What is Employment Law?

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The term ’employment law’ is used a lot in business and, as an employer, it’s very important that you not only understand the term but that you are aware of the issues that fall under this area of business management and how to appropriately oversee it.

Employment law, in a nutshell, is the legal responsibilities of an employer regarding their employees. These laws establish the relationship between employer and employee by setting out rights and expectations which protect staff and create a standard and fair practice across all industries and business sizes.

It covers all aspects of an employee’s career from the recruitment stage to the moment they leave not limited to but including pay, discrimination, annual leave, hours, grievances and discipline.

The purpose of employment laws is to protect employees and enable employers to set out responsibilities and expectations in a clear and standardised way.

Employment Laws You Need to Know About

There are an extensive list of employment laws, and you need to be familiar with all of them even if they don’t currently apply to you, i.e. maternity leave if you don’t have any pregnant women on your staff.

Here is just a little overview of some of the top priority employment laws that all employers must be aware of:

National Minimum Wage and National Living Wage
There is a National Minimum Wage and National Living Wage across various age groups that all businesses must abide by.

It does increase annually so it’s important that you check you’re up to date with the current rates.

Working Hours
The law states that employees cannot work more than 48 hours a week on average, unless the employee chooses to opt out of this regulation; it also provides minimum break times.

For further information, check out our recent blog post ‘Do I Have To Pay My Employees For Working Overtime‘.

Annual Leave
Employees are entitled to a minimum of 5.6 weeks’ paid leave per year, this includes the eight bank holidays.

It is down to the employer whether they provide more or if there are certain workplace closures that will fall into this number.

Discrimination
You must treat all your staff, or potential employees if this is a recruitment situation, equally. Any unfavourable treatment based on any of the protected characteristics (gender, race, religion, sexual orientation, age, ethnicity etc.) is classed as discrimination and is unlawful.

Sickness Absence
There is some flexibility when it comes to sickness absence so you should create and implement your own policy, then communicate it to employees.

You must, however, pay Statutory Sick Pay if your employee is on sick leave for four or more days and you do have the right to dismiss an employee for taking too much sickness absence unless they have a disability or serious medical illness. But you must ensure the proper process is followed.

Discipline
Again, you will need to establish a clear disciplinary policy from day one as there is some flexibility in how this can be dealt with depending on each individual situation.

You must follow a fair and reasonable procedure using the ACAS Code of Practice as a guideline to avoid any unfair dismissal claims.

Equal Pay
The Equal Pay Act protects women from being paid less than their male counterparts which has been an issue for many years.

This means that if there is a man and woman doing the same job, the same hours and have a similar number of years’ service then they should be getting paid the same amount unless there is a very clear and justifiable reason i.e. performance indicators.

The introduction of the Gender-Pay Gap Reporting Law also means that companies with 250 or more employees have to be very transparent about what they are paying their employees making it more difficult to ignore inequality in the workplace.

For further information on current Employment Laws or for external support on dealing with Employment Law in your workplace, give us a call on 0845 2626 260.

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