Why Is Understanding Employment Law So Important?

Employment law is in place to guarantee a fair and safe working environment for employers and employees. Statutes and strict rules outline, for the employer, how their employee’s should be treated within the workplace. Many employers and employees often don’t realise how many rules and regulations are covered by employment law, leading to confusion for employers and employees alike. There are many aspects of covered by employment law which means employees can take legal action for being treated unfairly.

Before recruiting new employees, employers should refer to employment law to ensure they are up to date with all aspects.

It is mandatory that employees and employees have a sound, equal understanding of employment law. For instance, if an employee feels they are being bullied or mobbed it is important they realise it is not acceptable and can take legal action against an employer. Employers need to understand employment law so they are providing an optimal working environment for employees. Failure to adhere to employment law can be costly for an employer; summary offences carry out a fine of up to £5000 or even a custodial sentence for more severe offences that are tried in Crown court.

Equality within the workplace ensures that everyone has equal opportunities and can’t be denied promotion or training for prejudicial reasons. Employers cannot discriminate against employees because of age, gender, nationality, pregnancy and maternity leave, sexual orientation, disabilities, race, ethnic background, religion and beliefs. Legal action can be carried out, should an employee believe they are being treated unfairly due to prejudice.

The National Minimum Wage (NMW) ensures that if an employer should choose to pay a low wage, there is a minimum legal amount. This prevents slave labour and ensures unskilled trades pay enough for workers to live off. There are four different groups of NMW; the lowest being apprenticeship wages, followed by 16 and 17 year olds, then 18-20 year olds and finally 21 upwards. NMW tends to rise with inflation so employers and employees should regularly check the correct amount is being paid.

Working time regulations state that employers can legally make their employees work no more than 48 hours a week, unless the employee agrees to “opt out” of the 48-hour week. This is an agreement that employer and employee sign to say the worker can work more than 48 hours a week. Unpaid lunch breaks, regular travel to and from work, voluntary unpaid overtime and paid or unpaid holidays are not counted as working hours. Paid overtime, working lunches, working abroad for a UK based company and job-related training however, are all included in the working week.

The Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 is a large piece of legislation which covers all aspects of health and safety in the workplace. Employers have a “duty of care” to ensure the working environment is safe for employees. Primarily, health and safety refers to eliminating hazards to prevent accidents and ensuring the working environment is safe. Should an employee be concerned about their health and safety at work, they should speak to their employer and trade union. If speaking to their employer or trade union has no effect, they should report the employer to the environmental health department of their local authority.

Understanding employment law is crucial for employers and employees. Workers should know their rights so that they are not treated unfairly or differently to the rest of the working society. Employers should understand employment law to avoid legal action being taken against them through ignorance or lack of knowledge in regards to employment law.

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