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Your legal duty to your staff

Your legal duty to your staff
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Kate Lawson - Element Law by Kate Lawson - Element Law
Director - Element Law

29 Mar 2017

The moment you take on your first member of staff, you have legal obligations to them as their employer; understanding these will protect both you and your employees.  To help you, CapitalSpace legal expert Kate Lawson of Element Law has pulled together a beginner’s guide to understanding HR Law. 

You have many duties as an employer, including both the terms and conditions under which your staff are employed (HR Law) and tax obligations; this article covers your duties under HR Law.  It is therefore important that you seek professional advice about your responsibilities to HMRC.

Your key duties to your employees under HR Law

You must:

  • Provide a statement of terms and conditions of employment within 2 months of starting employment. This must include provisions on job title, place of work, salary, hours, holiday pay, sick pay, notice period and pension arrangement.
  • Have in place a disciplinary procedure and a grievance procedure, which should also be referred to in the statement of terms and conditions.
  • Take reasonable care of the Health & Safety of your employees.
  • Provide a suitable working environment, which includes one that is not too hot or too cold, and one where reasonable steps are taken by the employer to protect employees from unacceptable behaviour such as bullying or unauthorised interference in work duties.

Mutual trust and confidence

In addition, there is a lot of focus in case law with regard to the duty of mutual trust and confidence; in essence this is the requirement that the employer must not, without reasonable and proper cause, conduct itself in a matter calculated and likely to destroy or seriously damage the relationship of trust and confidence between employer and employee. 

Claims for constructive unfair dismissal often arise out of a breach of this duty, which is an implied term in all contracts of employment.  This duty encompasses many facets of employment life and covers a variety of issues and situations, from failing to provide reasonable support to an employee to bullying.

Other responsibilities

Other key areas to be aware of in terms of employer duties, as enshrined in legislation, include:

  • Working Time Regulations which cover holidays (5.6 weeks’ holiday including bank holidays), rest breaks (break required of 20 minute for every six hours of work), daily rest periods (11 hours per day), weekly rest periods (24 hours per week or 48 hours per fortnight) and a 48-hour working week (subject to an opt-out option).
  • Discrimination legislation which makes it unlawful to discriminate, harass or victimise on the basis of any the protected characteristics, these being: age, sex, race, religion, belief, sexual orientation, gender reassignment and pregnancy and maternity.
  • The Auto-Enrolment provisions of the Pensions Act which require most employees to be auto-enrolled in a pension scheme with a minimum contribution to be paid into that pension scheme by the employer and the employee.
  • Dismissal procedures: An employee with more than 1 year and 51 weeks’ service can only be dismissed for a fair reason, which includes misconduct, performance, ill-health, redundancy, reorganisation, frustration of contract and illegality, and only following a fair procedure. For example, before making an employee redundant, an employer must undertake a genuine and effective consultation process with the employee.

It's impossible in a short article to cover the whole raft of legislation covering the employment relationship, so if you ever find yourself in unfamiliar territory, or in a situation that could potentially escalate, it is important to seek professional legal advice.

Knowing your duties as an employer will create a fairer basis from which to grow your business.

Meet the expert

Kate Lawson is a specialist employment law solicitor and HR adviser and trainer, offering solution-driven employment law and HR advice to employers and employees.  

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