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Article Written by John Berry on 9th May 2017. Reading time: 2 minutes

Workers become employees when they submit to the instructions of an employer in return for a wage. In history the employee has been weak and subject to exploitation. Governments have legislated to protect the employee.

Today, the primary statutes governing the relationship are the Employment Rights Act 1996 and the Equality Act 2010. The relationship is now better balanced and employers must tread carefully.

Employment law is concerned with the economic or transactional element of the employment contract. TimelessTime consultants are trained in employment law. Here are some of the issues they will consider.

Contracts

The economic and transactional element of the relationship between employer and employee is defined by a legally binding contract. Part of this contract is defined in statute and part is expressed in documents exchanged on commencement of the employment. This contract is complex for managers to understand and yet ignorance is no excuse if employees challenge.

Processes

The employment contract is determined through process. Employees work and get paid. Managers give instructions on behalf of the employer. And when irregularities occur, both parties turn to accepted policies and procedures for guidance. Adherence to sound policies and procedures is essential if employers are to be able to claim they are being fair. Fair treatment gives employers protection.

Recourse

When employees depart from contractual commitments, employers use the contract to manage their behaviour. Where necessary, employers can dismiss employees. When the employer does not proceed fairly, employees have recourse to petition an employment tribunal. Tribunal settlements can be punitive, ranging from £70k to over £1m so managers must tread carefully.

Ultimate Recourse

Managers must first put in place a sound employment contract when each employee starts work. All employment decisions and processes used to reach decisions are based on that contract. The documents enabling the contract include the contract of employment itself, the offer letter, the staff handbook and all the policies and procedures that describe how employer and employee will work together day to day.

This document set, if suitably complete and robust, should be all that’s needed for managers to meet their obligations for fair treatment of staff. Sometimes, however, situations are more complicated and knowledge of both the law and management science is essential to resolve the issues. TimelessTime consultants have the qualifications and experience to help you in employment law – from document development through meetings to defence at tribunal. They are also qualified and experienced managers.

Getting Help

Few managers are expert in employment law. Employment law is enacted through process.

Managers must get help early in that process. For managers, problems typically occur in employees’ absence poor behaviour, poor performance, breach of confidentiality, breach of covenants or misappropriation of the company’s property. Situations are made complex where employees can be classified disabled. Many maladies are disabilities. For employees, problems typically occur when managers don’t act and let issues fester, dismiss employees for weak reasons, behave unfairly, tolerate or engage in bullying and harassment or don’t uphold their part of the contract.

Implied Contract

The economic and transactional element governed by employment law describes only a small part of the relationship between employer and employee. By far the largest part is in what’s termed the psychological contract. It’s essential that statute and contract are complied with, but it’s one thing to be legally compliant and something very different to make good management decisions. By making good management decisions, most managers will be legally compliant but the converse is unfortunately seldom true. The psychological contract is tacit, unwritten, and covers all the expectations and hopes that employee and employer have in one another. The psychological contract trumps the economic and transactional legal contract when determining behaviour of the parties.

Solicitors and barristers understand the law but are untrained in management science and seldom have actually worked in business. Solicitors and barristers are however a useful addition to our team in complex cases.


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