We are able to deal with all aspects of employment law, from drafting new documents to handling disputes. We act for employers of all types and sizes including large, medium and small companies, partnerships and LLPs, sole traders, charities, clubs and organisations.
What Is Employment Law?
Employment law encompasses all the legal rights and liabilities that may arise within the workplace. This can be anything from contracts of employment through to dismissal, discrimination and equal pay. It extends beyond employer and employee as can also cover the self-employed, contractors and other categories of workers. The handling of employment law and staffing can be very time consuming, as well as expensive if you get it wrong, hence why it is so important to seek help from an expert.
- To find practical solutions and resolve issues quickly, where possible avoiding costly disputes.
- To help you manage complex and difficult situations, including where necessary bringing, conducting or defending legal proceedings in employment tribunals.
- To explain in clear language the legal issues relating to your matter and the options available to you.
- To help maintain harmony in the workplace, especially during a time of change.
How can we help?
- Drafting contracts, handbooks and policies, including disciplinary and grievance policies, procedures relating to the use of electronic communications, social media, the internet, electronic and other equipment; data protection; advising in connection with pay, minimum wage, recruitment and screening, benefit and bonus schemes.
- Advising you how to conduct investigations, disciplinary meetings and grievance hearings; performance management, conduct, sickness absences, and potential redundancies in all cases having due regard to statute and case law as well as best practice, including any relevant ACAS Code.
- Advising on restructuring exercises, including TUPE implications so that, in conjunction with Coole Bevis LLP’s other relevant departments, we can be your ‘one stop shop’.
- Advising you on changing terms and conditions of employment and issuing new contracts, including on promotion; holiday entitlements, flexible working, atypical working, maternity, paternity and family rights and discrimination issues.
- Where appropriate, advising you on drafting effective restrictive covenants either in new contracts or replacement contracts, particularly on promotion.
- Advising you and, where appropriate, assisting you in conjunction with the Coole Bevis LLP Dispute Resolution Department, in respect of enforcing post-termination restrictive covenants.
Aspects Of Employment Covered By Law
If you own a business you will need to consider a number of employment factors for both yourself, your business and your employees:
- Contract, policies and procedures
- Employment rights
- Employment tribunals and making claims against existing or past employees
- Long term sickness or absence
- Settlement Agreements
- Flexible working
- Family friendly legislation
- Service agreements
- Health and Safety
Our employment department has much experience in advising/representing organisations of all sizes and we have a long standing relationship with many of our clients.
Employment Law And The Role Of ACAS
The Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (ACAS) is an organisation which endeavours to improve companies and the lives of employers and employees through problem solving and setting out guidelines for organisations to follow. The information they provide on all aspects of employment law is free and impartial.
Their Codes of Practice details several procedures and how they should be handled. An organisation must have clear reasons for not following the Codes of Practice, as if a matter reaches tribunal those reasons will be thoroughly explored.
Most issues can be resolved before they go to court or tribunal, particularly those which involve minor misconduct. ACAS are able to provide a standard for reasonable behaviour within most cases but, if there are some cases where formal action is needed and investigations need to be carried out to find case facts then they can also assist.
Terms And Conditions Of Employment
For every business, no matter how large or small, there should be standard terms or conditions of employment to protect both employers, employees, the business and any other parties involved. Contracts should be clearly set out as they will be legally binding. The more concise they are, the less likely there is the chance of a dispute arising.
- Need an employment contract to be drafted
- Need an employment contract to be reviewed
- Have an issue with an employment contract
We will be able to assist.
There are four categories of sex discrimination in the UK under the Equality Act 2010. These include direct discrimination, indirect discrimination, harassment and victimisation. These are just a few of the numerous ways someone can be discriminated against in the workplace:
- Sexual harassment or discrimination because of sex or sexual orientation
- Parental Status
- Gender Identity
- Making someone else discriminate
A good employer should be aware of these categories and educate their staff to minimise any risk of discrimination, whether intentional or otherwise. If an employee feels they have experienced discrimination, they could bring a claim which could easily end up in an employment tribunal.
Successful claimants can receive large amounts of compensation if incidents are serious or not dealt with properly/early on. As an employer, it is important to address any known issues in the workplace as soon as they arise.
Maternity And Family Leave Rights
An employee has the right to 52 weeks maternity leave, regardless of their length of service and employees will also have the right to 39 weeks maternity pay. An employer must not discriminate against an employee at any point in their maternity leave.
Employers should be aware of pregnancy discrimination. This is unfair or unfavourable treatment because an employee is pregnant, breastfeeding or perhaps because they have recently given birth. Under The Equality Act 2010 there is a ‘protected period’ from discrimination which starts from when someone becomes pregnant and ends when maternity finishes or when they return to work.
Sickness And Health And Safety During Pregnancy/Maternity
All employers must ensure that working conditions do not put an employee or an employee’s baby’s health at risk during pregnancy or after maternity leave for up to six months after their return to work or until they stop breastfeeding. There are a number of possible risks which could affect safety at work including:
- Physical agents such as manual handling, noise and radiation
- Biological agents such as infectious diseases
- Chemical agents such as carbon monoxide and other toxic chemicals
- Working conditions such as mental and physical fatigue, travelling, violence and passive smoking.
