Advice for Employers

There are many different headings under which disputes between employer and employee can arise. Those that we deal with most frequently are:

Contracts of Employment

All employees should have a written contract of employment. That is the law but it is as much for the protection of the employer as it is for the employee. If there is none, or it is only word of mouth, it is likely that there will be uncertainty. Uncertainty often leads to disagreement. We can prepare employment contracts or advise you if there have to be changes to an existing contract. If an employer seeks to impose significant changes to an existing contract of employment (such as by asking you to work longer hours or at a different place) this can amount to a termination of the contract and, if mishandled, to a claim for unfair dismissal. Do ask us for help with any problems regarding your contract.

Unfair dismissal

Problems with your workforce may arise from time to time. If you mishandle the situation or act in haste then your employees may be able to make successful and costly claims for unfair dismissal or wrongful termination of contract. It is vital to take early advice; for example, it is better to suspend rather than dismiss an employee with whom you have had a serious disagreement whilst you carry out an investigation but there are pitfalls in doing this and you need legal advice before deciding what to do.

Redundancy

Redundancy means that the job disappears or the business requirements for employees to do work of a particular kind have ceased or diminished or are expected to do so. Frequently this critical definition is misunderstood. It is not redundancy to replace one employee with another doing exactly the same job, but it may be if the employee is replaced by an independent contractor.

The law relating to redundancy is complicated and there are several traps for the unwary; for example, employers must consult with employees as to any alternative work that can be offered before redundancy takes effect. Again, there are crucial time limits that apply for claims to an Employment Tribunal.

Settlement Agreements

Where employer and employee have mutually agreed to terminate the employment contract they can enter into a legally binding severance or settlement agreement which normally includes a provision for the employer to pay the employee’s legal costs. It is important to ensure that the document covers everything that has been agreed. It has to be counter-signed by a solicitor or other approved advisor. This protects each party from claims by the other. We can help you by explaining exactly what rights you are giving up as part of the settlement and that you may be unintentionally surrendering rights which should be retained e.g. the continuing right to make claims for personal injury for undiscovered work related illnesses or accidents.

Generally, employment law is a fast changing area with increasingly complex legislation and procedural requirements. If you have work related problems of any description do take proper advice before making any critical decision.

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Paul Streets

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