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Bullying is where you are subjected to abusive, offensive or intimidatory behaviour at work, usually by someone more powerful against someone vulnerable, or who has, or is perceived to have, less power. Bullying need not have any connection to discrimination, or any characteristic you have, but there’s a gap in the law, meaning it’s harder to bring a claim where the treatment you’re subjected to isn’t because of your age / sex / disability / sexual orientation / race / gender reassignment etc. and thus can count as harassment.

Anything that makes you feel vulnerable, upset, scared, uncomfortable, intimidated, undermined or threatened can count as bullying.

Examples of bullying include spreading gossip or rumours, picking on someone, undermining someone, not promoting someone or excluding them from meetings/activities. It can also include malicious performance management or disciplinary proceedings, overbearing or intimidating levels or style of supervision (though just giving feedback or conducting routine performance reviews are not in themselves bullying).

There is a difference between a tough manager and a bullying or abusive manager.

Bullying can be done verbally, face to face, such as abusing, intimidating or humiliating someone in a meeting (including remote meetings). It can also be done remotely, via email, chat apps like Teams or Slack, or by text message or WhatsApp, or letter.

Harassment is any unwanted physical, verbal or non-verbal conduct that has the purpose or effect of violating your dignity or creating an intimidating, hostile, offensive or humiliating environment for you. It can also be where someone is treated less favourably because they previously submitted to or rejected such behaviour.

Harassment can be of a sexual nature, or can relate to age, disability, gender reassignment, marital/civil partner status, pregnancy/maternity, race, colour, nationality, ethnic or national origin, religion or belief, sex, or sexual orientation.

Many different things could count as harassment – it’s hard to be exhaustive – but it will include things like unwanted physical contact (touching, pinching, groping), badgering someone to go out for a drink, sharing inappropriate images or jokes, unwelcome sexual behaviour, discriminatory jokes or remarks, offensive remarks, texts, or emails, teasing or mocking someone for their disability, race, age etc.

Anything that someone does which makes you feel scared or not safe at work can be intimidation. Shouting or speaking aggressively, pointing a finger in someone’s face, standing over someone making use of increased height or their position sitting at their desk, could all well amount to intimidation. If behaviour intimidates you in some way, it’s likely to be bullying or harassment.

The first step is to check the organisation’s bullying policy if they have one. It will often be a combined policy covering bullying and harassment. It’s likely that you’ll be asked to raise an informal complaint or grievance to try to resolve matters informally, perhaps directly with the bully. However, that’s often not feasible, as you’d understandably feel that it may just hand the bully another reason to bully you.

The next step would usually be to raise a formal complaint, with HR or a senior manager. We can help write your complaint, and ensure it includes everything it needs to work towards your desired solution.

A contract of employment sets out the terms of the relationship between employer and employee. It has to contain certain required terms, including start date, names of employer and employee, place of work, hours of work, rate of pay and how often the employee will be paid, employee’s entitlement to holiday and sick pay, details of training requirements, how much notice is required to terminate the employment, data protection provisions and so on.

The contract of employment sets out the terms of the relationship between employer and employee. Whilst you may not need to look at the contract while everything runs smoothly, if there is a complaint or disciplinary or performance issue or a potential claim, it will be essential to know what the employment contract says.

The law sets out what has to be included in an employment contract. This includes start date, names of employer and employee, place of work, hours of work, rate of pay and how often the employee will be paid, employee’s entitlement to holiday and sick pay, details of training requirements, how much notice is required to terminate the employment, data protection provisions, and so on. In addition, we would usually recommend that other terms are also included, like confidentiality obligations and post termination restrictive covenants.

Yes, all employees should be issued with an employment contract before or at the start of employment.

A zero hours contract is a contract where the employee or worker has no guaranteed hours, and agrees to be potentially available for work. The employee or worker is only paid for the hours they actually work, so there is no guarantee of any pay, or any particular amount.

We can provide tailored template employment contracts! We will ask some questions about your business, and about the employee(s) you want to issue contracts to, and will then prepare the required template(s) for you to use. We charge a fixed fee per class of employment contract that you need.

We might in future offer a free template employment contract, but it wouldn’t be tailored to your business or to the employee, so we couldn’t guarantee that it would be appropriate for the particular circumstances.   

Ask us to help! We will ask some questions about your business, and about the employee(s) you want to issue contracts to, and will then prepare the required template(s) for you to use. We charge a fixed fee per class of employment contract that you need.

Yes, a contract of employment has to be in writing.

All contracts should be signed, to prove that both parties have agreed the terms. If a contract of employment hasn’t been signed, but the employee has worked and been paid for a while, there will be an argument that both parties have agreed to the terms even though they haven’t actually signed the contract. But it’s always best to sign a contract.

All contracts should be signed, to prove that both parties have agreed the terms. If a contract of employment hasn’t been signed, but the employee has worked and been paid for a while, there will be an argument that both parties have agreed to the terms even though they haven’t actually signed the contract. But it’s always best to sign a contract.

The law sets out what has to be included in an employment contract. This includes start date, names of employer and employee, place of work, hours of work, rate of pay and how often the employee will be paid, employee’s entitlement to holiday and sick pay, details of training requirements, how much notice is required to terminate the employment, data protection provisions, and so on. In addition, we would usually recommend that other terms are also included, like confidentiality obligations and post termination restrictive covenants.

Contracts of employment should be issued before or at the start of employment.

At the start of employment, or sometimes beforehand.

Yes, a contract of employment does need a start date.

Depending on the circumstances, a contract of employment comes into effect when it is signed or at the start of employment, or if it’s a new contract issued during employment, it comes into effect on the agreed date, for instance on a promotion.

A contract of employment can be a couple of pages, or a reasonably lengthy document, depending on the employee, their seniority and the nature of their role. Sometimes employment contracts will also include schedules setting out benefits, bonus terms, and so on. Sometimes disciplinary and grievance procedures will be appended, though these should be included in a full Staff Handbook and will not usually form part of the contract itself.

We can provide tailored template employment contracts for £500 plus VAT per contract/class of contracts for junior (non-Director) employees. We charge extra for matters such as bonus terms, tailored restrictive covenants, and so on. We charge £850 to £1,000 plus VAT per contract/class of contract of Directors Service Agreements, including tailored restrictive covenants. To work out what you need (how many different classes of contract, what type of contract, etc), we will ask some questions about your business, and about the employee(s) you want to issue contracts to, and will then prepare the required template(s) for you to use. We charge a fixed fee per class of employment contract that you need. By “class of contract” we mean, for instance, a full time contract, part time/flexible contract, or job title/job type (admin, junior manager, professional, Director, etc).

We might in future provide a free template contract of employment, but would always recommend that we provide tailored template contracts based on your particular requirements and the employee(s) you want to issue contracts to. In our view, non-specific templates don’t offer as much value for money for your business compared to the specialist, experienced employment law advice that we can provide.

A disciplinary policy is the rules set by your employer setting out their expectations of their employees around things like conduct; performance; and critically also then setting out the process by which those matters will be managed if an employee’s behaviour or performance fall short of those ‘rules’.

You can usually find your employer’s disciplinary policy in their staff handbook or office manual, or sometimes in your contract of employment. If your employer changes or updates the disciplinary policy, they should notify all staff of any such changes.

A disciplinary process is the steps an employer must take to manage an employee who they believe is falling short of the expected behaviour for their given role or job. It is sometimes used for performance issues, though it’s better for an employer to have a separate performance management or performance improvement procedure.

You should be able to find your employer’s disciplinary process set out in their disciplinary policy which is usually contained in what is called the staff handbook or office manual, or sometimes in your contract of employment. That will set out the steps involved in the disciplinary process.

The first step of any disciplinary process will normally be informal managing. As such, that is trying to get an employee to an acceptable level of performance or behaviour without a formal disciplinary process beginning.

That informal management is likely to include training, support, and encouragement. And, it will be around the employees performance and/or conduct. If informal management is unsuccessful then the next step is to start a formal disciplinary process. The first step of that process is likely to be an investigation meeting held between employer and employee.

No! A disciplinary procedure should never start with the outcome already being decided by the employer! A properly run procedure is there to provide a safe platform for both employee and employer. The rationale for the procedure being recorded is of course borne out of the fact that the outcome MAY result in a serious result for the employee. However, one outcome of a disciplinary process might be that no action is needed to be taken.

An employer can notify an employee of proposed disciplinary action either by email or letter. Either way, when notifying the employee of the forthcoming disciplinary process, that notice should include: details of the alleged misconduct; examples of evidence supporting the alleged problem; any information around issues the employer would like to talk; the date time and place of the disciplinary hearing; confirmation of the employee’s right to be accompanied; and finally it should set out possible outcomes.

