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10 Myths About UK Employment Law

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Contributed by: Sarah Simcott, Employment Lawyer, Percy Hughes & Roberts Solicitors

Opinions expressed and information shared by Amazing Workplaces contributors are their own.

Knowing your rights as an employee can often be difficult, and many people can feel like they have nowhere to turn if they believe they are being treated unfairly at work. Here, we explore the 10 most common myths or misconceptions about certain employment law issues, which you may be surprised to find out.

1.  “Women have a legal duty to reveal they are pregnant when applying for a new job.”

Women are actually under no legal obligation to disclose that they are pregnant during the recruitment process for a new job. Employers can actually leave themselves exposed to potential claims of discrimination if they ask an applicant about their marital status, whether they have children or are planning to have children.

2.  “An employment contract doesn’t exist if there is nothing in writing.”

An employment verbal contract can be legally binding, and does not necessarily need to be written down to be valid. However, employers are required by law to issue a written statement including the main terms and conditions, the majority of written particulars must be provided in a single document on or before the date on which the employment starts.

3.  “All employees are entitled to statutory redundancy payment.”

Only employees who have at least two years of continuous service are entitled to receive statutory redundancy pay. If you are deemed to have “unreasonably refused” to accept any suitable alternative employment offered to you by your employer, you could actually lose your right to receive statutory redundancy pay.

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4.  “Employees with less than two years of service cannot claim for unfair dismissal.”

Generally speaking ordinary unfair dismissal rights apply to employees with two years continuous employment.  However not all dismissals require two years qualifying employment in order to bring a claim in the Employment Tribunal there are numerous exceptions to this rule, for example automatic unfair dismissal where the employee is dismissed for having asserted a statutory right, or, where they have made a relevant protected disclosure.

5.  “You will be suspended if you are under investigation for misconduct.”

Your employer can suspend you from work pending investigation. However, this option can only be used in certain circumstances – for instance, if they believe you could tamper with evidence or pose a risk to the business.

6.  “Your employer should always adopt a ‘last in, first out’ policy when considering redundancy.”

This was once a common way to select employees for redundancy; however, this can actually cause a number of issues for employees who may believe they have been targeted unfairly. Employers choosing this method are likely to face age discrimination issues, as it is more likely that younger employees will be at a disadvantage because they have the least amount of experience.

If your employer is making people redundant, they are legally required to use a range of criteria that are fair.

7.  “Employees are entitled to book time off for dependants in advance.”

This is not strictly true. Employees do have the statutory right to take unpaid time off for dependants to deal with emergencies and unforeseen matters involving a dependant. However, members of staff do not have a statutory right to take time off from their job to attend an event that they already knew about.

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8.  “Employees are entitled to take bank holidays off, or be paid overtime for working them.”

Members of staff are not automatically entitled to the right to time off work for bank holidays. There is also no obligation for employers to pay employees extra for working on a bank holiday. This may be the case if it is specified in the employee’s employment contract, but is not automatically the case.

9. “An employee cannot be dismissed because they are off sick.”

This is not true. An employee may be dismissed because they are on long-term sick leave, or repeatedly taking days off sick, even in cases where the sickness is genuine. However, an employer must carry out this procedure fairly. Full consideration must also be given to the employer’s obligations regarding the Equality Act.

10. “Employees returning from maternity leave have the right to work part time.”

Although an employee has a statutory right to request to work flexibly or change their hours after returning to work after maternity leave, their employer is not necessarily obliged to accept. Women who are looking to change the terms of their employment should consult with their employer before going back to work to find out if the move is plausible.

 


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