I’ve been in business for 25 years with no issues regarding employment law. Why do I need employment support?

Employment law has over 25 statutes, 100 Statutory Instruments, 36 European Directives and 20 codes of practice regulating employment relationships. For employers and entrepreneurs not familiar with Employment Law, it can be a minefield. It’s tempting to assume you will never need the services of an employment lawyer. However, it is currently free for employees to bring claims to an employment tribunal, which means that even employers with a “family” environment are being sued, particularly during the recession. Minor problems, if dealt with incorrectly, can escalate into an unsuccessful tribunal claim that costs you time, money, your reputation and even your business. It is safer to be protected

How can I dismiss someone fairly?

Employment law recognises the following fair reasons for dismissal:

  • Misconduct at work
  • Lack of capability, either physically or in terms of aptitude to do the job
  • Redundancy
  • A statutory requirement
  • Retirement
  • Some other substantial reason

It is not sufficient to show a tribunal that one of these reasons exists. An employer must also ensure that a fair process is followed. ACAS (Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service) provides a code of conduct for each of these situations that are followed by tribunals. Therefore, consulting the code of practice is a good place to start when considering dismissing an employee.

My turnover has decreased by 50% during the recession and I can’t afford to keep on all my staff. What do I do?

There are a few options. It is very important that you consult with your staff as early as possible. Some options that you can consider if you genuinely cannot afford your staff costs any more are:

  • Redundancy
  • Job sharing
  • Part-time working
  • Lay-offs, if the right to lay off is in your employees’ contracts.

In all circumstances, a full consultation with your employees is recommended, as in general, each of these measures must be taken with the employees’ consent.

How do I make my staff redundant?

Redundancy is one of the more difficult areas of law for an employer to get right. In general, an employer must take the following steps prior to making employees redundant:

  • There must be a genuine redundancy situation
  • You must consult your employees at the earliest possible opportunity
  • You must nominate a fair “pool” of employees from which the redundancy selection should be made
  • You must identify fair, objective selection criteria in order to decide which employees should be made redundant
  • You must apply the selection criteria fairly
  • You must make the offer of suitable, alternative employment, if any exists, to the employees that you decide to make redundant.

A genuine redundancy situation exists only when the business as a whole, or the particular workplace where the employee worked, has closed or if the demand for work of a particular kind has fallen, meaning that staff must be reduced accordingly.

What sort of awards do employment tribunals make?

The type of award that is made by tribunals varies. In unfair dismissal claims, there is a maximum award of. This maximum is adjusted every year, and is correct at the time of publication. The level of the award for unfair dismissal claims is dependent on the length of service, length of unemployment since dismissal and level of employee’s contribution to their dismissal.

Breach of contract cases can be bought in an employment tribunal or in the civil courts. If the claim is brought in the civil courts, the employee will have to pay to initiate the claim, but the damages are uncapped. You may be liable for costs if it is not defended successfully. If the claim is brought in an employment tribunal, it is free to initiate, but the level of damages that an employee can claim is capped at £?

In discrimination cases, awards by an employment tribunal are uncapped. The highest discrimination award made in the last year (2010) was £729,347 for a serious disability discrimination case. However, the vast majority of awards fall far lower than this, and only around 3% of the discrimination claims that reached tribunal in 2010 were decided in favour of employees. These figures do not include the vast majority of cases, which are settled prior to tribunal hearings.

If I lose at employment tribunal, do I have to pay the other side’s legal costs?

There is no general rule, however, if the tribunal determines that a party has behaved unreasonably or vexatiously, the employment tribunal retains the right to make an order for costs against the party who is deemed to have behaved unreasonably.