As an employer, it is vital to have at least a basic understanding of current UK employment laws. You need to be aware of your obligations as an employer as you have a legal responsibility to ensure a fair, safe and healthy workplace. You also need to be aware of the rights of your employees. This includes their right to fair pay, protection from discrimination, and union recognition.
Companies that fail to stay up to date with UK employment laws run the risk of breaching the law. And compliance doesn’t just safeguard you from potential tribunal claims. By ensuring that your business practices adhere to all regulatory requirements, you are also far more likely to build a positive and productive work environment where all your employees are treated fairly. As a result, you will increase motivation and retention levels and keep everyone focused on one common goal: the success of your business.
- UK Employment Laws Definition
- What Is an Employment Contract?
- Why Do Employment Laws Exist?
- What Do UK Employment Laws Cover?
- List of UK Employment Laws
- Other Important Legislation in the UK
UK employment laws govern the relationship between an employer and an employee. They take into account existing employee rights and establish the work environment you must provide as an employer. This includes how much you pay your employees, leave and sick pay obligations, and the provision of a safe working environment. UK employment laws also regulate various HR processes, including hiring and recruitment, promotions, trade unions, workplace grievances and employment termination.
It is important to have a firm grasp on all your legal obligations. You also need to make sure you are up to date with any changes as and when they are published by the government. The best way to do this is to conduct compliance audits on a monthly or annual basis. Failure to do so could result in a number of tribunal claims and put you at risk of penalties or even imprisonment.
An employment contract is an agreement between an employer and employee, outlining the latter’s terms of employment. In other words, it forms the basis of the legal relationship between both parties. An employment contract contains a number of rights and obligations. These include statutory obligations (such as the right to be paid the National Minimum Wage and the right to paid holidays) and any additional rights granted by the employer.
Although usually formalised in writing, UK law states that, under certain circumstances, a verbal agreement constitutes an employment contract (more common in smaller, less formal companies). However, this puts you at risk of potential disputes in the future so you should ensure all terms are agreed in writing before you onboard a new employee.
Employment laws aim to ensure fairness in all areas of a company. Consequently, they protect an employee’s rights and safeguard companies against potential tribunal disputes. In short, they exist to regulate the relationship between employer and employee so that both parties are aware of their rights and obligations.
In addition, by complying with UK employment laws you can ensure that you provide all employees with a safe and fair workplace where they are free from discrimination. This will help you build a happy, valued and productive workforce.
UK employment laws aim to provide fairness for all. They cover a wide range of issues relating to the working environment, including:
- Discrimination based on age, race, religion, sexuality or gender
- Bullying and harassment
- Employment contracts
- Equal pay
- Holiday pay
- Minimum wage
- Parental leave
- Working hours
- Dismissal and employee grievances
- Employment Rights Act 1996: covers the rights of employees relating to employment contracts, unfair dismissal, parental leave, and redundancy.
- National Minimum Wage Act 1998: establishes the current NMW for employees in the UK. Reviewed regularly by the government in line with inflation.
- Employment Relations Act 1999: establishes the right of employees to trade union recognition, derecognition, and industrial actions.
- The Maternity and Parental Leave etc. Regulations 1999: governs the rights of employees to time off for parental duties.
- Part-Time Workers (Prevention of Less Favourable Treatment) Regulations 2000: protects the rights of part-time workers so that they are entitled to the same treatment as full-time employees doing the same job.
- Agency Workers Regulations 2010: prevents discrimination against agency workers relating to pay, holiday entitlements and safe working conditions.
- Transfer of Undertakings (Protection of Employment) Regulations 2006: ensures employee rights during business transfers.
To sum up, aside from UK employment laws, you also need to be aware of the following UK legislations:
- Equality Act 2010: prevents discrimination in the workplace and the recruitment process. Forms the basis of anti-discrimination laws in the UK.
- Bribery Act 2010: covers the criminal law relating to any act of bribery.
- Data Protection Act 2018: regulates how you store employee and customer data.
- Working Time Regulations 1998: covers a number of employee rights, including the right to a minimum of 5.6 weeks’ paid annual leave each year and the 48-hour average working week restriction.
- The Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974: ensures the protection of employee health, safety and welfare in the workplace.
Finally, you also need to be aware of any upcoming changes to UK employment laws. For example, an upcoming new employment bill will bring a number of changes to current employment law. Firstly, there will be a new right to request a more predictable and stable contract after 26 weeks’ service (aim at zero-hours employees). Secondly, there will be extended rights to neonatal leave and pay. Finally, there is also likely to be a job retention scheme update (Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme). Other aspects including Brexit laws, IR35 latest news (off-payroll working) and changes to immigration law UK also need to be considered.
Written by Cat Symonds; Edited by James Fisher