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Employment legislation covers the rights of workers and regulates their relationship with their employers.
Anyone following an Apprenticeship in HR will learn about employment legislation and how it relates to all aspects of work, from recruitment and disciplinaries to parental leave and health and safety issues.
At present, employment legislation includes laws made in Europe as well as in the UK. It is not yet clear what might change after the UK leaves the EU in March 2019 and the effect this could have on workers’ rights.
WHAT ISSUES ARE COVERED BY EMPLOYMENT LEGISLATION?
When people think of legislation in the workplace, they tend to think of issues such as health and safety. However, employment law covers many other areas that protect workers and the organisations they work for.
These include general employment issues, such as:
Recruitment, working hours, contracts, employment status (full or part time/flexible)
Pay and entitlement for: holidays, sickness, maternity/paternity/adoption
Redundancy and retirement
As well as protections, such as:
Health and safety
Anti-discrimination laws (sex/age/racial/disability/sexual orientation/religious)
Bullying and harassment
Disciplinary and grievance, unfair/wrongful/constructive dismissal, whistleblowing
Transfer of Undertakings (eg if a business is bought and/or if a company relocates)
WHERE DOES THE LEGISLATION COME FROM
There are currently three sources for employment law:
UK Parliament – legislation
UK Courts – judicial decisions
EU – EU law
An example of an Act of Parliament that relates in part to workers right is the Equality Act 2010. This brought together several previous Acts, such as those covering sex, race and disability discrimination (see our blog: A Guide to Equality and Diversity).
WHAT IS “CIVIL LAW” AND HOW DOES IT RELATE TO EMPLOYMENT LAW?
Civil law is the framework for a claimant suing a respondent in a civil court.
In scenarios relating to the workplace, the claimant might be:
An existing worker
A former worker
An unsuccessful job applicant
Any of the above might take an organisation to court to try and prove that they have received detrimental treatment contravening the law.
Examples could include a job candidate who feels they were discriminated against in the interview process on account of their age, a woman who is made redundant while on maternity leave, a worker who is injured because of inadequate health and safety training.
HOW MIGHT THINGS CHANGE AFTER BREXIT?
The UK joined the European Economic Community (EEC) in 1973, which later became the European Union (EU). In 1997, following the implementation of the Maastricht Treaty, employment law in the UK included additional European laws, offering further protections of workers’ rights.
It is possible that these laws may continue to have some kind of impact after Brexit, but at present it is unclear to what extent. It has also not yet clear what sort of role the European Court of Justice will have in the future, when it comes to the rights of UK employers and workers.
WHY EMPLOYMENT LEGISLATION IS IMPORTANT?
You may hear some people dismissing employment legislation as “red tape” or “health and safety gone mad”. However, employment law is aimed at protecting and supporting everyone in the workplace – without it, there would be no guarantee of sickness or holiday pay, for example, and workers might not be able to challenge discrimination, bullying or wrongful dismissal.