Employers’ rights and responsibilities in the UK

HR & Employment Law basics you need to know for recruitment and beyond

By Caitlin Davis

Estimated time: 10 minutes

July 14, 2022

Struggling to get your head around HR & Employment Law and how it relates to your business and your employees?

 

Or maybe you just need a refresher on all the stuff you need to keep on top of.

 

Either way, this is the guide for you. We’ve put together all the HR and Employment Law basics you need to know in one place. Everything from recruitment to contracts to sick pay is covered so you have just what you need to get started…

Recruitment

Recruiting employees should be an exciting time for your business. For a seamless and successful recruitment process, we’ve put together eight basic things for you to consider.

  • Brainstorm the key tasks and aims of the role and put together a thorough job description. An exact job description is essential to make sure you attract potential employees with the right skillset and experience.

  • Cast your mind to the type of person you’re after and then get to work on a person specification. Consider the type of personality traits they need to be successful in the job and gel with the wider team.

  • Have a think about how you’ll advertise the role. We’d recommend using at least two channels to create a wider pool of candidates to choose from. To boost employee morale and promote development within, you might also want to consider marketing the position internally.

  • Double-check the wording in your job description and person specification is not discriminatory.

  • Prepare an application form that will capture enough information to allow you to sift out unsuitable applicants. It’s important to make sure your form doesn’t include any discriminatory criteria.

  • When deciding which applicants aren’t suitable, we’d recommend involving at least two people in the process to eliminate bias.

  • Prepare yourself for the interviews. This could be gathering questions, making reasonable adjustments for applicants with a disability or collecting relevant information about the company.

  • Once you’ve decided on a candidate, you’ll need to offer them the job in writing. The job offer should set out the main terms and conditions of the role, give a start date and clarify that the offer is subject to satisfactory references, employments checks and completion of a set probationary period.

  • Plan a choice of questions, tests or case studies that’ll allow you to see if the candidate has the skills and qualities required for the job.
  • Ask open ended questions (‘how’s’ and ‘why’s’, for example) to give the interviewee plenty of opportunities to express themselves.
  • Stay well away from discriminatory and/or health related questions.
  • Bring an interview checklist with you to make sure you don’t forget anything.
  • Make notes throughout to avoid forgetting important parts of the interview. Your candidate may also want feedback after the interview, so notes can be handy for this too!
  • Show the candidate around the business, so they can get a feel for the atmosphere and if it’s right for them.

New employees: start as you mean to go on

You’ve advertised the position, conducted interviews and picked the perfect candidate, now it’s time to get them settled into your business.

 

The application stage is all about the employee impressing you, but now the tables turn – it’s your turn to do the impressing! To hit it off and make a good impression, a properly planned induction process is crucial.

 

During the induction, you might want to explain the company’s rules, give them a tour of the building and introduce them to fellow employees.

Here are some tips you might find handy:

  • Put together an induction checklist to ensure no stone goes unturned.
  • To let the employee know they have obligations as well as rights, provide them with a copy of your employee or staff handbook, ask them to have a read and return it signed.
  • To avoid any nasty surprises down the line, conduct the necessary pre-employment checks before the employee’s first day.
  • Make sure they have a copy of the job description and are really clear on their role and responsibilities from day one.

The employment contract

A worker begins employment with you, you must give them a written statement (known as the ‘initial statement’), setting out certain particulars of employment. Some of the prescribed particulars must be included on a single document, which must not be given later than the beginning of the employment. Some of the prescribed particulars may be given in instalments, not later than two months after the beginning of the employment.

 

These particulars must still be given, even where the employment ends before the two-month time limit expires. You must also provide new employees with a contract of employment within two months of their start date.

 

Employment contracts must include information like the employee’s:

  • Name, job title and start date
  • Place(s) of work
  • Requirements to work outside of the UK
  • Remuneration and when and how it will be paid
  • Hours of work
  • Holiday entitlement
  • Notice period
  • Pension

 

As well as:

  • Whether any collective arrangements are applicable
  • Your business’ name
  • Who employees lodge a grievance with
  • How employees can appeal a disciplinary, grievance or dismissal decision.

Did you know?

An employer may have an agreement with employees’ representatives (eg. Trade Unions) that allows negotiations of terms and conditions like pay or working hours. This is called a Collective Agreement.

What doesn't need to be included?

Employment contracts don’t need to include details of sick pay, disciplinary or grievance procedures. They must, however, say where such policies can be found.