The disciplinary hearing is the point at which the employee will have all of the alleged misconduct put them again by their employer, and will have an opportunity both to respond to the allgeations, as well as ask questions of their own (as will the employer). The purpose of the meeting is to allow the employer to decide upon an appropriate outcome. The employee must be allowed to have a companion with them (to ‘be accompanied’).

Yes! It is a legal requirement of your employer to notify you of your right to be accompanied by a companion at any disciplinary hearing(s). That companion can be a work colleague, or trade unions representative. The employer may allow a spouse or relative but it is at their discretion to do so – unless the contract of employment specifically permits it.

Your employer must notify you of your right to be accompanied by a companion at any disciplinary hearing. That can be either a colleague or trade union representative. Generally, spouses and friends are not permitted but it is at the discretion of your employer to allow that. If your contract of employment makes specific provision (via the disciplinary process) to permit spouses, partners, or friends then of course your employer should allow it.

No, you do not have to attend a disciplinary hearing. However, it is your opportunity to provide your version of events and in the absence of a good reason excusing your attendance it may of course look bad should you later wish to challenge the decision of your employer.

How long is a piece of string?! There is however no specific requirement in law setting out the timeframes to be adhered to with a disciplinary process. The ACAS guidelines state that an employer should deal with any disciplinary process without “unreasonable delay”. What constitutes unreasonable delay is down to the circumstances of the misconduct or performance issues.

At the disciplinary hearing, the employer will set out again (having already done so in writing) the allegations relating to conduct or performance. They will go through both the details of the allegations, and the evidence in support of those matters. The employee (and/or their companion) will then have the opportunity to: set out their own case; deal with the allegations; show their own evidence; call any witnesses; and ask the employer any questions they wish to raise.

No, a disciplinary processes should always be undertaken by an employer with an open mind, and without preconceived decisions being made. So, the start of a disciplinary process should not include a decided outcome – whether dismissal or otherwise.

A disciplinary process is the formal procedure for an employer to raise concerns against an employee. A grievance procedure is the formal process allowing an employee to raise concerns they have with their employer.

Your employer’s disciplinary process is usually to be found in what’s known as the staff handbook or office manual, or sometimes in your contract of employment. This procedure and other formal office matters contained within the office do not usually form part of your contractual terms and conditions of employment but your contract and/or the handbook will say if they do.

The outcome of a disciplinary process must be kept confidential by your employer. However, your employer is permitted to talk to colleagues about the fact that the process is happening, as it is something that can cause unease and concern in the workplace for others.

A disciplinary process must be recorded by your employer, along with the outcome.

Yes, all employers should have a disciplinary process. In practice, the only point at which a company is likely to be criticised for not having a disciplinary process is if a dispute with an employee ends up before an employment tribunal. Not having a disciplinary process at that point is likely to see any employment tribunal take a dim view of the employer. It is not however like driving a car without a driving licence and there are not disciplinary process police out there questioning employers to show they have a disciplinary process!

When your employer concludes the disciplinary process they will confirm in writing what their decision is. They will include in that written decision the details of how when and where you should appeal that decision should you wish to. You would also expect this appeal process to be set out in your employers disciplinary process held (usually) in the office manual.

Yes, an employer is entitled to manage their business as they see fit, and that includes managing the performance and conduct of their staff. However, the law does require to them adhere to the requirements of exercising and following ‘proper process’ when they do so. So this will include having a written policy that is in line with the law, and the employer must be seen to follow that due process. What an employment tribunal is unlikely to do is to seek to retrospectively manage a business. Their role is simply to ensure that the relevant employment law is followed, and due process as regards disciplinary action.

If you disagree with the outcome of a disciplinary process you should lodge a formal notice with your employer. When the disciplinary process is complete, your employer should provide you with their written decision. Included in that decision should be details of how where and when you should lodge an appeal against the disciplinary decision. The details of the appeal process should also be included in the disciplinary policy contained in the office manual.

Each employer may have details of what they see as possible outcomes of disciplinary action contained within their disciplinary process in the staff handbook or office manual. This does not usually form part of your contractual terms and conditions of employment. The typical outcomes may include: no action taken; informal warning; first written warning; final written warning; demotion; training and support; and of course even dismissal, or summary dismissal for the worst disciplinary offences.

Bear with us as we’re intending to post a template disciplinary policy here shortly for you to use as a guide! It’s better to have a disciplinary policy specifically tailored for your business, though, with appropriate disciplinary offences that will usually lead to dismissal/summary dismissal. It’s also best to have a separate performance management or performance improvement policy and procedure.

We would provide you with a pack made up of an appropriately tailored grievance policy, disciplinary policy and performance management policy. If you wanted a full staff handbook, we can do that too.

Free template disciplinary policy? Yes, you read it correctly – we’ve created a template disciplinary policy which you can access via our Downloads section.  It’s much better to have a disciplinary policy specifically tailored for your business, though, with provisions relevant to your unique business. It’s also best to have a separate performance management or performance improvement policy and procedure, rather than wrapping it up in the disciplinary policy.  That said, this template will give you a decent starting point – just contact us at employment@Qlaw.co.uk if you have any queries, and we’ll arrange a chat to talk through your needs and how we can help you get to where you need to be.

Discrimination at work happens when you are treated unfairly at work because of one of the “protected characteristics” – age, disability, gender reassignment, marriage/civil partnership, pregnancy or maternity, race, religion or belief, sex, or sexual orientation.

There are several types of discrimination: direct discrimination, indirect discrimination, harassment, victimisation. Disability discrimination can also occur where an employer fails to make reasonable adjustments to ameliorate the impact of an employee’s disability on their working environment, as well as for a reason arising because of disability.

Harassment occurs where someone is subjected to unwanted conduct that violates their dignity or creates a hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment for them. Sexual harassment is where someone is subjected to unwanted conduct of a sexual nature that has the same impact. It is also harassment where someone has been subjected to any form of harassment, which they either rejected or submitted to, and is treated less favourably than they would have been if they had not rejected/submitted to the unwanted conduct.

All employees, workers and importantly, job applicants are entitled not to be discriminated against because of a protected characteristic.

Seek advice as soon as possible, because it’s important not to delay. Usually, the first step is to raise a complaint or grievance about the situation, but you can generally only claim for treatment that took place within the 3 months beforehand.

Seek advice as soon as possible, so we can help you deal with the allegations. Generally, the best thing to do is co-operate with the process. There may be particular things to consider, such as the best solution for you in the circumstances, and getting us involved early can make the most of the options available to you.

Assuming you have the right to claim unfair dismissal (usually you need 2 years’ service with your employer to gain unfair dismissal rights), before you can submit an Employment Tribunal claim, you usually have to go through Acas Early Conciliation to see if it’s possible to reach a settlement deal with your employer. If Acas Early Conciliation is unsuccessful at brokering a deal, Acas issue a Certificate that enables you to start an Employment Tribunal claim. You’ll need to fill in the required form, called an ET1, and provide all the information required on the form, as well as setting out full details of your claim. Employment law is complicated and if you make a mistake or don’t meet the Employment Tribunal deadlines, you can lose your right to bring a claim. As such, we would recommend that you take specialist employment law advice as soon as possible after your dismissal (if not beforehand) if you’re considering claiming unfair dismissal.

Assuming you have the right to claim unfair dismissal (usually you need 2 years’ service with your employer to gain unfair dismissal rights), before you can submit an Employment Tribunal claim, you usually have to go through Acas Early Conciliation to see if it’s possible to reach a settlement deal with your employer. If Acas Early Conciliation is unsuccessful at brokering a deal, Acas issue a Certificate that enables you to start an Employment Tribunal claim. You’ll need to fill in the required form, called an ET1, and provide all the information required on the form, as well as setting out full details of your claim.

A constructive dismissal is where you have resigned in response to something your employer has done to you, and that resignation is viewed by the law as a dismissal because it was caused by the employer’s own conduct or breach. The resignation can be with or without notice – though it’s risky to resign without notice, so take advice before resigning. The employer’s act or failure must have led to your resignation, and be so serious as to amount to a fundamental breach of contract – that means something so serious that it in essence destroys, or shows the employer doesn’t intend to be bound by, the relationship of trust and confidence that should exist between employer and employee. By contrast, “ordinary” unfair dismissal is where you are dismissed by the employer for any reason.

A constructive dismissal is where you resign in response to your employer’s bad treatment of you. That bad treatment must be so serious as to amount to a fundamental breach of contract – that means something so serious that it in essence destroys, or shows the employer doesn’t intend to be bound by, the relationship of trust and confidence that should exist between employer and employee. So, a constructive dismissal is where the law makes a resignation into a dismissal in law because the only, or main, reason you resigned was because of your employer’s own conduct. On the other hand, a resignation is where you resign because you want to leave – not because the employer has necessarily done anything wrong, or else where there isn’t enough evidence to prove that your employer committed a serious breach of contract. In a constructive dismissal claim, it’s up to you to prove to the Employment Tribunal that your employer breached your contract, and as such that you didn’t resign just by choice.

