I blogged previously on the Government's proposed reforms to employment law - Government Announces Far-reaching Employment Law Reforms - which are aimed at reducing the number of Tribunal claims, making it easier for employers to hire and fire employees without the fear of a Tribunal claim.

As part of this exercise the Government has indicated an intention to give businesses more confidence when dealing with employees. To this end, the Employer’s Charter has been published which sets out eleven courses of action an employer is entitled to follow, on the basis that it acts fairly and reasonably. The Charter states that an employer is entitled to:-

  • ask an employee to take their annual leave at a time that suits their business
  • contact a woman on maternity leave and ask when she plans to return
  • make an employee redundant if their business takes a downward turn
  • ask an employee to take a pay cut
  • withhold pay from an employee when they are on strike
  • ask an employee whether they would be willing to opt-out from the 48 hour limit in the Working Time Regulations
  • reject an employee’s request to work flexibly if the business has a legitimate business reason
  • talk to employees about their performance and how they can improve
  • dismiss an employee for poor performance
  • stop providing work to an agency worker (as long as they are not employed by you)
  • ask an employee about their future career plans, including retirement.

In the most part these general statements offer reassurance to employers of the rights they have in respect of their employees that are coupled with their obligations towards them. But as the Charter itself says "This is intended to help employers understand what they can do in general. Of course, individual circumstances may vary and employers should act in accordance with their legal obligations." As always, I would advise an employer to get specific advice before they act if they are unsure. For example, it is correct that an employee can be dismissed for poor performance. However, this is only the case after providing the employee with adequate warnings and opportunities to improve and following a fair procedure throughout. That said, the list is a useful reminder to employers who feel at times that the employee holds all the cards.

This got me thinking though about what else I would add to the Charter list. If I can think of anything else I will come back to this but for the time being how about:-

  • in most cases an employer can dismiss an employee with less than 51 weeks' service (yes 51 weeks not 1 year!) without the possibility of an unfair dimissal claim being raised;
  • if statutory sick pay only is being paid then there is no requirement to pay anything for the first 3 days of absence;
  • employers can, provided they follow a proper procedure, dismiss an employee on long term sick leave;
  • when a disabled employee asks for adjustments to be made, employers only have to agree to reasonable ones;
  • employers can refuse to pay an employee notice pay, if they have dismissed them for gross misconduct.

If you have any suggestions for other key rights you would like to see included, let me know.