Reasons to choose Wilson Browne
All businesses owe a general duty of care to their employees. This is codified into a body of employment law that regulates the relationship between the employer and the employee.
It guides what employers can legally expect from their employees and the rights of those employees in the workplace.
Employment law is designed to ensure that all employees have channels through which they can make claims if they need to.
Employment law clearly has a range of implications for business owners and it’s therefore important that anyone who employs staff understands what’s expected of them.
What does employment law mean in business?
Employment law is a body of legislation that exists to protect the rights of employees in the workplace, as well as their health and safety.
It also clarifies the responsibilities of employers to their employees. It sets boundaries and provides a framework within which disputes can be resolved.
If necessary, it provides employees with the opportunity to make a claim against their employers for breach of their employment rights but also gives employers protection against vexatious claims.
Employment law covers areas such as:
- Working hours & holiday entitlement
- Minimum wage
- Sick pay
- Maternity rights
- Paternity & adoption rights
- Shared parental leave & pay
- Flexible working & reasonable adjustments
- Staff pensions
- Union membership
- Staff monitoring & whistleblowing
- Gender & race discrimination
Employment laws govern potentially contentious areas and are designed to create a framework where both parties understand their rights and responsibilities.
How does employment law affect a business in the UK?
Every business has a responsibility to keep up to date with current employment laws. It can be a complex area that’s full of pitfalls, so it’s important to think through policies and ensure that they are implemented with care. The consequences of getting it wrong can be costly and time-consuming.
Business owners should be aware of the main elements of employment law that could affect their business. If there is anything about which you are unclear, then it’s important to take professional advice as soon as possible.
Some of the main areas that business owners need to be aware of are:
Conscious or unconscious prejudice on grounds of race or gender cannot affect your recruitment decisions. Discrimination is illegal.
All recruitments should focus only on the requirements of the job and the degree to which the candidate meets those requirements.
Employers should keep records that explain why one candidate was preferred over another. Applicants have the right to request to see interview notes.
As soon as a candidate accepts a job offer, a contract of employment exists. This applies whether or not the offer is in writing.
Any job-offer letter should set out that the contract of employment will be governed by the written terms and conditions. Any contract can be conditional until the employee provides evidence of their suitability for the role.
This can include references, evidence of professional qualifications and registration, and passing a DBS check.
Terms & Conditions
A written statement of terms and conditions must be provided to employees on or before their first day of work.
This should cover specific areas such as job description, working hours, holiday entitlement, pay and place of work. It will usually include a statement that reserves the right to amend the job description and the place of work.
If these aren’t included you may be considered in breach of contract if an employee’s role changes or the business relocated. The contract may also include guidelines regarding summary dismissal.
The contract cannot be changed unilaterally by the employer. If changes are made without the consent of the employee, this may be considered a breach of contract.
If the change is not beneficial to the employee, they may be able to sue for breach of contract or constructive dismissal.
Hours and leave
Employers are required to comply with statutory requirements on working hours and leave.
Most employees are entitled to work no more than a maximum 48-hour average working week, but each employee can voluntarily agree for the rules to be disapplied. Any agreement has to be in writing and signed by the employee.
There is a range of other criteria that impact working hours, such as the time spent travelling to and from clients.
Almost all employees are entitled to 5.6 weeks of paid leave every year. Employees are entitled to maternity, paternity, shared parental and adoption leave, as well as unpaid parental leave. There are also clear regulations on minimum rest periods.
Employees who have been employed for at least 26 weeks have a right to request flexible work. Part-time employees have the same access to these rights on a pro-rata basis
Employees have the right to receive the minimum wage. Those aged 23 and over must be paid the National Living Wage. Any service charges and tips that are paid to an employee do not count toward the National Minimum Wage.
All businesses employing staff must operate PAYE for tax and National Insurance contributions, and these should be deducted from the wages of employees.
Employers are required to pay NI contributions and these must be reported to HM Revenue & Customs. Every employee should receive a wage slip detailing gross and net pay, as well as deductions.
Employees have a range of rights that may not be spelt out in their contracts. They also have rights that their contract cannot override.
Employers have to maintain a relationship of ‘trust and confidence’ with their employees. In turn, employees have obligations to carry out their duties with care and due diligence.
Employers are required to provide a healthy, safe and secure working environment for their employees.
Employees are entitled to a reasonable degree of privacy in order to carry out their duties. This particularly applies to when and how employers can monitor phone calls, and emails or how internet use is regulated.
All employees who have had more than one month’s service are entitled to a notice period. This rises to a maximum of 12 weeks after 12 years of service. Most employees will be entitled to retain their job if the business changes ownership.
All employees have the right to choose to belong to a trade union and unions must be recognised in any business that has 21 or more employees when backed by the workforce.
There is a range of regulations regarding discrimination and it’s important that employers understand what they are and stay abreast of any changes.
It’s illegal to discriminate either directly or indirectly against people on a range of grounds including, race, nationality, ethnic origin, sex, sexual orientation, gender reassignment, marital relationship or religious beliefs. There are particular provisions regarding pregnancy, maternity and parental responsibilities.
It’s particularly important to be aware of indirect discrimination. This can include an employer imposing a ‘provision, criterion or practice’ which create difficulties and disadvantage for people belonging to certain groups. This might include irregular shift-working patterns. Any employee who has brought a discrimination claim must be treated fairly
All qualifying workers, including full, part-time, agency and casual working must be paid statutory sick pay for up to 28 weeks.
The length of service is irrelevant and employees qualify from the fourth day of sickness onwards. Many employers will choose to pay higher than the set amount of £109.40.
All employers should have a disciplinary and grievance procedure in place.
This should make it clear how employees can raise grievances, what steps to take and who to speak to.
Employees are required to follow ‘fair and reasonable’ procedures when dealing with disciplinary issues.
The disciplinary procedure should outline the grounds for dismissal, such as a criminal conviction, gross misconduct or unauthorised absence.
To prevent possible repercussions, employers should always have a good reason for dismissing anybody
Parents and parents-to-be have a range of employment rights in the workplace.
All mothers-to-be are entitled to paid time off for antenatal care, regardless of the length of service. Fathers, intended parents in surrogacy arrangements, and partners are entitled to take unpaid time off work to attend up to two antenatal appointments.
All new mothers are entitled to statutory maternity leave of 26 weeks for ordinary maternity leave, and 26 weeks of additional maternity leave. It’s illegal to allow a woman to return to work within two weeks of childbirth, or four weeks for factory work. Every mother has the right to return to work for one year after having a baby.
If a mother is dismissed for any reason related to childbirth or pregnancy, then she has the right to claim unfair dismissal and discrimination based on pregnancy/maternity and potentially sex discrimination. Written reasons must be supplied if she is dismissed.
Adoptive parents enjoy equivalent leave and pay entitlements. All employed parents retain a legal right to parental bereavement leave.
How does employment law benefit the employer?
Employment law codifies and makes clear the principles on which people are employed. It clarifies the relationship between the employer and the employee, removing grey areas and creating consistency.
Employment law provides employers with a clear set of guidelines when it comes to recruitment, employment practice, pay and holidays, discrimination and disciplinary processes.
When used correctly, employment law can help employers navigate complex and challenging situations and provides legal protection from unfair claims by employees or former employees.
What laws could affect a business?
There is a comprehensive range of legislation that may impact a business. For that reason, it’s important to ensure that you understand employment law, particularly those aspects of the law that may relate to your business. Not all laws and regulations will be applicable to every business.
It’s important to seek legal advice regarding employment law if you have any concerns, doubts, or questions.