Employment Q&A

Your legal questions

answered...

Q. We are having issues with a difficult employee, can you please advise as to the correct way in which to discipline him?

Taking disciplinary action in the work place is a potential minefield. In general, employers must follow one of the statutory dismissal and disciplinary procedures (SDDPs). Standard SDDP has three stages:

1. Inform the employee in writing why you are contemplating dismissing or taking some other disciplinary action against them and invite them to a meeting. Make sure you give them enough time to prepare. Provide the employee with copies of any evidence that you may use at that meeting.

2. Hold the meeting with the employee. After the meeting, inform them of your decision and, if you have decided to dismiss them or apply a disciplinary penalty, notify them of their right to appeal. If new information arises during the meeting that may affect your decision, end the meeting and investigate the matter further. Rearrange the meeting if necessary.

3. If the employee wishes to appeal, invite them to a further meeting.

The employee has the right to be accompanied at both meetings by a colleague or union representative. These are standard procedures, professional guidance should always be sought before proceeding with any action.

What changes in employment law have taken place recently?

The most recent changes include the increase from April 2012 in the qualifying period for unfair dismissal claims from one year to two years, the new concept of Settlement Agreements and the introduction of fees in the Employment Tribunal for the first time.

Also, from 6th May 2014, ACAS early conciliation became a legal requirement, so Claimant s have to obtain an Early Conciliation certificate before filing a claim to show that they have, at least, attempted to resolve matters through ACAS. The ACAS service is free and confidential, and they have a great deal of experience in resolving disputes.

What is a Settlement Agreement?

This is a legally binding agreement which the parties sign to settle a claim in the employment tribunal. The Claimant signs agreeing not to pursue their claim any further and must have legal advice to make it binding.

How has the new fee regime affected employment claims?

Fees for filing a claim came into effect in July 2013 and we are now seeing how these have affected the number of claims being made. Claims have dropped by 79%, in the first quarter measured - quite a dramatic effect. The issue fee falls into a Type A category or a type B. Type A is for straightforward claims such as unpaid wages and B is for the more complex claim, such as unfair dismissal. The fees are currently £160 for Type A and Type B is £250. If you send the incorrect fee your claim will be rejected.

What is a common problem with claims?

A common problem is filing a claim too late and I am often asked will tribunals allow claims or responses to be filed after a time limit has expired.

The short answer is do not risk it! File your claim (or response) in good time. It is very rare that tribunals allow a claim to proceed after the time limit has expired. The Tribunal Chairman would have to be convinced there was a very good reason, and a late claim is usually declined. For most claims the time limit for filing is 3 months. For some, such as redundancy payment claims, it is 6 months.

I am an employer. There is a great deal of legislation. How do I deal with all the legal requirements correctly?

It is true that the burden on employers to comply with employment legislation has increased steadily over the years. You may wish to take out a monthly plan with us, with ready access to an employment solicitor to supply you with employment contracts, procedures and give prompt email or telephone advice. Contact us for a quote for an employment subscription.