Employment laws and legislation in the UK

08 December 2019

As an employer, you have a responsibility to look after the health and wellbeing of your staff. That responsibility is laid out in numerous employment laws.

It’s good business practice to have a basic understanding of current UK employment legislation. But with so many different things to consider, and laws being regularly updated, it can be easy to get left behind.

And that can lead to serious consequences, such as risk to your staff’s safety, or costly penalties for breaching their rights.

In this guide, we’ll provide a UK employment law overview, and list the legislation you need to refer to when writing your company policies.

What is employment law in the UK?

Employment law is a catch-all term used to describe a series of different pieces of legislation that dictate the rules of a working relationship.

It regulates the professional connection between you and your employees. And explains how staff (and your business) must behave in a work environment.

You can face serious penalties, such as employment tribunals, if you breach any of the statutory rights of your staff. But why do we have employment law?

What is the purpose of employment law in the UK?

The first employment law was introduced towards the end of the industrial revolution. These early laws prohibited the employment of children.

Current employment laws have come a long way since then. But they still exist for the same reason; to protect employee and workers’ rights. They also can assist with introducing important policies to assist with running your business.

What does employment law cover?

Employment law covers a wide range of issues. The main employment legislation in the UK protects worker’s rights at all stages of the employment cycle, and covers topics such as:

  • Recruitment and selection.
  • Working hours and rest breaks.
  • The right to time-off, including holidays and sick leave.
  • Dismissal and redundancy.
  • Discrimination.
  • Health & safety.

The laws that protect employees in the UK are covered by lots of specific legislation.

What are the laws of employment?

There are many employment acts in the UK, and you must consider them on a daily, monthly, and annual basis. They help to ensure your people are safe and productive.

Below we’ve provided a list of employment legislation in the UK.

  • Employment Rights Act 1996: Covers a variety of topics such as employment contracts, unfair dismissal, family-friendly leave, and redundancy.
  • National Minimum Wage Act 1998: Defines the national minimum wage (NMW). The amount can change from time to time, so it’s important to have an awareness about any updates to the NMW.
  • Employment Relations Act 1999: Establishes a number of rights at work for trade union recognition, derecognition, and industrial actions.
  • The Maternity and Parental Leave etc. Regulations 1999: Details employees rights to time off for maternity or paternity leave.
  • Part-Time Workers (Prevention of Less Favourable Treatment) Regulations 2000: Requires you to provide employees on part-time contracts with comparable treatment to full-time staff.
  • Agency Workers Regulations 2010: Aims to stop less favourable treatment against agency workers. It ensures they receive the right pay, holiday entitlement, and safe working conditions.
  • Transfer of Undertakings (Protection of Employment) Regulations 2006: Also known as TUPE, it ensures staff receive fair treatment during a business transfer.
  • The Equality Act 2010: Prevents discrimination in the workplace and recruitment process.
  • The Pensions Act 2008: Requires employers to provide and contribute to employees’ pensions.
  • The Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974: Details occupational health & safety measures you must follow to protect staff, customers, and anyone else on the premises.
  • Data Protection Act 2018: Regulates how you store and process personal information. This act complements the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).
  • Working Time Regulations 1998 and The Working Time (Amendment) Regulations 2007: Defines the rules on working hours and holiday entitlements.

There are also work laws that UK businesses must follow that aren’t part of specifically employment legislation. Such as:

  • Bribery Act 2010: Covers the criminal law relating to offering and accepting bribes.
  • Education and Skill Act 2008: Sets out your duties when offering work, or apprentices, to young people between the ages of 16 and 18.
  • Rehabilitation of Offenders 1974: Sets out the right to work of employees who were previously convicted of a crime.
  • Safeguarding Vulnerable Groups Act 2006: Requires employers to carry out pre-employment checks when working with children or vulnerable adults.

Arguably, the most important piece of legislation is the Employment Rights Act 1996.

It was introduced to consolidate lots of previous legislation on a number of different topics.

In summary, this UK employment act covers areas such as:

  • Protection of wages: including deductions to pay by employer.
  • Time off work: including parental leave, sunday hours, and flexible working.
  • Staff training: including the right to make a request in relation to study or training.
  • Termination: including notice periods, unfair dismissal, and redundancy.

Laws that protect employers in the UK

Businesses often complain about the fact that there are fewer laws that protect employers in the UK, especially since the removal of tribunal fees in 2017.

However, there are many workplace laws in the UK that benefit both employers and their staff. Such as probation periods, and the right to dismiss an employee without notice in cases of gross misconduct, or when they have less than two years of service.

These employment laws for employers make sure both you and your staff are taken care of and not taken advantage of.

Expert employment law support with Peninsula

This list of current employment legislation for UK businesses is crucial to keep you compliant with the law.

But laws change all the time, and it can be a full time job just to keep on top of what you need to do. Failing to do so can put your staff at risk, and lead to costly financial penalties for you.

Make sure your business follows the most recent HR legislation, with UK employment law help from the expert team at Peninsula.

Our HR outsourcing services allow you to focus on what you do best, running your business. And with unlimited access to our 24-hour HR advice line, you can call us up to find out what any new legislation means for your business.

Not a client yet? You can still enjoy a free advice call from one of our business experts. Simply call us on 0800 028 2420.

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