Play by the rules

By at home

If you understand your rights – as an employer or employee – most problems can be resolved out of court

Whether you’re an employer or an employee, it is very important to have a thorough understanding of employment law. The law gives all employees certain rights as to how they are treated at work and both parties can sue for breach of contract or breach of legislation. It is a fact that companies which communicate well with staff tend to have fewer lawsuits, but there are times when employees will have grievances that need to be dealt with or employers who will have staff issues that need handling. We take a look at some of these instances and advise on how you can stay within the law…

If you’re an employer

Issuing redundancies
Exercise caution when making staff redundant or you could find yourself at the centre of a claim for unfair dismissal. You must have a genuine redundancy situation, must consider alternative positions for the employee within the company and give as much notice as possible.

Handling employee misconduct
It is important that employers have a set of disciplinary rules and procedures which set out standards of conduct at work, otherwise employees could claim that they do not know what correct conduct is. In the case of minor or gross misconduct, the issue must be investigated, there must be a disciplinary hearing and the employee must be given the right to appeal. Misconduct is a potentially fair reason for dismissing an individual, as long as you can prove you’ve carried out the dismissal in a fair manner.

If you’re an employee

Unfair dismissal
If you have lost your job but don’t think the grounds were genuine, you may be able to submit a claim for unfair dismissal to an employment tribunal. However, there are time limits – the claim must be made within three months of the dismissal date. You have to show you have been dismissed, and your employer must prove they had a valid reason and have acted reasonably in the circumstances.

Discrimination
It is against the law for an employer to discriminate against a worker. This can take many forms, such as a person is not promoted because he is considered too old, or a woman is paid less than a male peer. If you believe you been discriminated against on the grounds of sex, race, sexual orientation, religion, disability or age, you may be able to claim compensation.

Harassment
This is defined as unwanted conduct affecting the dignity of men and women in the workplace. It may be related to age, sex, race, disability, religion, sexual orientation, nationality or a personal characteristic. Harassment in the workplace may be persistent or an isolated incident and can take a variety of forms, including: unwanted physical contact; unwelcome remarks; jokes; offensive language; obscene gestures; isolation or non-cooperation and exclusion from social activities and constant criticism.

More grievances
Tribunal cases are on the up…

There has been a huge increase in the number of claims accepted by employment tribunals in the past year. The 56% rise for 2009-10 is the highest level ever, involving 236,100 claims. The majority of claims are usually for unfair dismissal or equal pay, but employment law can cover race discrimination and breach of contract to working hours and conditions.


Pictures: getty images

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