An employment tribunal is the type of court that deals with employment claims, including claims for unfair dismissal, constructive unfair dismissal, discrimination, unlawful deduction of wages, holiday pay claims, and so on.

The employment tribunal deals with employment claims, including claims for unfair dismissal, constructive unfair dismissal, discrimination, unlawful deduction of wages, holiday pay claims, and so on.

The grounds for an employment tribunal claim will depend on the type of claim you want to bring. For instance, if your employer dismissed you without a fair reason and/or without following a fair procedure, you may have a claim for unfair dismissal. If your employer dismissed you or treated you unfairly because of a protected characteristic such as your age, sex, sexual orientation, disability, race, religion or belief, then you may have a claim for discrimination.

This depends on the type of claim you are bringing. In unfair dismissal claims, if the tribunal finds that the employee has been unfairly dismissed, the tribunal can award a basic award which is calculated on a formula (the same as statutory redundancy pay – see our calculator), plus a compensatory award of up to one year’s pay, or the relevant capped amount (see our Employment Facts & Figures). In a discrimination claim, the employment tribunal can award unlimited compensation, including an award for injury to feelings, which reflects the impact the discriminatory treatment has had on the claimant. The tribunal can also make declarations about the employer’s conduct.

This is a tricky question. For both employers and employees it is often worth *giving the impression* that you are prepared to go to an employment tribunal. It can also be worth going to an employment tribunal if you are very confident about the strength of your position. However, it can be difficult to predict how an employment tribunal will decide a particular case – it often depends on how the witnesses come across. We always analyse your claim or defence (whichever party we are acting for) and will advise on your chances of success – whatever that means in your case. Part of the process is to advise on the potential award and on an appropriate settlement figure, as well as legal costs, so you can make an informed decision on your options.

Please see our employment tribunal costs information.

t is impossible to generalise about the chances of winning an employment tribunal claim, or successfully defending an employment tribunal claim, because it will always depend on the individual circumstances of your situation. It can be difficult to predict how an employment tribunal will decide a particular case – it often depends on how the witnesses come across. We always analyse your claim or defence (whichever party we are acting for) and will advise on your chances of success – whatever that means in your case. Part of the process is to advise on the potential award and on an appropriate settlement figure, as well as legal costs, so you can make an informed decision on your options.

Yes – some hearings are dealt with by an employment judge sitting alone, such as preliminary hearings and the more straightforward claims. More complex hearings are dealt with by an employment judge sitting with two lay (non-legally qualified) panel members, who come from business or trade union backgrounds.

This changed recently – employment judges are now addressed as “Judge”, with the non-legal members of tribunal panels addressed as “Sir” or “Madam”.

Some hearings are dealt with by an employment judge sitting alone, such as preliminary hearings and the more straightforward claims. More complex hearings are dealt with by an employment judge sitting with two lay (non-legally qualified) panel members, who come from business or trade union backgrounds.

The time it takes from submitting a claim to the final merits hearing will depend on which employment tribunal the claim is being brought in – some are suffering longer delays than others. It will also depend on the type of claim and how complicated it is, as well as how many witnesses are giving evidence for each party.

Please see our employment tribunal costs information.

No – employment tribunal fees were charged for a while, but they were stopped in 2017. Employment tribunal fees are completely separate to legal fees or costs, as to which please see our employment tribunal costs information.

Please see our employment tribunal costs information.

Unlike the ordinary courts (High Court/County Court) it is very unusual for costs to be awarded in the employment tribunals. You can generally only recover costs where the paying party has been vexatious, unreasonable, abusive of process or misconceived in bringing or defending the claim. It is possible for costs to be awarded against the party or against their representative (though the latter is even rarer). Basically, you need to assume that you will be meeting your own costs of bringing or defending an employment tribunal claim. Insurance cover may be available to you to cover your legal expenses. Legal expenses insurance is sometimes included in other policies like home contents insurance, or you can purchase “after the event” insurance. Insurance will sometimes cover legal fees and any award and/or costs awarded against you.

Employees with at least 26 weeks’ employment can request flexible working under the statutory right to request flexible working. Note that this is a right to *ask* not a right to get.

Any employee with at least 26 weeks’ employment can request flexible working under the statutory right to request flexible working. One request to work flexibly can be made every 12 months.

There are set statutory reasons why an employer can refuse a flexible working request. It is perfectly possible for an employer to be reasonable in agreeing some employees’ requests to work flexibly, and not others’. It will depend on the role in question, for instance, whether it is customer facing, requires face to face contact, and so on.

Yes. There are 8 set statutory reasons why an employer can refuse a flexible working request. The employer can also refuse a flexible working request if the employee has already made a request within the last 12 months.

Yes. A flexible working request can ask for any form of working that departs from whatever the employer’s standard working hours/days/place of work may be.

To make a request under the statutory flexible working scheme, you need to make a written request. The request must be dated, state that it is made under the statutory procedure, specify the change(s) sought and how the employee wants the change(s) to take effect. The employee must also state whether they have made an application to the employer previously. Currently, the employee must also explain what effect, if any, they think the change would have on the employer and how such an effect could be dealt with – under proposals published in late 2022, it is possible that this requirement will be dropped.

Employees and other workers can always agree with their employer to work remotely, from home or otherwise away from the employer’s workplace – this is a matter of agreement between the parties and what your contract says. The statutory flexible working regime forms a framework for formal flexible working requests to be made by employees with more than 26 weeks’ service. It also gives protection to employees against being penalised for making such requests.

We saw during the pandemic lockdowns that many more people were able to do their jobs from home, and this has triggered a massive increase in flexible working, hybrid working and remote working.  Reform is expected soon, but we don’t have a definite timeframe.   

No.  The right to ask to work flexibly is a right to *ask* not a right to get. 

Employers should ensure that your workspace at home complies with health and safety requirements like the display screen equipment rules. Employers should usually provide any IT equipment you will need to do your job, and access to relevant software, online services, etc.

Yes. There are 8 set statutory reasons why an employer can refuse a flexible working request. The employer can also refuse a flexible working request if the employee has already made a request within the last 12 months.

A flexible working policy is the employer’s policy setting out how employees can make a flexible working request, the timeframes within which the employer will respond, appeal processes and so on. It will usually be in the Staff Handbook or Office Manual, or on the employer’s intranet.

A flexible working policy should include details like who can make a request to work flexibly, how they should make a request, and the things the employer will bear in mind when considering a request. It should also include the timeframes within which the employer will respond, appeal processes, and so on.

Anything other than the employer’s standard working arrangements could be agreed as a flexible working arrangement. It could include part time working, term time working, shorter working hours, working from home, working on a hybrid basis, condensed hours.

This will depend on the flexible working arrangements agreed, the type of work done by the employee, and the nature of the employer’s business. Basically, the employee should be paid for the hours they are working, and receive pro rated benefits like holiday, pension contributions, and so on.

It is a legal requirement to allow employees with at least 26 weeks’ employment to ask to work flexibly, and to comply with the requirements of the flexible working regime when dealing with requests for flexible working. It is not a legal requirement for employers to agree all requests for flexible working – there are 8 set reasons to refuse a flexible working request.

You ask us to advise on an appropriate flexible working policy for your business! We’ll get full details from you and talk through the kind of things to include. We’ll try to anticipate the kind of requests you might get and the sort of flexible arrangements that could work for your business.

We may introduce a free template flexible working policy in future. However, we’d always recommend that you instruct us to provide a tailored policy appropriate for your business. Usually, a flexible working policy will be included in a full form Staff Handbook or Office Manual, which is a more cost effective way for us to provide a flexible working policy and the many other policies and procedures we’d include in a Handbook.

We may introduce a free template flexible working policy in future. However, we’d always recommend that you instruct us to provide a tailored policy appropriate for your business. Usually, a flexible working policy will be included in a full form Staff Handbook or Office Manual, which is a more cost effective way for us to provide a flexible working policy and the many other policies and procedures we’d include in a Handbook.

A grievance is a formal way for an employee to raise a problem or complaint to their employer.

A grievance process is the process through which a grievance can be investigated and dealt with. You can usually find your employer’s grievance policy and procedure in their staff handbook or office manual, or sometimes in your contract of employment. If your employer changes or updates the grievance policy, they should notify all staff of any changes.

A grievance policy is the process through which a grievance can be investigated and dealt with. You can usually find your employer’s grievance policy and procedure in their staff handbook or office manual, or sometimes in your contract of employment. If your employer changes or updates the grievance policy, they should notify all staff of any changes.