Time Off For Antenatal Care
Antenatal care refers to the time pregnant employees will need off work to attend related medical appointments and/or parenting classes. Employees are not entitled to time off until they have told their employers about the pregnancy but they should then be able to take reasonable time off with pay for antenatal care.
Employers should allow employees who are adopting time off for adoption appointments. Surrogacy parents as well as fathers, partners and civil partners should be permitted paid time off for up to two antenatal visits. Antenatal visits are subsequent visits with a midwife to check up on a baby’s health.
Business sales and purchases can be incredibly complicated and create a number of employment law considerations. If you are looking to buy or sell a business, getting advice as early on in the transaction as possible is highly recommended. We can help you with everything from tax planning to commercial negotiations and drafting contracts, as well as with the employment law aspects.
Our employment team will work hand in hand with our company and commercial department to provide you with a well-rounded service.
Termination Of Employment
Terminating an employee’s service can be difficult and stressful in a number of ways, but we will ensure you know all possible outcomes and worst case scenarios. We can help businesses:
- Avoid any unfair or constructive dismissal claims
- Through any negotiations they may face
- Prepare settlement agreements
- Prepare all necessary correspondence between parties
We have a lot of experience in dealing with dismissal and disciplinary processes. If you would like more information please email Nigel.Targett@coolebevisllp.com.
Protecting Business Interests Following Termination
Every business should have the right to protect its own business interests, such as intellectual property as well as customer/client and accounting information. As a business owner, there is a high probability you are not the only person with access to this information and your company could be at risk if an employee leaves to share information elsewhere.
To help prevent the sharing of business information after an employee has left we can draft contracts for your maximum protection:
- Post termination restriction clauses
- Confidentiality clauses
- Duty of fidelity clauses
- Intellectual property clauses
- Fiduciary duty clauses
- Restrictions on other business activity clauses
Should you need assistance with any of the above, we have a highly experienced team of solicitors able to draft such restrictions.
Data Protection And Employee Privacy
GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) applies to any organisation which handles personal data. In the present day, basic data protection rules for your business are extremely important and breaching these rules could infringe upon many other aspects of your business.
The Data Protection Act 2018 ensures the collecting, processing and distributing of personal data in the UK protects both the employer, the employee and all other parties involved such as clients and customers.
To ensure an organisation is compliant with GDPR it must:
- Have a clear and concise policy for data handling and information should not be held longer than necessary.
- Have a legal basis for acquiring and handling personal data.
- Make sure all staff know the policy and how it should be followed.
- Make sure all personal data requests are responded to within one month.
- Make sure data breaches are reported to the ICO (Information Commissioners Office) within 72 hours.
An employment contract gives both an employee and an employer certain obligations and responsibilities they both need to follow for the employment to work. These are known as ‘contractual terms’.
If, as an employer, you need to make a change to an employee’s contract you will need to make a ‘variation’ within the contract or a ‘flexibility clause’ to allow the change. Your employee must understand the implications of the change and agree to it.
Changes To Legislation
Running a business can be time-consuming and difficult. On top of this, employment issues and compliance with new legislation can add extra, unnecessary stress. However, it is important you also keep on top of these updates as any changes could greatly impact your workplace.
If you have any queries or would like to speak to someone about law updates, our team can assist and will go out of their way to ensure your business is protected.
Other ways you can keep an eye on legislation changes is via the ACAS website.
What Is The ACAS Code Of Practice?
The Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (ACAS) Codes of Practice outlines various procedures and how they should be handled within a workplace. If your organisation decides not to follow procedures this is misconduct. An organisation must have reasons for not following the Codes of Practice and if it reaches tribunal stage the reason will be thoroughly explored.
Most issues can be resolved before they go to court, particularly those which involve minor misconduct. ACAS are able to provide a standard for reasonable behaviour within most cases but, if there are some cases where formal action is needed and investigations need to be carried out to find case facts, they can also assist.
The Role Of ACAS In An Employment Tribunal Claim
If you intend to make an Employment Tribunal claim, it is crucial ACAS are made aware so early conciliation can be organised. This is where an impartial ACAS conciliator can have a discussion with both parties in an attempt to resolve differences. This early conciliation period can be up to a month but an extended time of 14 days can be added if necessary.
This route to solving disputes is heavily encouraged as it is faster, cheaper and far less stressful than attending a tribunal.
Outcome Of Settlement Agreements
A settlement agreement is a document typically given to employees when they are being made redundant – it sets out the terms of the arrangement before employment is terminated. Often, employees are given money in return for certain conditions such as not bringing a claim against their employer.
Settlement agreements offer the benefit of certainty and a clean break between an employee and their employer. They can be produced for disciplinary/redundancy processes or can be used for bringing disputes to a close.
ACAS have a Code of Practice for Settlement Agreements which discloses how a settlement agreement should be operated and how best to negotiate between parties. This code is not binding but should be used as a guideline and if not adhered to employers would have to justify their reasons for this. As in all aspects of employment law, it is advisable to seek professional legal advice at an early stage.
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