The importance of keeping up to date with employment law
Published 18 December 2017
It has never been more important for employers to be up to date with ever changing and complex employment law legislation.
Many employers may have been lulled into a false sense of security in recent years given the dramatic fall in the number of employment tribunal claims.
Tribunal fees were seen as a huge barrier to employees pursuing legal action against employers. The fees were scrapped in July after a Supreme Court ruling (1) .
Earlier this year the Ministry of Justice published a review of the fees. It revealed that the number cases taken to employment tribunals had fallen by 70 per cent after the charge was introduced four years ago (2) .
In light of this an employer’s exposure to this type of claim is likely to have been limited with many aggrieved employees deterred by the prospect of having to pay to pursue any feelings of injustice.
With this significant barrier removed it is crucial for employers to ensure that staff training is up to date in order to prevent and deal with tribunal claims.
Failing to comply with employment law does not only carry a threat from employees, it can also lead to prosecution which can be damaging and costly for any organisation.
Employment law controls the relationship that employers have with employees. It governs what employers can expect from employees, what employers can ask employees to do, and employees’ rights at work.
The three main sources of UK employment law are:
· Common law: the employment contract forms the legal basis of the employer and employee working relationship.
· European Law: has been especially important in equal pay, discrimination and employees’ rights on business transfers.
· Statue: includes legalisation such as Health and Safety at Work Act, Disability Discrimination Act, National Minimum Wage Act and Employment Relations Act.
Companies that have fallen foul of this legislation have been named and shamed and hit with heavy fines.
Following a case at Lincoln Crown Court one of the world’s largest oil and gas companies was fined £3m for health and safety breaches, although no injuries occurred (3)
A record £2m in back pay will go to 13,000 low paid workers after 233 employers were caught cheating them of the minimum wage. As well as being publically named the employers have been fined £1.9m for illegally under-paying workers (4) .
The two examples highlight the importance of keeping up to date with developments, considering policies and applying them with great care (5) .
Key aspects of employment law include:
· Recruitment: areas of law to be considered in recruitment include discrimination, the right to work in the UK and the terms and conditions of employment.
· Employee rights: they must be provided with a safe and healthy working environment, have the right to belong to a trade union, can blow the whistle in regards to any wrongdoing and after more than one months’ service they are entitled to a notice period.
· Working parents: are entitled to maternity rights, shared parental leave, adoption leave and pay and unpaid time off to look after their child.
·Disciplinary and grievance issues: Must fully understand and fairly apply the procedures to deal with difficulties in the workplace and working relationship
· Discrimination: an employer must no discriminate unlawfully and treat an employee less favourably because of age, disability, gender reassignment, marriage and civil partnership, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion or belief, sex, sexual orientation.
Employment law is complex and getting it wrong can be expensive. If you need any support our dedicated HR support at Castle Associates can provide confidential and no obligation advice free of charge. Call us today on 0800 028 45 51 or request a call back.
1. Hughes L. Government’s employment tribunal fees are “illegal”, Supreme Court rules. The Telegraph [Internet]. 2017 Jul 26 [cited 2017 Nov 26]; Available from: https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2017/07/26/governments-employment-tribunal-fees-illegal-supreme-court-rules/
2. Review of the introduction of fees in the Employment Tribunals - GOV.UK [Internet]. [cited 2017 Nov 26]. Available from: https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/review-of-the-introduction-of-fees-in-the-employment-tribunals
3. Oil giant fined £3m for gas leak. BBC News [Internet]. 2016 Feb 8 [cited 2017 Nov 25]; Available from: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-lincolnshire-35526617
4. Record £2 million back pay identified for 13,000 of the UK’s lowest paid workers - GOV.UK [Internet]. [cited 2017 Nov 26]. Available from: https://www.gov.uk/government/news/record-2-million-back-pay-identified-for-13000-of-the-uks-lowest-paid-workers
5. Employment Law Update - Key Dates for 2017. 2012 Sep 14 [cited 2017 Nov 27]; Available from: https://www.acas.org.uk/index.aspx?articleid=3909