You can usually find your employer’s grievance policy and procedure in their staff handbook or office manual, or sometimes in your contract of employment. If your employer changes or updates the grievance policy, they should notify all staff of any changes.

A grievance letter is a formal letter in which you set out the details of the complaint about something which happened at work or the problem that you want to raise with your employer. It should set out relevant dates, including when things started, and each event you want to complain about, along with any details of how you have tried to resolve matters.

The grievance policy or procedure will set out the process you need to follow to raise a grievance at work. Generally, you will need to set out the details of your complaint or problem that you want to raise with your employer in writing and submit it to, usually, your manager or to a more senior manager if your complaint relates to your own manager. Sometimes you will have to submit your grievance to HR, or via a portal on the organisation’s intranet – in any event, this should be made clear in the grievance policy or procedure.

You should raise a grievance at work whenever you want to make a formal complaint about something that has happened, or a problem at work. This might be because you are being bullied or harassed, or feel you are being treated badly because of discrimination, of if you feel you have been passed over for promotion or unfairly received a poor appraisal. You should also raise a grievance if you have concerns about health and safety. There may be circumstances where you should follow your employer’s whistleblowing reporting procedure, rather than the grievance procedure, but this is outside the scope of these FAQs.

You should raise a grievance at work whenever you want to make a formal complaint about something that has happened, or a problem at work. This might be because you are being bullied or harassed, or feel you are being treated badly because of discrimination, of if you feel you have been passed over for promotion or unfairly received a poor appraisal. You should also raise a grievance if you have concerns about health and safety. There may be circumstances where you should follow your employer’s whistleblowing reporting procedure, rather than the grievance procedure, but this is outside the scope of these FAQs.

It’s possible to use a grievance as a step towards a negotiated exit, or in other words, getting a settlement deal to leave your employment and receive a compensation payment. However, you need to tread carefully in how you approach matters if this is your aim, and should seek specific legal advice before starting a grievance, so your employment law solicitor can advise fully on your position and options, and work with you to put a strategy together to best achieve your aims.

Yes – we would say that wouldn’t we?! But, employment law can be very complicated, and especially if you want to achieve a negotiated exit – or in other words, a settlement deal to leave your employment with a deal and a compensation payment – we would always recommend that you seek advice before raising a formal grievance so your employment law solicitor can advise fully on your position and options, and work with you to put a strategy together to best achieve your aims.

Grievances at work can include complaints about anything that has happened at work. This could include complaints about discrimination, such as discrimination or unfair treatment because of age, sex, race, disability, sexual orientation, religion or belief, or gender reassignment. It could also include complaints about harassment, sexual harassment, bullying, any form of apparent wrongdoing by your employer (whistleblowing), unfair appraisals, being passed over for promotion, unfair selection for redundancy, such as because you are pregnant or on maternity leave, or because you have made a flexible working request.

The grievance policy or procedure will set out the process you need to follow to raise a grievance at work.  Generally, you will need to set out the details of your complaint or problem that you want to raise with your employer in writing and submit it to, usually, your manager or to a more senior manager if your complaint relates to your own manager.  Sometimes you will have to submit your grievance to HR, or via a portal on the organisation’s intranet – in any event, this should be made clear in the grievance policy or procedure.

The hearing manager will go through your formal grievance letter, and may ask you questions about it, or discuss the situation and how you’d like things resolved. They will then adjourn matters so they can finish investigating, speak to any witnesses, and once that is completed they will issue a written decision.  You should be given the opportunity to appeal against the grievance decision, and details of how to appeal should be in the grievance policy and usually are set out in the grievance decision letter.

A grievance is a complaint about anything that happened at work, or any problem at work.  Your employer’s grievance policy or procedure will set out the process you need to follow to raise a grievance at work.  Generally, you will need to set out the details of your complaint or problem that you want to raise with your employer in writing and submit it to, usually, your manager or to a more senior manager if your complaint relates to your own manager.  Sometimes you will have to submit your grievance to HR, or via a portal on the organisation’s intranet – in any event, this should be made clear in the grievance policy or procedure.

Bear with us as we’re intending to post a template grievance policy here shortly for you to use as a guide! It’s better to have a grievance policy specifically tailored for your business, though, with appropriate details such as who to address grievances to, who will investigate and hear a grievance, and how you will deal with grievance appeals.

We would provide you with a pack made up of an appropriately tailored grievance policy, disciplinary policy and performance management policy.  If you wanted a full staff handbook, we can do that too.

Bear with us as we’re intending to post a template grievance policy here shortly for you to use as a guide! It’s better to have a grievance policy specifically tailored for your business, though, with appropriate details such as who to address grievances to, who will investigate and hear a grievance, and how you will deal with grievance appeals.

We would provide you with a pack made up of an appropriately tailored grievance policy, disciplinary policy and performance management policy.  If you wanted a full staff handbook, we can do that too.

Employee health and wellbeing is defined as the overall mental, physical, emotional and economic health of employees in a business. It relates to making sure employees are healthy, satisfied and engaged with their work and about achieving a good work/life balance.

Taking steps like those below can help improve health and wellbeing at work, but there are a myriad of things that can improve health and wellbeing at work.  Examples given by the NHS include, connecting with others; physical activity; learning new skills; giving to others; being mindful and attentive to the present.

A complex question! It comes back to the five ways to wellbeing above, and the idea that if your employees are content at work, they’ll stay. So, perhaps the key to wellbeing in the workplace is to facilitate and enable employees to be well at work by providing them with the tools to monitor and take care of, and where necessary improve, their wellbeing.

Put in place an appropriate policy or suite of policies, all aimed at building and maintaining employee wellbeing. Promote and introduce those policies to all staff, and on an ongoing basis to all new joiners, to ensure that all staff are fully aware of the facilities and options available to them. Train managers on employee health and wellbeing, what it is and how important it is – part of this training should include what happens if health and wellbeing are not prioritised, and the costs and problems this can cause.

Content staff will stay with the business, protecting the investment in their training and development and retaining the institutional knowledge that can only be built up over time. It isn’t just about what you pay employees at the end of the month – employees now expect non-cash benefits and evidence that their employer cares about their health and wellbeing, and supports their mental health in particular, to help reduce or minimise stress and thus help maintain a healthy work/life balance.

Wellbeing health and safety in the workplace means active promotion and facilitation of employee wellbeing, not just measures to avoid accidents and illness.

A workplace wellbeing policy template is a policy setting out the workplace wellbeing policy of a business, including details of what the business provides to staff in order to promote and maintain their wellbeing.

We may in future provide a free template workplace wellbeing policy. However, we would recommend that any policy is tailored to the particular business, the steps you take to promote and maintain workplace wellbeing, and the benefits you offer. You will therefore get better value for money by instructing us and giving us full details of your offering so we can prepare a policy tailored and specific to your business.

We may in future provide a free template workplace wellbeing policy. However, we would recommend that any policy is tailored to the particular business, the steps you take to promote and maintain workplace wellbeing, and the benefits you offer. You will therefore get better value for money by instructing us and giving us full details of your offering so we can prepare a policy tailored and specific to your business.

A workplace wellbeing policy should set out the workplace wellbeing policy, including details of what the business provides to and expects from staff in order to promote and maintain their wellbeing. It will touch on diversity and inclusivity, and illustrate that the business wants to identify issues early and resolve them before they lead to formal processes, or have a detrimental impact on employees.

There are lots of reasons why you might take time off work, including holiday, sickness, maternity/paternity/adoption or other family related leave, bereavement, extreme weather, transport problems, and so on.

All employees and workers are entitled to at least 5.6 weeks’ paid holiday in the UK, including bank holidays, though some employers will give more. The actual number of days’ or hours’ paid holiday you’re entitled to each year will depend on how many days or hours you work each week. It can be complicated to calculate holiday entitlement for people who work irregular hours/days.

Coughs and colds, stomach upsets, headaches and migraines tend to be the most common causes of the odd day off sick. This is a different type of absence to longer term sickness absence and should be dealt with differently.

Mental ill-health, such as stress, depression or anxiety, along with musculoskeletal conditions are common causes of long term sickness absence. There isn’t a set period above which absence counts as “long term,” and different organisations will have a different meaning of “long term”. However, the type of conditions that tend to lead to longer absences generally need a period of treatment and building back up to a return to work. They can also lead to potential disability discrimination issues, including a need to make reasonable adjustments to the working environment.

Yes, if you don’t give enough notice, or if there isn’t enough cover to do the work while you’re proposing to be off, or if you don’t have enough holiday left.

