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 oversee it appropriately.
In a nutshell, employment law is an employer’s legal responsibility 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, including pay, discrimination, annual leave, hours, grievances and discipline.
Employment laws aim 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 is 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.
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‘.
Employees are entitled to a minimum of 5.6 weeks paid leave per year, according to the National Minimum Wage Act. 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.
Employment legislation dictates that you must treat all your staff, or potential employees if this is a recruitment situation. 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.
There is some flexibility when it comes to sickness absence, so you should create and implement your own policy, and 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.
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.
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 of 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.
How Can an HR Company Help With UK Employment Law
Bringing new employees into your business isn’t easy. The UK and Europe have very strict and comprehensive lists of employment laws that come into play as soon as you make a job offer. Then there are health and safety, parental leave, employment tribunals, working relationships, and so much more that employment law covers.
Businesses often outsource services to receive support and advice with employment laws in order to ensure that they are compliant even as and when laws change. HR companies, like Guardian Support, can support your business with up-to-date and relevant legal support.
If your business is in breach of any employment laws, it can be detrimental to your business, costing you money, and talent and tarnishing your business’s reputation. The average clearance time of a single claim at an employment tribunal is 30 weeks, and the average cost to a business £8,500.00.
What is Employment Law to an HR Company?
HR companies look at HR law from a very broad perspective. It exists in many different forms and certainly affects your business directly or indirectly. It exists to regulate the relationship between businesses and their employees, and it ultimately aims to protect the rights of both employers and employees in a number of ways.
Employment law issues could refer to anything from your employee’s contract, to laws preventing discrimination in the workplace. Employment Law is mostly aimed at protecting employees in the workplace, highlighting the relavant employee rights. Some basic examples of employment rights are the prevention of age discrimination, bullying or harassment, discrimination based on disability, race, sexuality or gender and basic workers rights such as minimum wage, working hours and holidays.
How is Employment Law Enforced by Businesses and HR Companies During Recruitment
UK Employment laws are enforced by HR companies largely during the recruitment process. There are a number of different factors that need to be taken into account when assessing applications, interviewing and getting a new employee in.
Discrimination during the interview process is one of the main concerns for a HR company. With discrimination in the interview process being under the spotlight from media sources, it’s more important than ever to comply. Employees can take companies to a tribunal if they suggest foul play, where valuable time and money are lost.
This means that employers and employment agencies cannot discriminate when deciding to employ and during employment. Employees and agency workers have a list of protected characteristics, where it is illegal to be discriminated against over them. These characteristics are a list of fundamental ones, including age, sex, disability, religion and sexual orientation.
Enforcing this is an exhaustive process that HR companies undertake as HR professionals who are experienced in dealing with and complying with these hiring practices and workplace-related issues. They understand how to draft up a non-discriminatory job advert and select a suitable range of candidates so you can focus on the skills of the candidates rather than anything else. When outsourcing this service, HR companies can help your business prepare effectively for interviews by preparing questions that avoid all discrimination, as well as understanding how to conduct interviews fairly and effectively. They are impartial sources, where they can offer jobs objectively and will always record decisions and processes so things are accountable.
If your company has signed up for Level 2 of the Disability Confident scheme, the employers should ensure that equal opportunities to interview are present. Being a member of this gives your company greater validity for all those looking to apply for positions, so it is beneficial for your company to partake in this equal treatment scheme. This scheme allows those with a disability who possess relevant skills or meet the minimum criteria for the job post to have a guaranteed interview. While the agreement is not legally binding, it will be hard to not be in breach of legal duties under the Equality Act. HR companies will ensure that the hiring process is compliant with these agreements to avoid any disputes.
The final step is when contracts are signed. So much money and time could be saved for your company over disputes if there is a clear and precise employment contract. It may seem obvious but many companies trip up at this hurdle, many don’t even have a formal contract. HR Companies have access to great legal professionals for advice on how to draft up the best contract. This includes clear start and end dates and, most importantly, clear language to describe processes involved in termination. The highest sum awarded in an employment tribunal claim was £1,744,575.56 for unfair dismissal, so avoiding these claims is essential for the financial health of your business.
How Guardian Support Ensures Continued Enforcement of Employment Law
Guardian Support doesn’t just stop at that, continued enforcement of contractual and employment laws are necessary. As mentioned above, tribunal claims can add up, and these will mostly be from existing companies claiming their employer broke employment law during their term of employment.
Making sure that employment contracts stay up to date to ensure the company keeps up with any legal changes and the changing relationship employees have with the company, by preparing letters amending the contract. This includes promotions where job duties increase or having access to confidential materials changes.
HR companies, like Guardian Support, help keep UK employers and businesses away from employment tribunals with continued support, whether that be from an in-house rep or through external communications. This is done through consultancy visits, where we ensure that your business is still undertaking best practices in HR and employee relationships. Continued training for members of your organisation to prevent any work disputes or in the case of disputes, mediation is provided. Workplace mediations are a great cost-effective way to prevent tribunals.
How Guardian Can Help With Tribunals
If you find yourself in an unfortunate situation where you’re facing a tribunal over employment law, HR companies can still help at this stage. Employers will be at more risk of facing tribunals now as there was a scrap of tribunal fees. Claimants see little deterrence in pursuing formal action against their employers. The process can be expensive due to the time allocated towards it, HR companies can help you with the process as your legal representative and guide you to the quickest form of resolution.
Settling is oftentimes the best option for your business. An HR company can help you to come to these settlements with experience in the process, giving you the best settlement deal. This allows you to stay out of court, protecting not only your money but your reputation.
HR companies can provide a team of professionals who are experienced in the process. Whatever the claim, Guardian Support can support businesses throughout the journey.
If you need advice or support, please contact our friendly team at Guardian Support today.