UK employment law is a very complex area that deals with the employee and employer relationship. The aim of this guide is to raise awareness of what you are entitled to and provide information on problems that may arise.
You are an employer if you are an individual or organisation that hires employees and pays them wages and salaries. But, not everyone you pay may be your employee.
Depending on your business needs, you can take on workers on a zero hour contracts, where you do not have to offer a minimum amount or fixed hours of work. The worker has the choice whether to accept any of the work offered. As an employer, you should let any worker on an zero hour contract know their employment status based on the nature of the relationship in practice, which may not always match with what the contract says.
The rights afforded by employment laws in the UK depend on an individual's status as an employee, a worker, or self-employed.
Employees are those working under a contract of employment. Of the three, they are offered the most rights, including the right to maternity/paternity leave and statutory redundancy pay, as well as all of the core rights offered to workers.
The definition of a worker is broad but roughly, it is anyone who provides services personally to an employer. They are offered core rights, such as the right to not be unfairly dismissed, the right to minimum wage, and holiday pay.
The self-employed are offered the fewest rights, and no restrictions with regard to pay or holiday, for the simple reason that they are their own employer.
Offered to all employees and most workers, statutory rights cover areas such as:
All employees are entitled to receive written confirmation of all of the terms and conditions of their employment, and a contract which can be written or verbal, within two months of beginning employment.
This contract is a legally binding document and contains details of all the specifics of the employee's conditions of work. This will include the statutory rights, as well as any other benefits or rights awarded at the employer's discretion.
These specifics will also include the employee's salary, as well as details of any company sick pay schemes, amount of paid holiday offered, and the notice period (and, if relevant, a Payment in Lieu of Notice (PILON) clause).
The contract should also detail the company's redundancy scheme. There is a set method of calculation used to work out the legal minimum for redundancy pay, though often employers will have in place a scheme offering over and above this legal minimum.
Finally, the contract of employment should state the company's disciplinary and grievance procedure.
All companies and businesses should have in place disciplinary and grievance procedures, detailing the appropriate course of action in either case. This also applies to dismissal.
Correct procedure must be followed at all times, and if not the employee has reason to take the employer to an employment tribunal and put forward their case there.
Grievances are complaints or concerns raised by the employee with regard to, for example, unfair pay or an apparent breach of contract by the employer. Grievances must be raised officially, and should be done following the General Code of Practice set out by the Arbitration and Conciliation Advisory Service (ACAS).
Disciplinary action is action taken by an employer, in response to an employee's apparent misconduct of some sort. As with grievances and dismissals, correct procedure must be followed strictly throughout. While the disciplinary procedure is going on, the employee in question may be suspended, but will still receive full pay and retain their rights during this period.
The first port of call for any dispute in the workplace should be an attempt at internal resolution but if this fails then the case may be brought to an employment tribunal.
The tribunal acts like a small court, presided over by a panel of three who, if ruling in favour of an aggrieved employee, will award compensation of some form relevant to the case in question. This may be monetary compensation or, in cases of unfair dismissal for example, may lead to the ex-employee being reinstated in either their original position, or an alternative position, with the same employer.
In taking a case to a tribunal, the employee has the right to be accompanied by an employment law solicitor, who may advise them on their case.
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