Employment law regulates the relationships between employees and workers, to protect the rights of employees, as well as to ensure that employers and workers meet their workplace obligations.
Issues of Employment Law
Employment law covers a wide range of workplace issues, including contracts, grievance and discipline protocols, health and safety, parental leave, harassment and discrimination, parental leave, and redundancy and dismissal.
Rights and responsibilities of employers and workers
Employers are tasked with the responsibility to ensure their employees have access to all the rights they're entitled to. This includes:
Statutory rights: these are employee rights that are granted by law, and which apply to all employees. For instance, the right to be paid at least the national minimum wage; to receive an itemised payslip; to have a minimum amount of paid holiday leave; the right to a certain amount of unpaid leave.
Contractual rights: an employee's rights as indicated in their contract. These are not required by law, but are items that an employee negotiates for. Contractual rights are therefore not universal – they differ across companies and industries. Some examples include perks such as a company car or travel allowance, or additional annual leave.
A safe working environment: the workplace health and safety standards must meet what's required by law, and an employer must take any measures needed to make sure their workplace meets those standards.
Employees also have obligations. For instance, employees share the responsibility for maintaining a safe workplace environment, meaning they're obligated to follow safety procedures, use provided safety equipment, and report accidents or injuries as required by their employer.
Disciplinary and Grievance Processes
In employment law there are codes of practice that regulate how grievances and disciplinary actions are initiated, discussed, and resolved. These procedures have been codified to ensure that both employers and workers can have their concerns addressed fairly. Under UK employment law, disciplinary and grievance issues are resolved according to codes of practice developed by the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service.
Grievances are complaints made by an employee relating to either the workplace or a colleague with whom they work. Employees have the option of petitioning the Employment Tribunal if a grievance isn’t resolved to their satisfaction.
The grievance process begins when an employee notifies their employer—typically by letter or email—about the problem they’re having. They include details about the grievance, how it’s affecting them, and how they would like it to be resolved.
Next the employer schedules a meeting with the employee. At the meeting they discuss the problem and try to come up with a fair solution for resolving it.
After the meeting is over the employer sends a letter to the employee explaining what they have decided to do to resolve the grievance. If the employee isn’t happy with the outcome they can formally contest their employer’s decision. To do this they send a letter to their employer to explain why they want to appeal.
The two parties have another meeting to discuss the grievance, after which the employer makes a second decision and notifies the employee of the outcome. If the employee is still unhappy with the decision they can seek outside help, for instance by requesting mediation, or by notifying the employment tribunal.
Disciplinary issue arise when an employer or manager has an issue with an employee who works for or under them. To initiate the procedure, an employer sends a letter to the employee, explaining the nature of the problem. They also schedule a meeting to discuss the issue, and so that the employee has the opportunity to explain their position.
After the meeting the employer makes a decision about what disciplinary measures will be taken. These can range from a written warning to a demotion or even dismissal. The ACAS has developed guidelines to help employers decide on what disciplinary measures are appropriate in each case, so that employees are not punished too harshly.
Employees have the right to appeal decisions they feel are unfair. They can request a second meeting to discuss the matter further. After the second meeting the employer makes a final decision—which may or may not be different from their original decision—and notified the employee.
ACAS codes of practice ensure that employees are treated fairly, and are not at risk of wrongful dismissal when they are disciplined by an employer, or when they notify their employer of a grievance. If the ACAS codes of practice aren’t followed correctly, an employee has grounds for appeal if they are wrongfully or unfairly disciplined or dismissed.
In some circumstances an employment law solicitor may be required to help resolve the issues between the employer and the employee so that a satisfactory outcome can be achieved. This is usually required when an agreement cannot be made between the two parties such as an employer being unfair towards an employee or an employee demanding more than is really justified.