Employers should ensure that they publish an absence management policy setting out what everyone has to do when someone is off sick, or suffers a bereavement, or needs time off for any reason. The policy should cover how to report absence, the different categories and when to use them, what you’ll be paid while absent, and what happens if you need a long time off work.

This includes maternity, paternity and adoption leave, parental leave, shared parental leave, unpaid time off in an emergency involving a dependant, compassionate leave, parental bereavement leave, leave following the loss of a baby or miscarriage, and so on. See here for more information.

If your workplace is open but you can’t get there, you might not be paid, though if the workplace is closed, you should still be paid. If you can work from home and your organisation supports flexible or hybrid working, then you should be able to work as normal from home, and be paid. If you can work from another office that you can get to, again, you can work as normal and be paid. Employers should have an extreme weather policy, as well as a policy dealing with transport issues or strike action that prevents staff travelling to the workplace. If schools or childcare settings are closed due to snow, meaning your childcare provision has disappeared, you can take emergency unpaid leave if you are unable to work at home with children around.

All pregnant employees are entitled to a year’s maternity leave. The first 39 weeks are paid. It doesn’t matter how long you’ve been employed, you’re entitled to the full 52 weeks’ maternity leave.

You only get full pay on maternity leave if your employer has a policy that pays full pay for maternity leave. The basic statutory entitlement is to 6 weeks at 90% of pay, then 33 weeks at Statutory Maternity Pay. See the current rates (they change each April, so check for updates).

You can only get SMP if you’ve worked for your employer for at least 26 weeks before the 15th week before the week your baby is due. Basically, if you’re already pregnant when you start work, you won’t get SMP. If you can’t get SMP you may be able to claim Maternity Allowance directly from the DWP.

Yes, you can do up to 10 Keeping in Touch (KIT) days for your employer during maternity leave without bringing your leave to an end or losing your right to SMP. You can agree between you whether you will do any KIT days, when they’ll take place, and what you’ll be paid. Employers can say they don’t need employees to do KIT days if the employee asks, and equally employees can refuse if asked.

Most employers would pay a normal day’s pay for a KIT day, perhaps including your current SMP rate. It’s best to agree between you, in advance, how much you’ll be paid.

The first 26 weeks’ maternity leave is ordinary maternity leave (OML) and the second 26 weeks is additional maternity leave (AML), and different rights apply to the two periods. This distinction dates back to a previous regime. These days, it’s really only relevant to the job you are entitled to return to. See “Can I go back to the same job after maternity leave?” below.

If you take less than 26 weeks, so have only taken OML, you are entitled to return to the same job, as it was before maternity leave. You’re entitled to any pay rises that have been introduced too. If you take more than 26 weeks leave, so if you’ve dipped into the AML period, you’re entitled to return to your own job unless that isn’t “reasonably practicable” – this will depend on the circumstances. See here for more details.

Fathers and husbands/civil partners/certain partners and relatives of pregnant women, as well as intended adoptive and surrogate parents, also have rights to paid time off to accompany the pregnant woman to antenatal appointments. The right is for no more than two occasions lasting no more than 6.5 hours each. Employees can use annual leave if this isn’t enough, and many employers will offer more. Note that there are proposals for wholesale changes to the provisions for surrogate parents.

Misconduct is where an employee behaves inappropriately or breaks the rules of their workplace, such as committing a disciplinary offence listed as misconduct in the employer’s disciplinary policy. Misconduct includes breaking workplace rules, such as being persistently late, minor insubordination, and sometimes poor performance is included as a misconduct issue (though we’d suggest that performance is dealt with in a separate performance management policy). Depending on the seriousness of the offence, it may be reasonable to suspend the employee pending an investigation and disciplinary procedure.

Gross misconduct is really serious misconduct at work. Gross misconduct can include serious misbehaviour like theft, physical violence, gross negligence, serious insubordination, being under the influence of alcohol or non-prescription drugs at work, sending or sharing inappropriate emails or content, harassment or sexual harassment. Other types of gross misconduct are often listed in the employer’s disciplinary policy and can include types specific to the employer’s business. Because of the seriousness of the allegations, where an employee is accused of gross misconduct, it will usually be reasonable to suspend the employee pending an investigation and disciplinary procedure.

Gross misconduct is misconduct that is more serious than “ordinary” misconduct. Gross misconduct will therefore usually lead to more serious warnings or sanctions, perhaps dismissal or summary dismissal without notice or payment in lieu of notice.

Examples of gross misconduct would include theft, physical violence, gross negligence, serious insubordination, being under the influence of alcohol or non-prescription drugs at work, sending or sharing inappropriate emails or content, harassment or sexual harassment. A disciplinary policy should set out examples of behaviour that will usually be regarded as gross misconduct. In essence, gross misconduct is something so serious that it undermines the relationship of trust and confidence that should exist between employer and employee.

Examples of misconduct would include breaking workplace rules, such as being persistently late, minor insubordination, and sometimes poor performance is included as a misconduct issue (though we’d suggest that performance is dealt with in a separate performance management policy).

The short answer is, potentially, yes. Usually, without more, an act of “ordinary” misconduct won’t lead to a fair dismissal. However, aside from the fact that employees with less than 2 years’ service don’t have unfair dismissal rights, so the risks attached to dismissing them without a fair reason are lower for an employer, you can’t stop an employer dismissing if they want to. In answer to the question of whether you can get fairly dismissed for misconduct, that will depend on whether you’ve got any previous disciplinary warnings still active on your record, especially previous warnings for similar misconduct. If you do, it’s more likely the employer can fairly dismiss you for misconduct, because part of that will be that you’ve repeated previous offences, and it’s fair to escalate to the next level of sanction under the disciplinary procedure.

You should always co-operate with the employer’s procedure – it’s your chance to put your side of the story forward. Ask for full written details of the allegations before any disciplinary hearing, so you can fully prepare your response. You should be able to refer the employer to witnesses who may be able to shed light on what happened. You are entitled to be accompanied by a work colleague or trade union representative at any disciplinary hearing. If you aren’t happy with the eventual decision, you should be permitted to appeal. And of course, getting legal advice as early as possible is a good idea, to help you best defend yourself and aim to get the lowest sanction possible or perhaps to try to negotiate a deal to extract you from the situation without going all the way through the disciplinary and potentially being dismissed.

Before suing or bringing a claim for false accusations, your first step is more likely to be to appeal against your dismissal or the imposition of another disciplinary sanction or warning. Alternatively (or as well, in some cases), it may be worth raising a formal complaint or grievance about what has happened. In any case, you are usually required to have tried to resolve matters by using the employer’s internal procedures before bringing a claim.

If you are dismissed (or summarily dismissed) for gross misconduct, and feel this was unjustified, you may be able to bring an Employment Tribunal claim for unfair dismissal, if you feel that the employer did not have enough evidence to show on balance that you did the act(s) you were accused of. You could also claim unfair dismissal if the employer failed to follow a fair procedure, for instance if they didn’t investigate properly. Before you bring a claim in the Employment Tribunal, though, you have to go through Acas Early Conciliation, to see if the parties can agree a settlement deal without the need for an actual claim.

In most cases, before you can bring a claim in the Employment Tribunal, you have to go through Acas Early Conciliation, to see if the parties can agree a settlement deal without the need for an actual claim. If Acas Early Conciliation fails to lead to a settlement, Acas will issue a certificate that enables you to start an Employment Tribunal claim.

All workers and employees are entitled to at least National Minimum Wage hourly rates for their age. Facts and figures 22/23 – the rates are changed every April so make sure you’re looking at the correct year’s information.

You should be paid at least at the appropriate National Minimum Wage hourly rate for each hour of “working time”.

Working time is any period during which the worker is (a) working, (b) carrying out their duties and (c) at their employer’s disposal. It’s also any period during which the worker is receiving “relevant training” (e.g. on the job training), or which the parties agree will count as working time.

You’re entitled to be paid your salary or wages right up to the termination date, regardless of why you are leaving your job, plus employees or “workers” are also entitled to be paid in lieu of accrued but untaken holiday. This is usually calculated on the number of complete calendar months you’ve worked in the current holiday year.

If being dismissed, employees are entitled to statutory minimum notice, or the notice period in their contract if that’s longer, unless they are being summarily dismissed e.g. for committing gross misconduct. Workers will be entitled to the notice period in their contact. Sometimes employees or workers will work for their notice period, or they may be “paid in lieu”, which means employment ends and instead of working for the (rest of the) notice period, the employee is paid what they would have earned during that period as a payment in lieu of notice or PILON payment.

Statutory minimum notice is the minimum period of notice that employees are entitled to be given if the employer terminates their employment.

There are cases where you aren’t entitled to notice, such as if you are summarily (immediately) dismissed for gross misconduct. Assuming that doesn’t apply, the basic entitlement is to one week’s notice after one month’s service and up to two years’ service, then an additional week’s notice for every complete year of employment up to a maximum of 12 weeks’ notice after 12 years’ employment.

