Understanding UK Employment Law: What You Need to Know Before Hiring Employees
Before hiring any employees, it is essential to have a solid grasp of UK employment law to avoid potential pitfalls. This article outlines key aspects that every employer should be aware of.
Employment Contracts: Ensuring Clarity and Protection
Although not legally required, it is advisable to provide a written employment contract to clearly document the terms of employment.
Under UK employment law, employees are entitled to a written statement of the main terms and conditions if their contract lasts one month or longer. This statement should include essential details such as employer and employee names, job title, start date, pay, working hours, holiday entitlement, and notice periods.
Protecting and Safeguarding Business Interests
Employers must consider safeguarding their interests, including confidentiality, client connections, staff, suppliers, and intellectual property. These provisions should be included within the employment contract.
In certain cases, it may be appropriate to include clauses that restrict employees from competing, soliciting clients, or poaching staff after leaving the company. However, these restrictions should be reasonable and necessary to protect the business’s legitimate interests.
Proposed changes by the Government limit non-compete clauses to three months, allowing employees more flexibility. This means employers may need to explore alternative ways to protect their business interests.
Understanding Unfair Dismissal and Dispute Resolution
Employees generally require at least two years’ service to bring an unfair dismissal claim, giving employers some flexibility in dismissing difficult employees. However, it is advisable to follow a fair process in all dismissal cases to avoid potential claims.
After two years’ service, employees gain general unfair dismissal rights, and employers must proceed with caution. Dismissal must be for fair reasons, such as redundancy, performance, or misconduct, and employers must follow a fair procedure specific to each case.
An employer’s breach of a fundamental employment contract term may lead to a constructive unfair dismissal claim if the employee resigns as a result of the breach.
Preventing Discrimination in the Workplace
Discrimination based on protected characteristics such as age, disability, race, sex, and religion is illegal under UK law. Employers must refrain from directly discriminating against job applicants or employees based on these characteristics or associated complaints. Harassment related to these protected characteristics is also classified as discrimination.
Compliance with General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR)
Employers must adhere to the General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR) to ensure lawful and transparent processing of personal data. This includes providing detailed information to employees about the processing of their personal data.
In addition to the above, various other aspects of UK employment law may apply to your business. These areas may include business transfers, whistleblowing, and monitoring, among others.
Please note that this article serves as a general guide and should not substitute specific legal advice.
About the Author: Matt Gingell is the managing partner at Lombards.
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