Understanding employment law can be a challenge for even the most diligent of professionals. However, as problems do occasionally arise in the workplace, it would be extremely beneficial to have some practical knowledge of legal issues, including:
- Insufficient pay/benefits
- Unfair work practices
- Unfair dismissal
If you find yourself being confronted by a legal issue at work, it is vital that you know how to protect your rights and interests.
Contract of Employment
Before you begin working for an employer, there must be an employment contract in place. This will set out all the essential information you need concerning the duties and responsibilities of both you and your employer. For example, the contract will cover:
- Working hours
- Salary rates
- Holiday entitlement
For this reason, the content of the contract needs to be clear and concise. This will prevent any future misunderstandings or complications. If you have any doubts or misgivings about a specific provision of your employment contract, it is recommended that you consult a solicitor.
Before terminating your employment, your employer must take you through a disciplinary procedure. In 1996, the UK government introduced the Employment Rights Act, requiring employers to provide employees with a written statement regarding the organisation’s disciplinary policies. Accordingly, you need to be informed about why you are being subjected to a disciplinary hearing. This will offer you the opportunity to defend yourself or refute the charges.
If your employer fails to abide by the necessary proceedings, you could file a claim for unfair dismissal.
Unfair and Constructive Dismissal
If you believe that your employer has terminated your services unfairly, you can file a claim against them. However, timing is critical. You only have three months from the effective date of your dismissal to make a claim so it is advisable to seek advice from a solicitor immediately.
The UK government is well aware of the seriousness of workplace discrimination, which is why legislation has been introduced to protect employees from harsh or unfair treatment that is based on their:
If you have experienced discrimination in your workplace, you should consider filing a claim with the help of a solicitor. Depending on the strength of your case, you may be awarded compensation for any:
- Loss of earnings
- Injuries suffered
As a professional, you have the right to air grievances about your working conditions. Moreover, you should not be made to feel anxious about losing your job if you make a complaint. In fact, if you have lost your job or faced disciplinary action due to the fact that you aired a grievance, you should immediately seek employment law advice from a solicitor.
All employees have specific employment rights. For example:
- They must be paid the minimum wage (or above)
- There can be no unjust deductions from their wages
- They are entitled to paid holidays
- They have the right to work no more than an average of eight hours a day
- Part-time workers are protected against unfair treatment
If any or all of these statutory rights are being violated, you should seek advice from an employment law solicitor.
Salary and Other Benefits
Besides the legally mandated salary and paid holidays, you are also entitled to other benefits, such as:
- Sick pay and leave
- Maternity/paternity pay and leave
- Adoption pay and leave
- Shared parental pay and leave
Bullying and Harassment
Instances of bullying and harassment in the workplace can have a negative impact on your work and wellbeing. In addition, dealing with these issues can be both tiring and stressful. It is therefore vital that you inform your employer about a problem as soon as it arises. You can bring the matter to your supervisor’s attention either informally or formally. The important thing is to make sure the issues are resolved quickly and fairly.
If you experience bullying and harassment at work and it is being ignored by your manager, you may need to consult a solicitor.
Transfer of Undertakings (TUPE)
TUPE was established in 2006 to protect employees if their company is bought or taken over by a new owner. The objective was to ensure the continuity of employment. The rules make it clear that any new employer needs to recognise and honour the terms of existing employment contracts.
However, TUPE doesn’t apply to:
- Businesses outside the UK
- Employees made redundant
- Insolvent businesses
If your company owes you money (unpaid salary), you have the right to file a claim regardless of whether you are protected by TUPE. The new employer will pay the remaining balance in TUPE transfers if the National Insurance Fund payment is not enough to cover your owed salary.
There are also other circumstances in which you are not protected by TUPE. For instance, if your contract is for:
- Supplying goods to a company (e.g., a food supplier to a restaurant)
- Single-event or short-term work (e.g., catering at a large corporate event)
Changes to your employment terms and conditions or a reduction in pay are allowed under TUPE if this will help prevent job losses. However, such changes are permitted only if you and your trade union agree to them. Furthermore, the agreement should not violate any of your statutory employment rights. For instance, your salary must not be below the national minimum wage.
Company reorganisation can lead to redundancies and job losses. However, before you can be made redundant, your employer should consult you first or provide you with prior notice. In addition, the reason for the redundancy should be:
Nevertheless, if you believe that the dismissal is unfair, you should seek legal advice immediately.
Employers can add restrictive covenants to your employment contract. Often, these provisions will prevent you from taking specific actions for a certain period of time once you have left the company. These restrictions can include:
- Joining or forming a competing company
- Soliciting your former employer’s existing customers
- Poaching your former colleagues or encouraging them to leave
When it comes to exposing an employer’s illegal actions, the fear of losing one’s job is a powerful deterrent. However, in the UK, there is legal protection in place for those who wish to ‘blow the whistle’.
If your employment has been terminated or you have suffered some sort of retribution, it is critical that you seek legal advice as soon as possible. You may need to take your claim to an employment tribunal. Make sure you employ a solicitor to represent you and advise you about your rights.
You should be careful when signing a settlement or compromise agreement as the legal jargon may confuse you to such an extent that you unknowingly surrender your rights. Before signing a settlement agreement, consult a solicitor.
As an employee, you need to be aware of your legal rights in the workplace. Moreover, as employment law is constantly evolving, you should update your knowledge by using online resources or by speaking to a solicitor.
Even basic knowledge of employment law can help you deal with specific legal issues relating to your job. If a conflict arises concerning your duties and responsibilities, you should review your employment contract to make sure all your bases are covered. In this way, you can try to settle any legal problems with your employer amicably. By this time, however, you may need the advice or services of a solicitor. If you cannot agree on a suitable resolution, your solicitor will need all the relevant information about your claim.