So, if you’ve been employed for 7 years, you’re entitled to 7 weeks’ notice. If your contract says you’re entitled to more than your statutory minimum notice (say, if your contract says 3 months’ notice) then that’s what you’re entitled to regardless of how long you’ve worked for.

As explained above, sometimes the individual will keep working during their notice period and the termination date will be the end of notice, but sometimes they will be paid in lieu of notice and the termination date will be the start of the notice period. Or it could be part working and part paid in lieu. Either way, notice pay is always taxable whether you work your notice period or are paid in lieu.

Yes, if your contract says your employer can deduct any money you owe them from your pay, during or at the end of employment. Note that this doesn’t refer to deductions for PAYE/tax and National Insurance Contributions, or pension contributions, private medical etc, which must be deducted at source before your pay is paid to you.

It’s best for an employer to reconfirm at the time what they intend to deduct and why. For instance, if you’re leaving before you’ve paid off a season ticket loan, or training fees, then you can expect the outstanding amount to be deducted from your final pay. Check your contract and seek advice if you aren’t sure that your employer is entitled to make the deductions they propose.

If you’re not fit to work, and are an employee, you’ll usually be entitled to Statutory Sick Pay (SSP). The current rates generally change every April.

SSP can be paid for up to 28 weeks’ absence. The first 3 days’ sickness are “waiting days” and unpaid unless your employer pays more than the basic SSP entitlement. If you are off sick for 4 or more days, therefore, you’ll be paid at SSP rates for the remainder of your sickness absence.

If you are off for more than 7 days, you can expect to have to provide a Fit Note from your GP to confirm the reason for your absence, so your employer can administer SSP.

You should be paid a normal day’s pay for every day’s holiday.

All workers (including employees) are entitled to 5.6 weeks’ paid annual leave (holiday) each year. Your contract may allow you to take more holiday, and/or may include public holidays within that basic 5.6-week allowance. So, if you work full-time 5 days a week, you’re entitled to at least 4 weeks’ holiday plus the normal 8 public/bank holidays a year (total 5.6 weeks). If an additional bank holiday is declared (such as the Coronation bank holiday in 2023), that will be added to your entitlement, and you shouldn’t have to use a day from your existing entitlement.

Part time workers/employees are entitled to a pro-rated amount of holiday, i.e. 5.6 weeks of their normal working week, which again can include public/bank holidays. So, an employee working 4 days a week is entitled to 5.6 x 4 = 22.4 days’ holiday including public/bank holidays. This is rounded up to the nearest half, so 22.5 days. Assuming the organisation closes on bank holidays, 8 of those days will be “chosen” for the part timer, so they’ll only be able to choose when they take their remaining 14.5 days. Holiday calculation is tricky for anyone not on a regular, full time working pattern. If in doubt, seek advice.

Redundancy happens where an employer needs to reduce its workforce, close a workplace, or move to a new workplace and terminates employees’ employment as a result.

Employers should follow a fair procedure before making redundancies, including a fair and objective selection process. If you have more than two years’ service, you have unfair dismissal rights and may be entitled to claim unfair dismissal if your employer doesn’t comply with their obligations. Even with less than two years’ service, you may have other claims if your employer e.g. selects you for redundancy because of a prohibited reason like discrimination.

You would be entitled to pay up to the termination date, notice of termination or payment in lieu of notice, statutory redundancy pay (if you have more than two years’ service), and accrued holiday pay.

Employers should follow a fair and objective process to make sure employees are selected fairly for redundancy. The process will differ depending on whether there are more or less than 20 employees to be made redundant.

If less than 20 employees are at risk of redundancy, there is no set procedure or set time for consultation. However, employers should consult with employees and conduct an objective selection process before deciding who to make redundant.

If 20 or more employees are proposed to be made redundant, employers will have to go through a collective consultation procedure. Where 20 to 99 redundancies are proposed, consultation must last for at least 30 days before any employees are dismissed. Where 100 or more redundancies are proposed, consultation must last for at least 45 days before any employees are dismissed.

Employers should use objective selection criteria for redundancy, that can be independently verified.

Examples of criteria that are likely to be fair are things like attendance (though don’t count pregnancy/maternity or disability related absences), disciplinary records, length of service (but not in isolation). So, even ostensibly objective criteria can be problematic! Seek advice on what would be appropriate objective criteria for your business.

You can volunteer (as in there’s nothing to stop you if that’s what you want to do), but if your employer isn’t seeking volunteers, there is no requirement for them to accept your request to be made redundant. There are pros and cons of volunteering, whether or not your employer is asking for volunteers, so it’s best to get advice before going ahead, to ensure you can protect your position.

Employers should consider suitable alternative employment for any employees selected for redundancy. Employees should be given the opportunity to apply for any vacancies, suitable or not, but should be offered suitable alternative employment if available.

Women on maternity leave have additional protection in that they must be offered (not just given the opportunity to apply for) any suitable alternative employment elsewhere in the organisation. This is a really tricky area, so whether you’re the employer or employee in this situation, it’s best to get advice before doing anything, to ensure compliance and reduce risks.

Employees should be given the chance to appeal against their selection for redundancy. It’s a good idea to get advice on how best to present your appeal, especially if you believe you have been selected for discriminatory reasons, or feel that you’ve been treated in any way unfairly.

You should get your redundancy pay shortly after the termination of your employment. If your employer doesn’t tell you when they will pay you, then do ask them.

Generally, you’ll be entitled to notice pay (if you haven’t worked your notice period), statutory redundancy pay (if you’ve got more than two years’ employment) and accrued holiday pay.

No, if an employer wants to make redundancies, they should go through a redundancy consultation procedure before deciding who to dismiss.

However, it is not uncommon for employers to take a “commercial” decision to have “without prejudice” or “protected” conversations with pre-selected employees, in which they offer a Settlement Agreement with an offer of additional compensation as a “sweetener” to sign up. It’s possible that this is unfair, depending on how it’s done, but that would depend on the circumstances. In any event, regardless of any unfairness or potential claims, many employees choose to accept a Settlement Agreement as a commercially pragmatic solution to get some compensation in return for leaving.

A Settlement Agreement is the only way by which an employee can validly waive their rights to bring employment related claims against their employer.

To be valid, a Settlement Agreement has to comply with various requirements, including that it must list all claims being given up, confirm that the employee has had independent legal advice on the terms and effect of entering into the Settlement Agreement, and identify the solicitor who has advised the employee. It is also usual for the employer to pay at least a contribution if not the full amount of the employee’s legal fees for the required advice.

Our standard fees start at £500 plus VAT for a straightforward Settlement Agreement where there is no negotiation on the payments to be made and no significant changes to the other terms of the Agreement. Some employers offer to contribute less than this, but we find this is the “market rate” that the vast majority of employers are prepared to meet. If your fees exceed your employer’s contribution, we would simply send invoices to both you and your employer.

A settlement agreement is a legally binding agreement between employer and employee used when employment comes to an end and which protects both employer and employee from future action being brought by the other party. It provides a ‘clean break’. It is used in all sorts of situations including where there may be potential claims relating to: wrongful dismissal; redundancy; discrimination in the workplace; grievance procedures; disciplinary processes; bullying at work; sexual discrimination; misconduct; gross misconduct; performance issues and whistleblowing.

Settlement agreements (formerly called “compromise agreements”) can cover all manner of situations which lead to losing your job. Settlement agreements are commonly used to help clarify the terms agreed for ending an employment relationship. They are very much run of the mill, and simply considered good practice to protect both employee and employer when employment ends. Generally, they are used where there may be some potential for future dispute around matters such as: misconduct; gross misconduct; redundancy; harassment; bullying at work; whistleblowing; discrimination because of age, sex, disability, race, religion or belief or sexual orientation; performance issues; grievance procedures; and disciplinary processes.

As an employee, you are under no legal obligation to accept a settlement agreement from your employer. However, one of the usual terms of a settlement agreement is that the employer pays, or at least contributes to the fees for the employee to receive independent legal advice from an employment specialist solicitor who has nothing to do with the employer. Employees must get independent legal advice for the settlement agreement to be binding. This provides employees with a safety net of independent employment law advice to understand what they are agreeing to. If you refuse a settlement agreement, you will also forego the opportunity to have that free legal advice on your situation, so you can make an informed decision. We always advise on whether the offer is reasonable and appropriate in the circumstances and will talk to you about seeking to negotiate a better deal where appropriate (additional fees may apply if you want to negotiate, but we always look to have the employer pay as part of the deal).

