Q&A

Employment Law FAQ

We set out some common employment law issues which our clients face, as well as particular situations which we have advised on.

Answers are given for general information only and may not be relied on as an alternative to obtaining legal advice for a specific situation.

HOW DO I MAKE STAFF REDUNDANT?

Due to a downturn in business, I am going to have to make five employees redundant. How do I handle this?

Briefly, in deciding which employee is selected for redundancy, you should use objective criteria, for example attendance record, skills and capability, and apply these in an independent way. You should warn and consult with the employee concerned and consider if there are alternatives to redundancy or suitable alternative employment. Detailed guidance on redundancy handling can be found on the ACAS website at www.acas.org.uk. It should be carefully followed because if you do not follow the correct procedure in making staff redundant, if staff are unfairly selected or this is not a genuine redundancy situation, you may find yourself faced with a claim for unfair dismissal. You should also consider whether to offer redundant staff a settlement agreement to avoid an employment tribunal claim.

DO I NEED TO PROVIDE PART-TIME STAFF WITH WRITTEN CONTRACTS?

I run a small shop employing two part-time sales persons who each work 18 hours a week. One of them has asked for an employment contract. Is she entitled to this?

Yes, she is. All employees, including part-time employees are entitled to receive from their employers a written statement of particulars of employment no later than two months after they start work. The statement should contain the major terms of employment and include the names of the employer and employee, the date the employment began, the date on which the employee’s period of continuous employment began, details of salary and other remuneration, hours of work, place of work, job title, holiday entitlement and so on. The written statement also needs to provide certain information about disciplinary rules and procedures and grievance procedures.

HELP! I’M BEING UNFAIRLY DISMISSED

I have worked in the council for 8 years. I was recently dismissed and told that this was because I was late to work on several occcasions the previous month. Yet for many years the arrangement was that staff could work flexible hours provided they worked 37.5 hours per week including their core hours. Other staff in the department in a similar position to mine were not disciplined. I believe I have been singled out by the new manager because of a personality clash.

You may have been unfairly dismissed and should take legal advice as to whether you should bring a claim in the Employment Tribunal. To defend a claim successfully, first your employers would have to show that they dismissed you for a fair reason. Secondly, they must have acted reasonably in treating this as sufficient grounds for dismissal. It sounds as if they would say they dismissed you for misconduct; if the Tribunal agrees, this would constitute a fair reason. If on the other hand, the Tribunal decides that the true reason for your dismissal was personal differences with your manager, this may not be a fair reason. There is a three month time limit from the date of dismissal for you to bring a claim.

If the Employment Tribunal decides that you have been unfairly dismissed, it will make what is called a ‘basic award’ which is based on the number of years you have worked for your former employers. It can also order that you are reinstated or re-engaged and make a ‘compensatory award’. The compensatory award will depend on a number of factors including your loss of earnings but you should bear in mind that you should take reasonable steps to keep your losses to a minimum, typically by looking for a new job. The maximum compensatory award where the effective date of termination is on or after 6 April 2016 is GBP78,962 or one year’s remuneration (if lower).

DO I HAVE TO ALLOW A YOUNG MOTHER TO WORK PART-TIME?

My PA recently returned from maternity leave and asked if she could work from 8.30 am to 4 pm without taking a lunch break instead of her usual 9 to 5 with one hour for lunch. She says that this would suit her childminder and allow her to spend more time with her baby in the evenings. I am happy to try this new arrangement out for a few weeks to see if it works but can I insist she works her normal hours if it doesn’t?

Yes you can, provided you do the following. You should write to her setting out her new working hours. You should say in your letter that the new arrangements are provisional, that you will be reviewing them from time to time and reserve the right to require her to resume her normal working hours if in your opinion, this would be in the interests of the business. You should ensure she counter-signs the letter under a paragraph saying she agrees with these terms and conditions.

Under the Working Time Regulations 1998, workers have a right to a daily rest break of at least 20 minutes (which they are entitled to spend away from their workstation) if they work for more than six hours a day. Even though your PA has asked to forego her lunch break, she has a legal right to a daily break of at least 20 minutes. This is for reasons of health and safety.

CAN I ASK TO WORK PART-TIME?

I have just returned from maternity leave and would like to work part-time (three days a week). One of my colleagues is willing to job-share. I spoke to my manager about this and he says although he believes the arrangement would be workable in practice, the company does not encourage part-time working and would be unlikely to approve the request. What are my rights?

Employees with at least 26 weeks’ continuous employment have a right under the Employment Rights Act 1996 to apply formally in writing to their employers asking for a change in working hours, times and location. If you make this request, your employer will be obliged to follow a timetable in dealing with it and will have to hold a meeting with you within 28 days, notify you of its decision within 14 days of the meeting and so on. More details can be found in the ACAS Code of Practice and ACAS Guide on handling flexible working requests on the ACAS website at www.acas.org.uk. You employer may reject your request for certain reasons for example, the burden of additional costs, detrimental effect on the ability to meet customer demand, detrimental impact on quality and the inability to reorganise work amongst existing staff. If your employer does not deal with your request properly or rejects the application on the basis of incorrect facts, you may complain to the Employment Tribunal although your remedy is limited to compensation of up to 8 weeks’ pay (subject to the statutory maximum). The Employment Tribunal also has the power to order your employer to reconsider your application.

In addition, if the company refuses your request for part-time working without proper justification, this may be indirect sex discrimination. If your application is refused, you may have a remedy under the Equality Act 2010.

HOW DO I RECOVER SALARY THAT IS OWED TO ME?

I recently left my previous job and am owed two weeks’ salary. What can I do to recover this money?

You should first send a written grievance to your former employers setting out your complaint. If the matter remains unresolved, you can bring proceedings for breach of contract and unlawful deduction of wages in the Employment Tribunal to recover the money. Prior to filing a claim, however, you would need to file an ACAS Early Conciliation form following which ACAS will contact you and your former employers with the aim of facilitating an amicable settlement. You will need to act promptly because there are strict time limits for filing these claims and an Early Conciliation form. Tribunal filing and hearing fees are also payable for employment tribunal claims, unless due to your financial circumstances you qualify for remission of fees.

I AM BEING BULLIED AT WORK. WHAT CAN I DO?

I work as a nurse at an NHS hospital and am being bullied and harassed by my supervisor. Her behaviour has become worse recently and has taken the form of shouting at me in front of other staff and other intimidating conduct. What should I do?

Your employer will have written grievance procedures and you should follow these. It is likely these will say that you should raise your grievance informally at first and that if your grievance remains unresolved you should put it in writing. The procedures are also likely to say that a meeting will then be held with you to discuss your grievance (at which you have a right to be accompanied) and that you have a right of appeal against their decision. The NHS Trust may also have a written policy on harassment, which may be relevant. If the matter is not resolved satisfactorily, you may have a remedy under employment legislation, in the Courts for personal injury (if for example you have suffered stress or mental illness) and under the Protection from Harassment Act 1997.

WHAT LOCATIONS DO YOU SERVE?

I live in London. Which areas of London is Knight-Webb Solicitors near?

We serve areas of London including South London, Dulwich, Lewisham, Bromley, Croydon, Southwark and Lambeth. If you would like to visit us our address is Knight-Webb Solicitors, 47 Beckwith Road, Dulwich, London, SE24 9LQ. For more information please contact us. We can also arrange appointments in central London.