Navigating Employment Law in the UK for membership organisations

Did you know that since October 2012, employers have been required to have a mandatory pension and that membership organisations with over 50 employees must declare Trade Union support?

Navigating the complexities of employment law in the UK for membership organisations can be a minefield. 

With numerous rights and regulations to consider, both employers and employees need to tread carefully. 

Our short guide aims to shed light on the key issues surrounding employment law in the UK, providing insights into the potential risks that may arise and how they can be effectively managed.

So, let's begin.

1. When it comes to hiring, firing, and promoting staff, there are two crucial legal issues that employers must keep in mind. 

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  • Discrimination
  • Immigration compliance

It is essential for membership sector focused employers to have processes in place that minimise the risk of discrimination and ensure compliance with immigration regulations.

By understanding and effectively managing these legal issues, employers can create a fair and inclusive workplace environment.

2. Discrimination

When recruiting, promoting or dismissing staff, an employer needs to make sure they have in place processes that reduce the risk of discrimination taking place.

It is unlawful to discriminate against an employee, worker, or job applicant in relation to the following protected characteristics:

  1. Sex or gender reassignment
  2. Sexual orientation
  3. Maternity leave or pregnancy
  4. Marital or civil partnership status
  5. Disability
  6. Age
  7. Religion or belief
  8. Race

3. Immigration compliance

In light of recent changes, workers who are nationals from the European Economic Area (EEA) and Switzerland no longer have an automatic right to live and work in the UK.

If employers wish to hire individuals from within or outside of the EEA, they must complete the necessary registration process with UK Visas and Immigration. This includes satisfying a points-based test to ensure eligibility for working in the UK or being considered under the skilled-workers scheme.

Furthermore, employers who do choose to employ foreign national workers must diligently carry out appropriate document checks. Failure to do so could result in serious civil and criminal consequences. 

4. What are the repercussions of discrimination?

The right to be free from discrimination is protected by law and is not contingent on the length of one's service. In the event that a claimant successfully proves their case of discrimination, there is no limit to the compensation they may be awarded, potentially resulting in a substantial payout.

The amount of compensation granted will be determined based on the claimant's future losses.

5. How can employers minimise discrimination risks?

There are a few ways that employers can minimise the risk of being accused of discrimination, and we can support you throughout the recruitment, hiring, and interview processes to ensure compliance. These include:

  1. Ensure arrangements for interviews (for new positions) and appraisals (for current staff) don’t put certain groups at a particular disadvantage – e.g., they need to provide sufficient disabled access.
  2. Be careful in job adverts and at interviews to not use language that might discriminate. For example, avoid saying things like “youthful” or “mature” which gives the impression that applicants may be excluded because of their age.
  3. Keep selection criteria objective and ask the same key questions of all candidates no matter their background, including whether they are already an employee of your membership organisation.

5. Promote a Positive Work Environment for Employees

  • Ensure precise and timely disbursement of incentives and allowances
  • Store job contracts and personal records securely in an online database
  • Manage payroll, absence, and vacation records efficiently through an online system
  • Implement a fair policy for requesting and approving absences
  • Efficiently distribute and monitor perks and benefits in a timely manner
  • Establish a transparent policy for addressing grievances and providing redressal
  • Safely access staff records online with secure rights and permissions.

6. What does UK law say about the contract of employment?

The contract of employment serves as the primary legally binding agreement between employers and employees, ensuring a fair and secure working relationship. It is a legal requirement for employers to provide a contract of employment before the employee commences work, or within a maximum of two months from their start date.

While employers may include additional terms to safeguard their business, it is crucial that all terms align with the UK legal framework. To ensure compliance with the law, a contract of employment must meet the following criteria:

6.1 Statutory Rights

There are certain minimum terms of employment that must be included in any contract of employment. These rights are not dependent on length of service and will override any contractual terms which are less generous. Here is a list of some of the more important statutory rights: 

  1. The right to a national minimum wage.
  2. The right to holiday entitlement. Full-time employees are entitled to at least 28 days’ paid holiday in each holiday year. This is pro-rated for part-time workers. This entitlement can include the eight public holidays.
  3. The right to statutory sick pay. Most employees who are absent from work due to sickness are entitled to be paid a statutory rate of sick pay for up to 28 weeks in any three-year period.
  4. Working time restrictions. These regulations are designed to ensure that employees’ health and safety is protected and that they do not work excessive hours and/or fail to take rest breaks.
  5. The right to equal pay. Employees have the right to receive equal pay to that received by members of the opposite sex if they are doing equivalent work or work of equal value.

6.2 Family-friendly rights

There are also statutory rights which apply to employees with a family or family commitment. These include:

  • The right to maternity leave
  • The right to statutory maternity pay for 39 weeks
  • The right to two weeks’ paid paternity leave
  • The right to 52 weeks’ adoption leave

7.  What about fixed-term and part-time contracts?

When hiring fixed-term or part-time employees, it is crucial for employers to adhere to the law and ensure that these workers are not treated differently from permanent employees.

What about temporary workers?

Did you know that temporary workers are entitled to basic working conditions that are just as favorable as those of permanent employees? We are here to provide you with step-by-step guidance on this matter, please contact Anna for more information on how we do a lot of the leg-work here for you.

Moreover, after being in a role for a period of 12 weeks, temporary agency workers are entitled to the same level of pay as if they had been directly recruited by the hirer.

8. Are pensions now legally protected and guaranteed?

Starting in October 2012, employers have a legal obligation to take care of their workers' pensions.

This includes:

  • Automatically enrolling employees into a pension scheme
  • Making contributions on their behalf
  • Registering with the UK Pensions Regulator.
  • Employers have the option to enroll their staff into their own pension schemes or, if they don't have one, a government-run scheme. 

9. What about Trade Unions?

If a Trade Union gains enough support within the workplace, it can gain the power to collaborate with the employer in negotiating crucial matters like wages, working hours, vacations, health and safety policies, as well as issues related to collective redundancies and business transfers.

Membership organisations that employ 50 or more individuals are obligated to inform their employees about their stance on recognising trade unions.

We can guide you here, just let us know where you need help.

10. What about grievances?

There is a government-produced guide known as the ACAS Code of Practice on Discipline and Grievance which provides practical advice to employers and employees in disciplinary and grievance situations. Whilst this isn’t legally binding, it is important for employers to work within the guidelines to stay on the right side of the law.

11. What about unfair dismissal?

All employees have the right not to be unfairly dismissed as set out in UK law.

In order for dismissal to be fair, the employer must show there was:

  • A fair reason, such as misconduct or redundancy.
  • That a fair procedure was followed when carrying out the dismissal.

To sum up

Understanding employment law in the UK can be quite challenging. However, we are confident that our short guide will provide you with the necessary assistance to gain a deeper understanding of the subject.

Rest assured, we are here to provide support and guidance whenever you bring our permanent, temporary, or interim talent on board, regardless of their preferred working model - we're always here to lend a helping hand, let us know how we can help you by reaching out to us here.