job-‐related training however, are all included in the working week.
The Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 is a large piece of legislation which covers all aspects of health and safety in the workplace. Employers have a “duty of care” to ensure the working environment is safe for employees. Health and safety is in place to eliminate hazards and accidents and to ensure the working environment is safe. If an employee is in any way concerned about their health and safety at work, they should speak to their employer and trade union. If speaking to their employer or trade union has no effect, they should report the employer to the environmental health department of their local authority.
We would recommend that it is crucial for the employer and employees to understand employment law. Workers should know their rights to ensure they are not treated unfairly or differently to the rest of the working society. Employers should understand employment law to avoid legal action being taken against them through ignorance or lack of knowledge in regards to employment law.
Unfortunately the complexity of employment law can make it tough for businesses to keep up with their responsibility. Such is the ever-‐changing nature of the law it can be difficult for companies to know what you should be done to ensure they are protected against any legal action.
It is however imperative that you do, as an employment solicitor representing an employee will quickly spot any gaps in your procedures. If they do then this could result in a great deal of expense for your business, as you are more likely to lose at an employment tribunal and this will mean that you will have to pay compensation to that employee.
COMMON AREAS IN WHICH COMPANIES FAIL THEIR EMPLOYMENT LAW OBLIGATIONS
Disciplinary and dismissal procedures
Disciplining and dismissing employees is not really a nice scenario to consider but unfortunately it is an important part of any business.
If you do find yourself in the position of having to dismiss a worker from your business then in order to be protected legally, you must be able to show that your company had a valid reason dismissing them and you also need to prove that the reason you have given is indeed the true cause of your action.
Your disciplinary procedures must also show that your company acted reasonably throughout the process, while there will also be statutory procedures you need to follow.
If you set out clear disciplinary guidelines for all your staff, you can protect yourself from unfair or constructive dismissal claims.
Disciplinary guidelines are also useful in that they provide a standard of conduct that all your employees must follow. If they will read these rules before signing their contract this means you will be protected in the event of any disciplinary action should they fail to follow them.
The Equality Act 2010 was put in place to ensure all employees are treated fairly at all stages of the employment process, including interview, appointment, performance appraisal, promo=on, contract length and, of course, dismissal or redundancy.
The Act lists several ‘protected characteristics’, which are commonly cited by employees making discrimination claims. They are age, disability, sex, sexual orientation, religion, race, pregnancy and maternity, marital status and gender reassignment.
One of the most common kinds of discrimination claim stems from when an employee or job applicant feels they were treated less favourably as a result of them possessing one of these characteristics.
It is extremely important that every company has the knowledge to prevent a discrimination claim being lodged against them because in many instances it could be, simply because documents have been drafed in a poor manner or even that procedures are out of date.
Even if you have all the systems in place it is the responsibility of the company to ensure they are
“implemented and adhered to.”
How employment law solicitors can help
Getting assistance from specialist employment solicitors will greatly increase your chances of remaining protected against employee claims. Their up-‐to-‐date knowledge can help them advise you on how to create procedures that comply with the law, while they can also highlight any areas where your company is weak in this regard.
If there is a specific case that your organisation is facing, they can also assist you in trying to secure a settlement or, if one cannot be agreed, they will represent you at an employment tribunal.
FREE ADVICE & Low Costs legal assistance available.
WIKPIDIA DEFINITION :UK LABOUR LAW:
United Kingdom labour law involves the legal relationship between workers, employers and trade unions.  People at work in the UK benefit from a minimum charter of employment rights.  This includes the right to a minimum wage of £6.31 for over 21-‐year-‐olds under the National Minimum Wage Act 1998, 28 paid holidays and no longer than 48 working hours unless one consents under the Working Time Regulations 1998, the right to leave for child care, and the right to request flexible working paeerns under the Employment Rights Act 1996. The Employment Rights Act 1996 adds that, unless the employee repudiates the relationship, before a dismissal every employer must give reasonable notice aTransfer of Undertakings (Protection of Employment) Regulations 2006 state that employees’ terms cannot be worsened, including to the point of dismissal, without a good economic, technical or organisational reason.
Beyond individual rights, workers have the ability to participate in decisions about how their enterprise is managed through a growing set of statutory rights and the traditional models of collective bargaining. Gradually, the number of “John Lewis” style participatory institutions at work have grown, ooccupational pensions are managed under the Pensions Act 2004, and how health and safety policies in the workplace are formulated under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974.
In larger firms with over 50 staff, workers must be informed and consulted about major economic developments, particularly about business difficulties. This happens through a steadily increasing number of works councils, which usually must be requested by staff. The UK has not yet implemented earlier proposals, or followed the majority practice in the EU to require that employees have a vote for members’ of their company’s board of directors. Collective bargaining between trade unions and company management remains the UK’s primary participatory model. Collective agreements are backed up by the threat of a strike which is lawful if “in contemplation or furtherance of a trade dispute”. Since the early 1980s, industrial action has steadily decreased, as has membership of trade unions. The Trade Union and Labour Relations (Consolidation) Act 1992 sets out rules for the constitution of trade unions, members’ rights, the conditions to be fulfilled before strike action may be taken and the legal status of collective agreements.