• 24 January 2014

What do employers need to know about employment law?

To offer the best and therefore the most productive working environment for your staff, whatever the size of your business, an awareness of employment law is essential. Not being aware of employment law or upcoming changes to it could be expensive for you as an employer, especially as from April this year a financial penalty can be applied to employers in breach of employment rights.

The area of employment law is huge with much legislation covering many areas, but there are a few main areas where both employers and employees should know their rights and responsibilities. 

Statutory rights for workers and obligations for employers

There are certain minimum statutory rights which members of your workforce are entitled to. The levels of these and the starting points have some variations so it is important to take relevant advice.

All employees are entitled to take paid time off for trade union duties, maternity and adoption leave, antenatal care and the right to unpaid parental care leave. If they are sick they have the right to statutory sick pay as a minimum entitlement. Employees aged 16 and 17 are entitled to time off for study and training. All workers have the right to be paid the national minimum wage according to their age and status and, of course, the right to equal pay regardless of gender. At the moment as the law stands, workers with children under 17 and carers have the right to request flexible working hours. During 2014 this will be extended to all staff and employers will have a duty to respond to this request in a reasonable manner and within a reasonable time scale.

Contractual obligations and statements of employment

Contracts of work and statements of employment are an important part of British employment law. All employees should receive a written statement of their terms of employment within two months of commencing work and should receive itemised payslips from day one of their employment. 

Contracts of work are a vital communication tool between you and your staff but they must not be in breach of statutory rights. For example, a contract only giving 14 days paid annual leave is illegal, as an employee is entitled to a minimum of 28 days paid leave a year. Written contracts should contain, as minimum, full details of job titles, wages, hours of work, sick pay, pension details, notice periods and grievance and disciplinary procedures. UK employment law sets a maximum working week of 48 hours so a contract cannot legally exceed this. 

All of your staff have a right to a stake in a pension scheme and eligible job holders should be enrolled in an appropriate scheme within six weeks of joining your company. Staff have the right not to face disciplinary procedures for 'whistleblowing' about safety and good practice, and of course, employers have many statutory obligations concerning health and safety! 

This brief outline just skims the surface of employment law which would in itself fill many law manuals. 

As an employer you have a legal and a moral duty to ensure that either you or someone responsible within your company is making sure your staff are fully protected and are aware of the different levels of obligation to different types of workers.

You will find that a secure and happy workforce is a productive workforce. 


Further information

Newton’s Solicitors

Newtons was established in June 2009 and has quickly grown to the current team of 28 people within five offices. Newton’s cover all areas of law for both private individual’s and for businesses.