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Employment Disputes – Top 10 Tips

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The relationship between an employer and an employee has a number of rules and obligations that bind them. As an employee you have a number of rights that you are entitled to and as an employer you have a number of responsibilities and obligations to meet on behalf of your workforce.

Here are some useful tips for you to consider which may assist you in the event of a potential employment law dispute.

1. Eligibility to work

All employees must legally be entitled to work in the United Kingdom before they commence work with a business – https://www.gov.uk/legal-right-work-uk . Typically eligible workers will be British Citizens, commonwealth citizens, EEA members, visa holders or nationals from the common travel area. Naturally there are additional layers of eligibility and as such it essential for you to check this before hiring an employee.

2. Contract of employment

Employees should typically be offered a written statement highlighting the particulars of their employment within two months of the commencement of their employment. If you intend to hire an individual for less than one month then you do not need to provide a written contract. Having a contract is important particularly when distinguishing between an employee relationship and that of an independent contractor.

3. Disciplinary proceedings

In the event that you need to bring disciplinary action against an employee it is important to follow a strict set of guidelines. Once you have established the facts that triggered proceedings, you will need to inform the employee of the problem before holding a meeting to discuss in more detail. The employee must be informed that he can be accompanied at the meeting. If misconduct is admitted, the employee may be issued with a written warning, followed by a final written warning and a dismissal if performance doesn’t improve.

4. Unfair/wrongful dismissal

In order to seek a claim for unfair dismissal, an employee must be able to demonstrate that they were relieved of their duties by an employer. This includes scenarios where an employee was left with no other option but to leave their post due to the conduct of an employer (constructive dismissal). Alternatively an unfair dismissal claim may arise out of the expiration of a fixed term contract. A dismissal could potentially be deemed unfair for a number of reasons. Typical examples are where your employer fails to follow defined disciplinary proceedings or if you have been treated inconsistently in comparison with other colleagues.

5. Diversity & Discrimination

There are nine protected key characteristics that may form part of a potential discrimination claim. Those are age, disability, gender reassignment, marriage/civil partnership, pregnancy/maternity, race, religion, sex and sexual orientation. A discrimination claim under these characteristics can be direct or indirect. Furthermore a claim can also be made on the grounds of victimisation or harassment.

6. Restructuring & Redundancy

Redundancies can often be an extremely stressful process for both employers and employees. Due to the sensitivity of the matter it is important that employers are aware of the steps they must follow. An employer must prove that the role of the employee will cease to exist once said employee(s) is made redundant. Assuming the above can be demonstrated, the employer can “hand pick” who they would like to make redundant or alternatively an employee can volunteer to be made redundant. Employees must be given adequate time to look for a new role and in some cases will be entitled to a redundancy pay out.

7. Compromise Agreements

In the course of business, two parties may decide that they want to come to an agreement over an internal dispute without the need for a claim within court or a tribunal. Under these circumstances it is important to have an agreement with clearly defined terms especially if a contract is to be terminated. This type of need can arise for a number of reasons including unfair/wrongful dismissal and redundancy. Once a compromise agreement has been signed, an employee will not be able to make a claim on the matter in the employment tribunal. It’s worth noting that employers typically cover the costs for compromise agreement advice.

8. TUPE (transfers of employment)

If you are planning a sale of your business, you may need to consider whether your employees will transfer over to the acquiring business. TUPE will not apply if the sale is purely in relation to shares, Limited assets and equipment. Both parties must ensure employees are adequately assigned to the new business and their activities should mirror what they were accustomed to prior to the sale.

9. Employee Retention

One of the biggest challenges an employer can face
Will be how to retain their staff. It is important to ensure that provisions are written into the contract containing information on matters such as flexible hours. Work /life balance is often highlighted as a key reason for maintaining a satisfied workforce. Highlighting information around the “softer” side of the package will go some way to creating an environment where employees stay long term.

10. Difficult employees

Dealing with difficult employees can be a headache for managers and their workforce. As a manager, it is important to understand why a particular employee is stepping out of line. By keeping in tune to what is going on within the business, you may be able to arrest the matter before it becomes a wider problem. If the problem does persist you will need to follow the guidelines in point 3 to ensure that the matter is dealt with fairly and in line with employment regulations.

11. Brexit

In June 2016, the UK public decided that they would like to leave the European Union. Naturally this sent shockwaves throughout Europe and the rest of the world. Whilst it is impossible to be certain of the true impact this will have on businesses, it is certainly worth employers preparing for the worst-case scenario. Small or medium sized businesses are likely to be the most vulnerable as the falling value of the pound continues to affect trade. As such, businesses may need to operate on a leaner structure in terms of employment. Those who wish to avoid making redundancies may need to consider a higher percentage of part time staff in order to mitigate the risk.

For more information visit our Employment Law for Employees or Employment Law for Businesses pages. Alternatively, call our Employment Solicitors in Manchester or London on 0330 127 8888 for a free 30-minute consultation on your matter.

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