What Is Employment law?
Employment law is the field of law that regulates relationships between employers and the people who work for them.
Some issues that come under employment law include employment contracts, health and safety regulations, maternity and parental leave, grievance and discipline procedures, discrimination, dismissal and redundancy procedures, as well as some matters relating to recruitment procedures. Employment law is also about ensuring that employees are protected in the workplace, and have access to all of their legal employment rights.
Employee Rights & Employer Responsibilities
The rights of employees in the workplace include:
- Statutory rights, such as the right to be paid at least the national minimum wage, to receive an itemised payslip, to a certain amount of annual paid holiday time, and the right to a reasonable amount of unpaid leave.
- Contractual rights, as detailed in an employment contract. Contractual rights are not required to be provided by law, which means the contractual rights granted can differ between employers of different companies, or between employees of the same company.
- A safe working environment, in accordance to health and safety law. This means, for instance, that an employer must take any measures necessary to minimise the risk of harm to employees or visitors in the workplace.
As such, it’s the responsibility of employers to ensure that their employees have access to all of the rights they are entitled to by law.
Employees also have certain obligations to meet. For example, employees assume some responsibility for maintaining a healthy and safe workplace. This means that they must follow safety procedures or use protective equipment if it’s specified by their employer, and follow their employer’s reporting procedures in the event of an accident.
Issues & Processes Involved In Employment Law
Employment law involves a wide range of issues, and an equally wide range of processes are used to regulate employment law procedures and resolve related disputes.
Some of the common procedures involved in employment law include disciplinary and grievance procedures. Disciplinary procedures are those initiated by an employer (or an employee’s superior), while grievance procedures are those initiated by an employee who has a complaint about another employee or their employer.
Disciplinary procedures are those initiated by an employer when they have a problem with an employee’s work, attendance, or workplace behaviour.
In order to ensure that employees are treated fairly and not wrongfully dismissed when problems arise, employment law dictates a code of practice that must be followed. This code of practice is developed by the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (ACAS). If the code of practice isn’t followed correctly, an employee may have grounds to appeal to an employment tribunal if they are unfairly disciplined or dismissed.
- The process starts when an employer sends a letter to the employee to explain the problem.
- The employer or the employee’s manager schedules a meeting to discuss the problem, and to give the employee an opportunity to offer an explanation if they have one.
- After the meeting a disciplinary decision is made by the employer. For instance, they might decide the employee isn’t at fault for the problem, or they might give the employee a written warning, demote them, or even dismiss them. The ACAS code of practice includes guidelines about what is considered appropriate action, to ensure that employees aren’t punished harshly for minor problems.
- The employee can appeal the decision if they feel it’s unfair. A second meeting is scheduled for further discussion, after which the employer makes a final decision, and notifies the employee via letter.
The same code of practice also outlines procedures that must be followed when an employee has a grievance they want to have addressed. If an employee raises an issue informally and they feel that it’s not dealt with to their satisfaction, they can raise a grievance, or formal complaint. Once a grievance has been raised, an employer must deal with it in accordance with methods outlined by the ACAS code of practice.
- To start the grievance process, an employee sends a letter to their employer, with details about the grievance and how they would like it to be resolved.
- Next, the employer schedules a meeting with the employee to discuss the grievance.
- At the meeting, both parties discuss the grievance, and try to either resolve it, or discuss ways it could be resolved.
- After the meeting, the employer sends a letter to the employee to explain how they have decided to deal with the grievance.
- If the employee isn’t happy with their employer’s decision, they have the right to formally contest it. To do this they must send a letter to their employer explaining why they are appealing the decision.
- A second meeting is scheduled to discuss the grievance again, following similar procedures as the first. After the meeting the employer will send a letter to the employee with their decision.
- If the employee still isn’t satisfied with the outcome they have the option to seek outside help. For instance, they might opt for mediation, or may go to the employment tribunal.
How Can A Solicitor Help?
For both employers and employees, a solicitor or law firm can offer assistance and advice in a number of different ways. However, while employees tend to take legal advice only when they are involved in a workplace dispute, for employers, there’s often a need to use the services of a solicitor on a more regular basis.
- For employers and employees, a solicitor can offer legal advice on any issues relating to employment law.
- For employees, they can offer advice on their legal rights in a disciplinary or grievance matter, and offer advice on how to proceed with their case.
- For employers, they offer advice on dealing with absence and attendance, health and safety, contract management, and other issues, to help employers comply with employment law and meet their obligations to their employees.
- They can act as an advocate or representative in certain kinds of disputes between employers and employees. For instance, a solicitor might be involved in mediation or negotiation, employment-related litigation cases, or cases where an employee appeals to the employment tribunal.