Employment Law

This is for businesses looking for advice on employment law.


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OVERVIEW

Employment law covers the legal rights of both employees and employers. These include statutory rights along with rights and obligations that are likely to be included in any contract of employment.

For employees:
Legal areas covered include discrimination within the workplace; rights to a minimum wage and reasonable working hours; health and safety regulations; maternity leave. The law also entitles some employees to payments when they are made redundant, and allows them to take their employer to an employment tribunal if they have been unfairly dismissed.

For employers:
The law enables them to dismiss employees if their work is not up to standard, if they commit gross misconduct, or if they are absent for long periods.

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Employment contracts detail the obligations and rights of each party. The contract should include items such as the terms of employment, the responsibilities of the employee's job, remuneration details, and the rights they have as part of their contract (e.g. holidays).

There are many employment disputes that are dealt with internally and go no further. If the dispute cannot be resolved internally, external options include conciliation and arbitration. The Advisory, Conciliation & Arbitration Service (ACAS) is there to try and solve employment disputes through conciliation but a final step is for a claim or an appeal to be taken to an Employment Tribunal (or an Industrial Tribunal in Northern Ireland) for arbitration.

Since Summer 2013, there have been various employment law changes and reforms:

  • The introduction of fees for claims and appeals to employment tribunals from July 2013. One aim is to reduce the number of claims and appeals coming to a tribunal and to encourage settlement before a tribunal.
  • A mandatory requirement for a claimant to discuss a settlement with ACAS. These discussions, known as Early Claims Conciliation (ECC), are free and are again intended to try and solve disputes at an early stage.
  • Employment tribunals can now impose financial penalties on employers found to have breached an employee’s rights.
  • Since October 2014, and where an employment tribunal decides that there has been an equal pay breach by the employer and an equal pay claim is lost by the employer, the tribunal will ask the employer to undertake an equal pay audit.  
  • Starting in April 2015, new Shared Parental Leave rights will allow mothers, fathers, partners, and adopters to choose between themselves how they the share time off work to look after the new baby.

Working conditions:

Employers must provide suitable working conditions for their workers.  Working conditions include space, temperature, lighting, ventilation, humidity and welfare facilities, and access to drinking water.

First Aid Provision:

First aid given to an injured person before professional help arrives can save lives, so it is important that first aid is available in your workplace.

Employers must make first aid available for their employees based on an assessment of the risks in the workplace.  As a minimum employers should provide a first aid box and ensure it is adequately stocked at all times.