What is Employment Law?
Employment law is a field of law that covers the rights, obligations and responsibilities that employers and employees have towards each other. It mostly deals with the relationship between employers and employees. Other areas that employment law covers include workplace safety, discrimination, wrongful termination and most importantly, wages. Practitioners in employment laws are referred to as employment solicitors. They can represent either employers or employees and in some rare cases, both parties.
An employment contract sometimes referred to as a contract of employment is an agreement between two parties, in this case, an employer and employee stating all the details of the relationship. In an employment contract, the most crucial clause is one that explains that one of the parties will work for the other in exchange for financial compensation. In the UK, the law does not mandate that every business must give an employment contract to its employee. However, it is still crucial in every employer-employee relationship, especially if issues arise in the future. The law, however, requires that the worker must be given specific information about the basics of their role within the first two months of working for a business.
In most cases, especially when it comes to middle and low-wage employment, the contracts are verbal. Verbal agreements can also be considered as a part of an official contract. However, oral agreements may not be as helpful as written contracts when issues like payment disputes or wrongful terminations arise. The reason is that if there is no tangible evidence of an agreement or contract, the law may not recognize it.
MSRubric specialist employment law solicitors in Bristol can assist with the full range of employment law issues. If you have a problem contact them for help.
Instances when employers or employees may need assistance from solicitors;
Employees have specific rights and protections that regulate their relationship with their employers. However, many are times when issues occur that warrant the need for employment law. These instances include;
• Discrimination - employment law dictates that employees, including prospective ones, may not be subjected to discrimination in the work environment. There are different types of discrimination that fall into this category. They include; gender, racial or nationality. Discrimination against other characteristics like disabilities also falls in this category.
• Sexual harassment - employment law also sees to it that workers and prospective employees are not subjected to any form of sexual harassment. This includes instances where inappropriate behaviour makes it difficult for an employee to work or perform well in the workplace. Sexual harassment can consist of touching, sexually harassing language, and discrimination of sexual nature.
• Lawful termination - employers may not fire an employee out of retaliation or any wrong motive. If they do so, the employees have the right to file a legal complaint. Firing an employee because of their characteristics like race, gender, or pregnancy also falls in the category of wrongful termination.
• Wage and hours - employers are obliged by the law to provide at least minimum wage when an employee works for more than 40 hours per week. This means that the number of hours should be equivalent to the payment that they receive. Failure to abide by these conditions by the employment law may lead to a lawsuit.
• Unsafe working environment- the law recommends that employers should create a safe working environment for their staff. For instance, a company dealing with dangerous raw materials and chemicals has the responsibility of protecting its workforce from work-related to danger from the materials. Failure to do so is a cause for action in employment law. The law also warrants that those in charge should take financial responsibility for any at work accidents if the unsafe working environment prompts them.
Note; Certain employers, especially those with a limited number of employees or small businesses, may not be bound by some of the elements of employment laws. Additionally, some laws warrant that an employee should have worked for a certain amount of time for the employer before the laws protect them.
What counts as unfair termination or dismissal?
Unfair dismissal is one of the most causes of action in employment law. This law protects any employee that has worked for an employer for two or more years continually. An employee can request action by employment law when fired because of issues like discrimination, retaliation, refusal to partake in illegal or demeaning acts. On the other hand, the employer is allowed to fire an employee for reasons like redundancy, lack of capability, poor conduct, illegality, and other reasons.
The difference between unfair, constructive dismissal and wrongful dismissal
As mentioned earlier, unfair dismissal is mostly termination of employment because of unfair reasons like discrimination. On the other hand, constructive dismissal is when an employer breaches a critical term in the working or employment contract. For instance, if the working conditions in the workplace are so unpleasant that the employee finds it impossible to maintain their role. Additionally, wrongful dismissal occurs when an employer does not give a statutory or contractual notice before dismissing an employee. The amount of time on the notice should adhere to the terms of the initial employment contract. Wrongful dismissal cannot be claimed if there was no initial contract of employment (written).
Employment laws in the UK
Employment law legislation pieces differ from one country to the other. This means that the employment laws in the US are not similar to those in the UK and other parts of the world. Below are some essential aspects of employment law legislation in the UK;
• 1996 Employment Rights Act - this law covers various topics like employment contracts, unfair termination, family-friendly leave and redundancy, among others. It is the most inclusive employment law legislation in the UK.
• 1998 National Minimum Wage Act - This one covers the areas of wage and hours. It also covers the amount of money that falls in the category of a minimum wage. This amount changes from time to time.
• 1999 Employment Relations Act - this one covers the rights that employees have at work as recognized by the trade union and industrial action.
• 1999 Maternity and Parental Leave Regulations - this one details the protections and rights that employees have when it comes to taking maternity and paternity leave and the payment details.
• 2010 Agency Workers Regulations - this employment law regulation aims to help prevent discrimination against agency workers. For instance, it makes sure that agency workers get the right amount of wages and are provided with safe working conditions.
• 2000 Part-time Workers Regulations - this one aims at allowing employees to get part-time contracts with comparable contracts as full-time staff.
• 2006 Transfer of Undertakings Regulations - this one is more focused on the rights of employees in the process of transferring the ownership of a business. The aim is to make sure that the staff is treated fairly in the process and by the new employers.
What happens when an employment law action is taken?
When you decide to take action against an employer, the first thing you do is to contact an employment lawyer. The lawyer will present a case that will be heard before an employment tribunal. An employment tribunal is a hearing that takes place before an employment judge. Sometimes, two lay members may be present depending on the type of claim. The employment judge decides on the action to be taken over issues like unfair dismissal