Employment Law is all about the relationship between an employer and employee. Sometimes people come to me and say they don’t have an employment contract, even though they have been working for an employer for years. In reality, they do have a contract as this is formed by the verbal agreement to work and be paid, they just don’t have a written agreement detailing all the terms of employment.

In addition to the contract terms, there are statutory laws passed by Parliament to govern the relationship between an employer and employee. Some laws are derived from European directive, and some are not.

Unfair Dismissal and Employee Rights

An employer and employee may agree between them that, should either wish to terminate the contract of employment, the other party must be given three months’ notice. However, the Government law of unfair dismissal states that once an employee has worked for an employer for two years, the employer cannot give notice unless they act fairly and reasonably, and the dismissal is for a fair reason. So a dismissal can still be deemed unfair, even if the notice terms of the contract have been honoured.

Some laws are brought in to comply with European Directives, such as the Working Time Regulations which give employees the right to paid holiday amongst other things. Slightly older readers may remember a time where employees did not have this right, and would have to take time off unpaid if they wanted a holiday. As you can imagine, there are many other examples of employment legislation that influence our working relationships.

Does Employment Law Change Much over Time?

It is constantly changing with new laws and initiatives. Some changes are mere tweaks, for example compensation levels and rates of statutory sick pay and the like, which change incrementally on an annual basis. Other changes are more fundamental, and have gone hand-in-hand with sweeping changes in British culture. For example, anti-discrimination laws, which have helped to change attitudes in society. A look at early sex discrimination cases is enlightening, for instance a case in the 1970’s in which an employer believed he was offering helpful advice when he said a female applicant for a job that she would be better off at home looking after her children than working! The Employment tribunal said they understood that he thought he was doing the right thing, but that this was unlawful, and that by law women had to be given the same opportunities as men.

Legislation that was passed over 40 years ago has shaped the workforce and working relationships of today, and Employment law will continue to evolve with the times.