Employers use settlement agreements for a number of reasons around issues of employment law. They are used to protect both employee and employer, not least because to be binding on both parties the employee must receive independent employment law advice from an employment law solicitor who is independent of the employer. The employer will usually pay or at least contribute to the fees for that independent employment law advice. With that and other requirements met, a settlement agreement will bind both parties and remove the opportunity for future claims. It therefore provides a ‘clean break’.

A settlement agreement is the only way by which an employee can validly waive any employment related claims they may have against their employer. Settlement agreements are intended to give a ‘clean break’ and draw a line under the relationship – ie the settlement agreement removes the option for the employee to sue the employer in the future. So, the answer is no – a settlement agreement is not the same as a dismissal. However, settlement agreements are used by employers and their HR advisors in many situations where there is an end to the employment.  This might include where there has been a dismissal or another sort of breakdown in relations for reasons like: redundancy; unfair dismissal; constructive dismissal; discrimination; performance issues; grievance process; disciplinary process; misconduct and gross misconduct. So, to that end, dismissal and a settlement agreement are closely linked!

No! A settlement agreement is not the same as redundancy. Redundancy is a reason for you losing your job. A settlement agreement is simply the ‘paperwork’ sometimes used around that loss of job. You may be asked to sign a settlement agreement by your employer if you are made redundant. Redundancy is a situation whereby your employer no longer has a requirement for someone to do the job you currently do, or needs fewer people to do it, so that your job is deemed to no longer exist. Your employer may be liable to make a payment of statutory redundancy pay (and other sums like notice pay) in relation to that loss of your job. If your employer is offering additional compensation, over the amounts they are obliged to pay you, it is pretty common for them to ask you to sign a settlement agreement in order to be paid that compensation. A settlement agreement is a legally binding agreement between employer and employee which creates a ‘clean break’ between them and requires you to give up your rights to bring claims against your employer. Settlement agreements are used in all sorts of situations – not just redundancy.

Although there is a common format that settlement agreements will follow, your settlement agreement could cover all manner of things. Sometimes, employer and employee will have negotiated agreed financial terms before a draft settlement agreement is issued to the employee to take to a solicitor.  Sometimes, a settlement agreement will be issued without discussion about the payments: the employee might just be told what they are being offered, and told to get legal advice. Discussions around a settlement agreement will be separate to a redundancy consultation process, or disciplinary process, which might continue alongside settlement agreement negotiations. The sorts of questions you might have regarding the terms included in your settlement agreement could include: have I been offered a reference? Will my settlement agreement legal fees be paid? How much will I be paid after my settlement agreement? What tax is payable on my settlement agreement? Are there any restrictive covenants in my settlement agreement? Will I be paid my bonus in my settlement agreement? What benefits will continue after my settlement agreement? What will be my termination date in my settlement agreement?  Who can I go to work for after signing my settlement agreement?  What are the restrictions on my future work after signing my settlement agreement?

In our experience, on average, solicitors charge from around £500 (+VAT) to advise on straightforward settlement agreements. The fee can change depending on the circumstances including how complex the terms are, and whether you want to try to negotiate a better deal. At least some of the fee payable to your own employment law solicitor will normally be paid by your employer. Fees for advising on settlement agreements will also vary depending on (for example) why you have lost your job.

If it turns out that you may be losing your job unlawfully, or you may have potential claims, your employment law solicitor will tell you this, and will explain the estimated fee if you decided you wanted to challenge your employer in relation to your loss of job, or seek a better compensation payment in return for signing the settlement agreement.  We are very experienced in negotiating exit deals, where for instance you have been selected for redundancy while pregnant or on maternity leave; where you have been offered a settlement agreement after raising a grievance; or where you have been threatened with performance improvement procedure if you do not accept a settlement agreement.

Employment law solicitors will generally have fees for advising an employee on settlement agreements from around £500 (+VAT) for a straightforward situation. If you are an employee needing advice on a settlement agreement, your employer should pay all or at least a contribution to the costs charged by your own employment law solicitor. This will be a term of the settlement agreement (ie that your employer will pay the costs of your own employment law solicitor). The fee can change depending on the circumstances including how complex the terms are, and whether you want to try to negotiate a better deal. At least some of the fee payable to your own employment law solicitor will normally be paid by your employer. Fees for advising on settlement agreements will also vary depending on (for example) why you have lost your job.

If it turns out that you may be losing your job unlawfully, or you may have potential claims, your employment law solicitor will tell you this, and will explain the estimated fee if you decided you wanted to challenge your employer in relation to your loss of job, or seek a better compensation payment in return for signing the settlement agreement.  We are very experienced in negotiating exit deals, where for instance you have been selected for redundancy while pregnant or on maternity leave; where you have been offered a settlement agreement after raising a grievance; or where you have been threatened with performance improvement procedure if you do not accept a settlement agreement.

No, unfortunately an employer does not have to pay all (or even a particular amount of) the employee’s fees incurred in obtaining independent legal advice in relation to their settlement agreement.  However, it is usual for an employer to pay all the employee’s fees, or at least a contribution to their fees, because the employee must get independent legal advice for the settlement agreement to be valid. As such, it’s to the employer’s benefit that they at least contribute to the employee’s costs of getting that advice.  We always try to maximise the employer’s contribution, even where our fees are higher because e.g. we are negotiating a better deal, to try to avoid your having to pay more than you absolutely have to.

How long does it take to negotiate a settlement agreement is unfortunately rather like asking how long is piece of string. If the reason for you losing your job is simple and accepted (for example, a redundancy where you are content with the payments offered, and have no other claims or complaints) then the whole process can be over in a matter of 1 to 2 weeks.

Where a settlement agreement tends to take longer is where you lost your job for reasons more complicated, and in particular if your employment law solicitor is trying to negotiate a better deal for you, and/or raises queries with your employer in relation to the other terms of your settlement agreement. The queries your settlement agreement solicitors may raise will include things such as: bullying at work; payments owing following dismissal; pension contributions; bonus payments; tax on your settlement agreement payment; and perhaps if you have been discriminated against – for example during a round of redundancy you were selected for redundancy for discriminatory reasons, such as being pregnant or on maternity leave.

The simple answer to this question is possibly yes, depending on the type of payment.  Settlement agreements usually set out several different payments, some of which are taxable and some may not be.  Any payment of contractual sums like notice pay, holiday pay, or a bonus, will be taxable as usual.  Only compensation for loss of employment up to £30,000 can be paid free of tax.  Compensation over £30,000 is subject to tax at your normal rate and National Insurance Contributions.  Notice pay, holiday pay, bonuses, and other contractual sums are not compensation.  We cannot provide tax advice, but can refer you to an independent tax adviser if required.

Yes, you do need an employment law solicitor for a settlement agreement! It is part of the legal requirements about executing settlement agreements that the employee receives legal advice from an independent employment law solicitor. The solicitor’s fee for advising the employee will normally be paid (or at least contributed to) by the employer. Without that independent advice being given, the settlement agreement will not be legally binding on the employer and employee.

An employee must take independent legal advice on the content of their settlement agreement in order for it to be legally binding on both employer and employee. If the employee does not take that independent legal advice (and they should do so from a specialist employment law solicitor), the settlement agreement will not become legally binding under the legal framework surrounding settlement agreements. This provision was built into the law to make sure that employers do not wrongly gain protection from future action brought by employees. The need to have received advice from an employment lawyer provides the employee who is receiving the settlement agreement with a ‘safety net’ and hopefully avoids rogue employers misusing settlement agreements to avoid future legal action in an employment tribunal (for example).

A settlement agreement gives certainty to both employer and employee when a job position comes to an end. It is a legally binding contract that means both employer and employee agree to a clean break, and can not thereafter being legal action (employment tribunal). As well as that clean break and certainty that a settlement agreement gives, it also provides employees with the knowledge that they must receive independent legal advice which must be paid for by the employer. This is designed to avoid rogue employers taking advantage of vulnerable employees. The sorts of areas that a settlement agreement will give certainty will include both the payments and terms being offered, and also in excluding future claims. So these employment law issues might include all manner of things including: payment in lieu of notice (PILON); holiday and sick pay; bonus payments; pension contributions; grievance process; disciplinary process; discrimination; performance; dismissal; and redundancy.

The point of a settlement agreement is to give certainty to both the employer and employee. It is a requirement of law that where a settlement agreement is signed the employee receives independent legal advice on the terms of the settlement agreement and the circumstances surrounding the ending of their employment. The employer will usually pay for, or at least contribute to fees for, that independent legal advice. Once a settlement agreement is in place and deemed legally valid, it provides a ‘clean break’ and means legal action in the future can not be taken (employment tribunal).