Working Time Regulations

Under Working Time Regulations, employees have the right to:

  • A capped working week of 48 hours in seven day period – an employee can opt out of this if they wish

  • 5.6 weeks of paid annual leave per year – this his may be pro-rata’d if they’re part-time

  • One uninterrupted 20-minute rest break if they’ve been at work for more than six hours

  • Employees under the age of 18 are entitled to a 30-minute break after four and a half hours of work

Employee rights

It’s important to familiarise yourself with the statutory rights that all employees are entitled to, here are some of:

  • An employment contract within two months of their start date

  • To be paid at least the National Minimum Wage

  • 5.6 weeks of paid holidays

  • Daily and weekly rest breaks

  • An itemised payslip detailing deductions

  • Request flexible working after 26 weeks of continual service

  • 52 weeks of maternity leave / 1-2 weeks of paternity leave (after 26 weeks’ continuous service)

  • If adopting a child, one parent is entitled to 52 weeks leave for one parent, and paternity leave for the other parent (after 26 weeks’ continuous
    service).

  • Time off for dependents and public duties

  • Not be unfairly dismissed

  • Not be unlawfully discriminated against

Remember

  • If employees are aged between 22 and pension age, work in the UK and earn more than £10,000, under pension laws you must auto-enrol them into a pension scheme.
  • Statutory sick pay is payable on the fourth day that an employee doesn’t attend work due to illness.
  • Employers are responsible for all of their employees’ welfare while at work. As such, you must comply with the Health & Safety Act at all times.

Discrimination

Under the Equality Act 2010, it’s unlawful to discriminate against anyone because they have one or more of the nine protected characteristics. The nine protected characteristics are:

  • Age
  • Disability
  • Marital status or civil partnership
  • Gender reassignment
  • Race
  • Religion
  • Sex
  • Sexual orientation
  • Pregnancy and/or maternity leave.

Employees should be protected against discrimination in the workplace. However, under the Equality Act, there are limited exceptions where it can be lawful to discriminate in very particular ways – for example, requiring an airline pilot to have good eyesight. Both employers and employees can be held liable for discrimination. To avoid acts of discrimination at work, we recommend employers have an Equal Opportunities Policy to set out what is acceptable and expected of employees.

Statutory Sick Pay (SSP)

The current SSP rate is £99.35, as of April 2022. SSP is paid to an employee the same as their wages/salary and is subject to tax and National Insurance deductions.

Employers are required to pay employees who are eligible for SSP if they are off ill – not all employees are necessarily eligible.

SSP is not paid for the first three days of illness, unless the employee has been paid SSP in the last eight weeks and are eligible again. To claim SSP, employees must provide evidence of their incapacity.

Disciplinary and grievance issues

An effective disciplinary and grievance procedure is clear, fair and transparent. Always communicate your disciplinary procedure with all employees and make sure that you apply it fairly for everyone across the business.

Here’s some of the most important recommendations Acas make.

 

Disciplinary procedures should:

  • Specify the type of performance or conduct that will result in action
  • Say what action will be taken
  • Explain the appeal process if an employee is unhappy with a decision

 

Grievance procedures should:

  • Let employees know how and who they lodge a complaint to
  • Inform employees that a meeting will take place to discuss the issues raised in their complaint
  • Explain the appeal process for if an employee is unhappy with a decision

 

As well as tight policy documents, it’s important to make sure that all employees who may deal with disciplinary and grievance issues are properly trained to handle the issue appropriately.

 

When you partner with Citation, our HR and Employment Law experts can work with you to not only help you to draft watertight documents, but also support you if you end up progressing to a disciplinary or grievance procedure.

 

Top tip

When you’re putting together your disciplinary and grievance procedure, it’s always a good idea to refer to the Acas Code of Practice.

As employment progresses…

If you’ve employed someone subject to a successful probationary period, ensure regular reviews take place during this period. Remember… A lapsed probationary period is a passed probationary period!

 

When it comes to reviewing an employee’s performance, a once-a-year check in is simply not enough. In an age of social media, where people are used to getting continuous feedback in real-time, annual reviews are an alien concept.

 

We recommend quarterly appraisals at least. But don’t be shy, make sure you have regular, more informal catchups to make sure everyone is on the same page.

The benefits of a regular appraisal process are huge and include:

  • An opportunity to focus on your team’s goals and performance
  • Keep individual goals linked to your wider business goals
  • The opportunity to look at performance highlights and challenges
  • Enhance the future performance of your business

Properly drafted policies, handbooks and contracts are a must and could protect your business should an employee go to tribunal. It’s a given that all management should be aware of all the business’ policies and be effectively trained in how to handle them.

Remember

To stay compliant with legislative changes, your business’ handbook is something that needs to be continually revisited. When you make any updates to your handbook, you must communicate them with all employees and ensure employees sign to confirm they have seen and accepted the changes – especially if the handbook is contractual.

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