As an employer in a UK company you have a number of duties and obligations to the people working for you under employment legislation. The duties you have depend largely on what category your staff fall into. The two main classes are workers and employees.
A worker is someone who works for you, someone who undertakes under contract to do or perform personally any work or services. They include:
Workers enjoy all the same rights as employees (see below) except they are not automatically entitled to redundancy pay or maternity, adoption and paternity leave. Their rights not to be unfairly dismissed differ too.
An employee is so classed if they are working for you under a contract of employment. An employment contract contains all the terms and conditions of an employee’s employment with you. These are usually in writing but if you have failed to provide a written contract, an oral one would suffice or one might be implied by the actions of you and your employee. It will specify things like:
You must not pay your employees less than the National Minimum Wage. This is currently:
You must pay your employees what is specified in their contracts. Unlawful deductions would allow them to bring a claim for constructive dismissal against you before an employment tribunal. You can only make deductions from an employees pay if: their contract says they can; it is required or authorised by law (e.g. income tax, national insurance); or they have agreed in writing to a deduction before the incident happens which prompts you to propose a deduction. If you’re a retailer, you can deduct pay from employees to cover cash shortages or stock deficiencies only if you do it at a specified time and tell the worker, in writing, that you’re doing it.
Subject to certain conditions, statutory sick pay (SSP) is paid to employees who are unable to work because of sickness for up to a maximum of 28 weeks. The standard weekly rate of SSP is £75.40 from 6 April 2008 to 5 April 2009
You must pay employees maternity, paternity and adoption pay if they have worked for you for long enough and their earnings have reached the required level.
Maternity leave of up to 52 weeks is available to all pregnant employees. As long as they inform you in the proper manner, they can take no matter how long they’ve worked for you, how many hours they work or how much you pay them. Paternity and adoption leave is also available if you fulfil certain conditions.
If you want to make an employee redundant, you have a duty to choose the redundancy candidates fairly. If they have worked for you for at least two years, they may be entitled to redundancy pay. The amount they get will be based on their weekly pay, age and continuous employment with you.
Every employee has the right not to be discriminated against unlawfully or harassed on the grounds of their gender, race, religion, disability, sexual orientation, or age. As the employer, it is up to you to ensure that none of your employees do this to another. You, as employer, will usually have to face any employment tribunal claim, along with the alleged discriminating employee. You may have a defence if you can show you did all you could to prevent the discrimination. In most cases employees cannot bring a discrimination claim until they have worked for your company for a year, but a sexual discrimination claim can be made much earlier – even over events that at the interview stage.
If you sack someone without a valid reason and/ or without following the correct procedures they can take you to an employment tribunal with a claim for unfair dismissal. In most cases they will need to have worked for you for a year for them to be able to bring a claim.
You must ensure that a proper grievance procedure is in place which employees can go through if they have a problem. Similarly, if you need to discipline there are various steps you must follow, otherwise you could be taken to an employment tribunal.
You cannot treat employees less favourably because they are part time or if they make a disclosure about you or your company in the public interest (i.e. they are a whistleblower).
Since 1 October 2007 you must give your workers at least 4.8 weeks paid annual leave (24 days paid holiday if you work five days a week). From 1 April 2009 this entitlement will increase to 5.6 weeks (28 days).
There are limits on the amount of time you are allowed to make employees work at a stretch and limits on the amount of night work they can do. You must ensure they get the rest breaks they are entitled to. Unless they opt to in writing, you should not make employees work more than 48 hours a week on average.
You have a duty to ensure, as far as possible, that the workplace is safe for you employees and any visitors to your premises. Different rules apply depending how big your company is, but all employers should do a risk assessment to spot possible health and safety hazards and appoint a 'competent person' with health and safety responsibilities.
Issues to deal with include: ensuring machinery is safe to use and that safe practices are formulated and followed; materials are properly stored; first aid facilities are adequate; emergency plans in place; ventilation, temperature, lighting, and toilet, washing and rest facilities all meet health, safety and welfare requirements; the right equipment is used and properly maintained; and protective clothing provided. Certain accidents, injuries, diseases and dangerous occurrences need to be reported to either the Health and Safety Executive or the local authority.
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