Employment Law Advice Essex and Herts
Our qualified and experienced employment law solicitors can offer tailor made advice on all aspects of employment law, including:
- Unfair dismissal
- Working Time Regulations
- Disciplinary Procedures
- Settlement Agreements
- Tribunal Proceedings
You can choose how you would like the advice, when you want it and how you obtain that advice – in person, in writing or by video conference, at a time that suits you – we do not operate a 9-5 service and you can choose when and how to contact us (subject to terms and conditions).
Employees working under an employment law contract have the right not to be unfairly dismissed. When an employee has been unfairly dismissed they may bring a claim before an employment tribunal.
Dismissal can occur when:
- The employer terminates employment (with or without notice);
- The employee resigns because the employer breaches an express term of the employment contract (known as constructive dismissal) or;
- A fixed-term contract expires.
There are two types of unfair dismissal claim:
Ordinary unfair dismissal – where the employee must have been continuously employed for two years and subsequently been dismissed for a specific unfair reason. Whether a dismissal was unfair will be determined by whether, in the circumstances leading up to the dismissal, the employer acted fairly in finding the reason for dismissal sufficient to warrant ending the employment relationship.
Dismissal will not be unfair where there are fair reasons for the dismissal; such as poor conduct, inability to perform the role, because the employee is not qualified or even to meet the needs of the business if the employee has become redundant. So long as dismissal is in one of the fair and reasonable courses of action the employer can take, dismissal will generally not be deemed to be unfair.
Automatic unfair dismissal – where the employee has been dismissed for a reason that is automatically unfair because it has been prohibited by law.
Dismissal will be automatically unfair where the employment relationship is terminated for a reason prohibited by law, such as:
- For making a flexible work request;
- For needing or taking pregnancy or maternity leave;
- For needing or taking paternity or adoption leave;
- For needing or taking parental leave to look after dependants;
- Whistleblowing; or,
- Asserting statutory rights, such as the right to annual leave, the minimum wage or working tax credits.
An unfair dismissal claim can only be brought up to three months after the employment relationship is terminated. If an employee has been unfairly dismissed and they bring a successful claim before an employment tribunal they could be re-employed or compensated for loss of earnings and other benefits such as pensions payments.
In order to promote equality in society and the workplace, the law protects certain characteristics. This means that a person applying for a job, an employee or a former employee may not be treated less favorably on the grounds of their race, disability, gender, religion or belief, gender, sexual orientation, age or because they are pregnant.
Furthermore, an employer may not pay an employee less than another for the same type of work.
Under the law also certain behaviour is also prohibited if it is in relation to the protected characteristics. Such behaviour includes:
- Direct, indirect or associative discrimination – this is where a person discriminates against another and the other person has a protected characteristic; where a provision, criterion or practice is implemented that puts a person with a protected characteristic at a particular disadvantage; or, the other person knows someone with a protected characteristic;
- Harassment – where a person engages in unwanted conduct in relation to a protected characteristic;
- Victimisation – where a person discriminates against another for alleging that there has been a breach of equality law or bringing proceedings or giving evidence in relation to an alleged breach;
- Disability-related discrimination – where a person treats a disabled person unfavourably because of a consequence of their disability. The law also places a duty on employers to make reasonable adjustments for disabled employees.
If an employee with a protected characteristic feels that they have been discriminated against, they can make a claim to an employment tribunal up to three months after the act of discrimination. If their claim is successful, they may be awarded compensation.
Working Time Regulations
The Working Time Regulations set out the maximum weekly working time, how patterns of work and holidays are to be regulated, and also the daily and weekly rest periods.
The Regulations also cover the health and working hours of night workers.
The main provisions of the Working Time Regulations provide rights to:
- A limit of 48 hours a week on average, on the hours a worker can be required to work. However, it is possible for individuals to work longer by “opting-out”.
- 5.6 weeks annual paid leave
- 11 consecutive hours rest from in any 24-hour period
- 20-minute rest breaks if the worker works longer than 6 hours
- At least one day off each week
- A limit of an average eight hours in any 24-hour period on the normal working hours of night workers
- And an entitlement for night workers to receive regular assessments of their health
There are also special protections for young workers. They are entitled to a 30 minute rest break when working longer than 4 and a half hours and are prohibited from working more than 8 hours a day and 40 hours a week. They are also entitled to two days off per week.
When an employee’s conduct or performance fall below that of what is expected, possibly because of timekeeping, unjustified absence or under performance, their employer may need to follow disciplinary procedures.
There is no process set by the law for disciplinary procedures, however ACAS publish a code of best practice for dealing with such matters. Any procedure that is put in place must be properly followed and the outcome must be reasonable. It is essential that employers set out a transparent procedure for disciplinary matters and also rules as to what amounts to unacceptable conduct or performance.
Employers must make sure they act expediently, consistently and fairly when dealing with disciplinary matters. Employers should give the employee a chance to be heard and to appeal if they don’t agree with a formal decision.
If a set disciplinary procedure is not followed, or the outcome of the procedure is unreasonable, the employer may be in breach of the employment contract. This can mean that the employee can bring a claim before an Employment Tribunal.
A settlement agreement is a legally binding contract that allows an employment relationship to come to an end or a workplace dispute to be resolved on mutually agreeable terms.
When an employee enters into a settlement agreement they agree that they cannot bring any employment claim, such as for unfair dismissal or discrimination, against their employer.
In return for this waiver of rights the employer will often agree to make a settlement payment and/or provide them with a reference.
Settlement agreements may be negotiated and entered into at any time during the employment relationship. Usually they are initiated by an employer who is looking to resolve an issue with an employee or end the employment relationship. The employer and employee will negotiate the terms of the agreement and a formal written agreement will be drawn up detailing the offer and conditions. The employee must be given independent advice on the terms of the agreement from a solicitor or other qualified person for the offer to be valid.
If the agreement is not drafted properly, and the employer pays out compensation, the employee may still be able to bring an employment tribunal claim thus it is important that settlement agreements are properly drafted.
Disputes about employment law are not heard in the usual civil courts. They are dealt with by specialist Employment Tribunals. Employment Tribunals are specialist bodies created to handle employment disputes.
Usually an Employment Tribunal panel is made up of three people: two lay members and a legally qualified chair person. The lay members will be members of a trade or profession and can bring their experience of such matters to the case. The chairperson will normally be a solicitor or advocate who will have in depth knowledge of the relevant law and legal framework.
If you are going to make a claim to an employment tribunal you must notify ACAS before commencing a proceedings.
ACAS (Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service) is a publicly funded, independent body which exists to promote good employment relations and to help sort out employment disputes amicably.
It is a legal requirement (unless an exemption applies) that anyone seeking to take their employer to a tribunal must first make an early conciliation notice to ACAS. The Tribunal will not accept your claim unless it has been referred from ACAS and the relevant conciliation certificate issued.
Employment Law Solicitors covering Herts and Essex
Our specialist employment solicitors can offer tailor made advice on all aspects of employment law.
You can also choose how you would like to receive your legal advice, when you want it and how you access that advice. We offer services in person, in writing or by video conference – at a time most suitable to you. We offer a flexible and modern service outside traditional 9-5 hours meaning you can choose when and how to contact us. Please visit our contact page for more information.