An Employer's Guide to Employment Law

It's a familiar truism that prevention is better than cure.

So when it comes to protecting your business from costly and destructive legal proceedings, never will this maxim ring more true.

Running a company requires you to have a working knowledge of your legal obligations and responsibilities – but the seemingly endless stream of new legislation can be difficult to deal with.

Consequently, the need for protective action is crucial.

When it comes to litigation, negotiation or mediation, you need an expert legal team you can call on for specialist advice, with a strategy in place to minimise the risk of legal action.

Put simply, if you're an employer, it's imperative you do everything in your power to meet the relevant rules and regulations to protect yourself and your employees.

With this in mind, read on for some of the most common topics you're likely to face as an employer ...

Written Statement of Employment

Whenever you employ a new member of staff, it's imperative they receive a written statement of employment, irrespective of how many hours they work each week.

You must ensure this is supplied to the new employee within two months of them commencing their role, and it must include the main terms of their employment, including:

  • Job title
  • Rate of pay
  • Working hours
  • Entitlement to holidays
  • Sick pay details
  • Pension scheme (if applicable)
  • Notice period
  • Grievance, dismissal and disciplinary procedure

It's important to note that the written statement of employment is an agreement between you and your new employee, put in place to prevent confusion as to each others' respective responsibilities.

Wages

It goes without saying that your employees are entitled to be paid for any work they carry out.

What's more, they should also be paid if they can't work due to sickness or if they require maternity, paternity, adoption or parental leave.

While the majority of your employees are entitled to the national minimum wage (NMW), some may be paid more depending on the terms of their contract.

Furthermore, your employees are entitled to a specific number of paid holidays every year.

Holidays

To comply with the Working Time Regulations, your full-time employees are entitled to a minimum of 28 days leave per year, including bank and public holidays.

Your part-time employees, on the other hand, are entitled to a pro rata amount.

Crucially, your employees' entitlement to holidays should be explicitly explained in the written statement of employment provided.

Time Off

As well as holidays and maternity, paternity, adoption or parental leave, your employees might be entitled to take time off for work for other commitments.

You will pay for not all of these requests but, among others, the list includes time off for:

  • Antenatal care
  • Accompanying a worker to a disciplinary or grievance hearing
  • Jury service
  • Public duties
  • Job hunting when faced with redundancy
  • Studying or training
  • Trade union duties and activities

Indeed, many of the reasons above are related directly to the business or for developing the skills of your employees.

Sickness Absence

Despite the number of days taken off work through sickness sitting at a record low, it's inevitable you will have to deal with employees who have taken ill.

Be mindful that all absences should be handled professionally and empathetically, with procedures in place to ensure your employee's return to work is negotiated in a safe and timely manner.

Importantly, you should be receptive to identifying areas where you can make your employees return to work more comfortable to avoid further sickness absence.

Although having a return to work policy is not a legal requirement, having a strategy mapped out will allow you and your employee to work together to ensure a smooth return.

During any period of absence, your employees have no statutory right to their usual pay, although the majority of employers will pay their employees for a period during their absence.

Regardless of the situation, as an employer you'll typically pay Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) if an employee is absent for four consecutive days or more.

This is payable at a flat weekly rate for up to 28 weeks.

Health and Safety

It's vitally important that your employees feel safe at work.

As an employer, you have a statutory duty to ensure the health and safety of your employees and visitors, making sure you do whatever is "reasonably practicable" to achieve this.

You must make sure your employees are protected from anything that may cause them harm, and carry out risk assessments to address any potential dangers in the workplace.

There are also rules, among many others, surrounding:

  • Noise
  • Toilets
  • Drinking water
  • Temperature
  • Use of computers

If you require further guidance on what you must do to make your business comply with health and safety law, read this guide produced by the Health and Safety Executive.

However, if an employee feels there has already been a breach of health and safety regulations, they may wish to raise a grievance against the company – and this is where Ashby Cohen can help.

Indeed, we can help you with a broad spectrum of employment law issues, thanks to six decades of combined experience dealing with legal issues in the workplace.

Browse our full range of employment law topics by clicking here, or take the time to get in touch with a member of the team here at Ashby Cohen – we'd be delighted to answer your questions.