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What are the requirements relating to advertising positions?
Employers can advertise positions through many different mediums, including:
- in newspapers or other publications;
- via email;
- in shop windows; and
- on notice boards.
An employer must not discriminate when advertising positions, either through its arrangements for advertising a position, by not advertising a position or in the content of the advertisement. In addition, employers may not instruct any third party involved in the advertisement of a position (eg, job centres, recruitment agencies and online agencies) to discriminate.
What can employers do with regard to background checks and inquiries in relation to the following:
(a) Criminal records?
Criminal records checks may be carried out subject to certain conditions and requirements, but are usually unnecessary for most employees. They should be requested only where the need to protect the employer's business, customers or clients makes it appropriate. Restrictions apply on who can be asked to disclose spent convictions. For example, in financial services, those who perform regulated roles can be asked to disclose spent convictions.
(b) Medical history?
It is generally unlawful to ask about a job applicant’s health before offering a job. Health checks are permitted only if they are justified by an occupational requirement.
(c) Drug screening?
Drug tests can be carried out in limited circumstances – for instance, where working under the influence of drugs or alcohol could give rise to health and safety considerations (eg, where staff drive or operate machinery) or serious damage to the employer's business. Applicants must consent to the test.
A drug test should be carried out only during employment if it is justified, necessary and proportionate, and with the employee’s consent (although an employer may make withholding consent a disciplinary matter).
(d) Credit checks?
Credit checks can be carried out in limited circumstances, and only where it is relevant to the position for which an applicant has applied. For example, a credit check would likely be appropriate only if the position involves handling cash or accounts or working for a financial institution.
(e) Immigration status?
Employers must request, and individuals must provide, certain original documents to establish their eligibility to undertake the work on offer. The documents that are required depend on whether the person is subject to immigration control. The employer must check the validity of the original documents and be satisfied that the individual is the person named in them and that he or she has the right to work in the United Kingdom. Once an employer is satisfied with the validity of the documents, it must make copies of the relevant pages of the original documents provided in a format that cannot later be altered. These documents must be retained for the duration of the individual's employment and for a further two years after employment has ceased. For certain categories of employee, further checks must be carried out every 12 months.
(f) Social media?
Any media searches undertaken should be necessary, proportionate and transparent. If no justifiable reason for conducting media searches exist, they should not be done.
Wages and working time
Is there a national minimum wage and, if so, what is it?
The national minimum wage applies to all workers over the compulsory school leaving age of 16 years old. National minimum wage rates differ depending on the age of the worker and whether he or she is in training. The current standard adult rate of national minimum wage is £6.50 per hour (October 1 2014 to September 30 2015).
Are there restrictions on working hours?
Under the Working Time Regulations, workers are restricted from working for more than 48 hours per week, on average. The average is normally calculated over a 17-week reference period. However, the regulation permits employers to ask their workers to consent in writing to opt-out of the 48-hour weekly working limit, provided that the workers have the right to cancel their opt-out by giving at least seven days’ notice (and up to a maximum of three months’ notice) at any time.
Hours and overtime
What are the requirements for meal and rest breaks?
Under the Working Time Regulations, workers are generally entitled to a 20-minute break away from their workstation when a day's working time exceeds six hours. They are also entitled to rest periods of 11 hours of uninterrupted rest per day and 24 hours of uninterrupted rest per week (or, at the employer's behest, 48 hours per fortnight).
The Working Time Regulations provide exemptions to these requirements for certain industries (eg, those which use shift work and where continuity of production is required) and for workers who determine their own working hours.
How should overtime be calculated?
Employers may determine the rate at which overtime is paid. A common formulation is for overtime to be paid at time and a half on working days and double time on weekends and bank holidays.
What exemptions are there from overtime?
Is there a minimum paid holiday entitlement?
Under the Working Time Regulations, workers are entitled to a minimum of 5.6 weeks' paid holiday each year. This can include public and bank holidays, of which there are normally eight per year in England and Wales.
What are the rules applicable to final pay and deductions from wages?
Employers can make deductions from wages in limited circumstances. Deductions are permitted if:
- they are required by statute (eg, deductions for income tax);
- the employee has expressly authorised them; or
- they are provided for in the employment contract and the employee has confirmed the terms in writing (ie, by signing the contract).
Payslips given to employees must include details of the amount and purpose of any deductions made from wages.
What payroll and payment records must be maintained?
Pay as you earn is the mechanism under which employers assess and deduct tax and employee national insurance contributions from payments made to employees and under which employers account and report to HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) on those payments. Since April 2013 employers must provide information to HMRC in real time, on or before the date that payment to an employee is made.
Itemised pay slips must be given to employees at or before the time at which wages are paid, and they must include, among other things, details of gross and net wages.
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