The payments that you receive under a settlement agreement will depend upon your particular circumstances, and of course why your employment is coming to an end. Your employment contract might define what payments fall due if you are made redundant, though this is rare nowadays. The things your contract of employment should define are things like holiday pay due, payments in lieu of notice (known as PILON), and bonus payments. Where payments are less predictable – or variable – under a settlement agreement may be where the end of your employment is questionable – particularly if your employer has treated you badly or even unlawfully (for example if they have bullied you). In those circumstances, employers may wish to ‘pay off’ employees with compensation to avoid future claims being brought in an employment tribunal.

Your employer will prepare the settlement agreement (or their employment solicitors). There is likely to be a period of ‘consultation’ with the employee ahead of the actual settlement agreement being drafted and presented to you. During that period of consultation, the main terms of the settlement agreement are likely to be agreed between employer and employee.

Yes, your employer can withdraw a Settlement Agreement at any point up to it being signed by them.

Typically, the employee will receive independent legal advice on the terms of the settlement agreement. The employee and their solicitor will both sign the settlement agreement. It will then go to the employer who will sign. Then, and only then, is the settlement agreement legally binding.

A staff handbook is a collection of policies relating (in the main) to the terms and conditions of employees. It will often include ‘softer’ things such as brand values, and service delivery expectations.

Yes – the terms refer to the same thing.

Typically an employer will make the staff handbook available to employees electronically, either in PDF form, or online if their business has a staff portal. Employees should be given a copy of the office manual when starting their employment, and given/pointed to any updates that are made thereafter.

TUPE – or the Transfer of Undertakings (Protection of Employment) Regulations – applies to any qualifying transfer of a business or part of a business from one owner to another. A qualifying transfer is where there is a business sale or a change in contractor, and the business will still be basically the same afterwards. TUPE means that employees will automatically transfer to the buyer or incoming contractor, with all their terms and conditions intact.

The seller should tell their employees about the proposed sale, and consult with them over any changes or “measures” the buyer proposes to take.

There is no set definition of measures, but they are understood to be any changes to how employees will do their job, or where, or when, and anything to do with how things work at work. So, if the new employer is going to change the payroll date, that’s a measure. If the new employer plans to make redundancies, that’s a measure. Any changes to employees’ contracts in connection with the transfer – that’s a measure.

TUPE only applies to employees who are employees under employment law. It doesn’t apply to “workers” or independent contractors. Employment status – whether you’re classed as an employee or worker or contractor – is a really tricky area.

We have recently seen cases where an individual classed by the employer as a “worker” needs to firstly argue that they are an employee before they can move forward to argue that they are entitled to TUPE rights – or other rights only given to employees like statutory maternity pay, or the right to claim unfair dismissal.

There is no minimum TUPE consultation period. Indeed, if the incoming employer doesn’t intend to take any “measures” there’s no obligation to consult at all – they need only inform employees of the impending transfer.

A seller has to tell employees that their employment is going to transfer to the buyer or incoming contractor. If the buyer doesn’t intend to take any measures, there’s no additional obligation to consult with the employees.

The buyer has to tell the seller if they intend to take any “measures” in relation to the employees’ employment – see the FAQ above for more information.

A buyer has to tell the seller about any “measures” they intend to take regarding incoming employees. If there are any measures proposed, then the buyer will need to consult with the affected employees (which might include their own existing employees). Sometimes this is done before the transfer and sometimes after depending on the circumstances.

The seller has to give the buyer “employee liability information” at least 4 weeks before the transfer takes place. This information should help buyer and seller ensure that they take the right steps in terms of consulting with employees.

If TUPE applies, then any employees assigned to the business or part of the business that is being transferred will automatically transfer to along with that business. It’s a breach of TUPE for a buyer to reject any employees employed in the business transferring immediately before the transfer.

In reality, sometimes buyers will negotiate on who will transfer, and what happens to those employees who don’t transfer – this is more complicated and outside the scope of these FAQs – please contact for advice.

Yes – as in employers are able to dismiss employees whenever they want – the question is whether dismissal are fair and/or non-discriminatory and/or not in breach of TUPE.

The starting point is that any dismissal in connection with a TUPE transfer is automatically unfair. However, if there is an “economic, technical, or organisational” reason for the dismissal, it can be not automatically unfair – though could be ordinarily unfair if there isn’t a fair reason and/or a fair process wasn’t followed.

There’s no set definition of an ETO reason, however, redundancy could well be an organisational and/or economic reason. All this means though is that redundancy after a TUPE transfer may not be automatically unfair – it could still be ordinarily unfair if there’s no fair reason to dismiss and/or a fair process wasn’t followed.

Yes – employees must transfer to the buyer with all their terms and conditions intact, including length of service, salary and so on.

No – you can choose to reject the transfer, but it’s essential to be careful how you do so. If you’re considering not transferring then you should get legal advice on what to do to best protect your position whilst achieving what you want.

If you reject a transfer, your employment will end at the point of transfer. It’s not a dismissal, nor a resignation. As it’s not a dismissal, it can’t be an unfair dismissal.

A protected disclosure is a disclosure of information that the worker reasonably believes:

  • Tends to show that one or more of the specified wrongdoings has occurred, is occurring, or is likely to occur.
  • Is in the public interest.
  • A criminal offence.
  • A breach of a legal obligation.
  • A miscarriage of justice.
  • A danger to health and safety.
  • Damage to the environment.
  • Any other matter prescribed by the Secretary of State.

Individual complaints are not covered by whistleblowing law – so personal grievances about bullying, harassment or some other failure or breach by an employer should be reported under the grievance policy, not as a whistleblowing concern.

Employees should usually report whistleblowing concerns to their employer.  It is possible to report concerns to other bodies, such as certain public authorities. However, it’s essential to take care to report only to the specified bodies in the legislation, and there are risks attached to reporting to a body other than the employer.

Employees can also report anonymously if they wish. Whistleblowing policies should deal with what happens where an anonymous report is received, but it will be more difficult to deal with an anonymous disclosure, as the employer can’t investigate with the employee, or know who to protect from detriment or dismissal because of their disclosure.

If an employee reports a whistleblowing concern to their employer, the employer is legally required to investigate the matter. The employer must also take steps to protect the employee from being subjected to any detriment or dismissal as a result of making the disclosure.

Employers should take all whistleblowing reports seriously. They should investigate the matter promptly and thoroughly, and take appropriate action if the allegations are substantiated.

Employers should also take steps to protect the employee who made the disclosure from being subjected to any detriment or dismissal. This includes ensuring that the employee is not isolated from their colleagues, and that they are not subjected to any form of harassment or bullying, or to disciplinary action for making the disclosure.

A detriment can be anything done – or not done – to an employee or “worker” because they made a protected disclosure. That could include dismissal, but it also covers being subjected to bullying or harassment, receiving a poor appraisal review or put into performance management proceedings, being suspended or subjected to unwarranted disciplinary action, or being demoted or denied promotion.

Employees who are subjected to a detriment or dismissed because they blew the whistle could bring a number of claims, including unfair dismissal. Notably there is no minimum service requirement for unfair dismissal because of whistleblowing.

There is also no cap on compensation for unfair dismissal for whistleblowing.
If an employee has been harassed because of making protected disclosures they may have harassment claims under the discrimination legislation depending on the circumstances.

The time limit for bringing a claim for unfair dismissal is usually three months from the date of the dismissal or detriment suffered. So, employees must start Acas Early Conciliation within 3 moths of the dismissal or last detrimental act they want to complain about. Prospective claimants have to go through Acas Early Conciliation before they can start an Employment Tribunal claim.

An interim relief application can also be made within 7 days of dismissal.

The remedies available for whistleblowing claims will vary depending on the specific circumstances of the case. However, possible remedies include reinstatement or re-engagement and compensation, which is unlimited in whistleblowing unfair dismissal cases.

It is also possible to obtain an award of interim relief in whistleblowing cases.  Interim relief is basically a compensation payment that is paid up to the final merits hearing – it’s a stop gap, requiring payments to be made to the employee by the employer pending a final decision on the claim.

The employee has to apply to the Employment Tribunal within 7 days of dismissal, and in certain circumstances the tribunal can order the employer to continue paying the employee’s salary until a final merits hearing of the claim.  This is rarely done because of the extremely tight timeframe to apply.

Employers who retaliate against whistleblowers could face a number of penalties, including having to pay an award of compensation to the employee if the employee succeeds in a claim.  Occasionally, Employment Tribunals can order the employer to reinstate or re-engage the employee – though this is rare given that relations have generally been damaged beyond repair by the time of a final merits hearing.

There are also potential PR and reputational issues arising from publicly defending a claim centred around the employer’s actions in reporting the employer’s own wrongdoing.

Employers can take a number of steps to protect themselves from successful whistleblowing claims, including:

  • Having a clear whistleblowing policy in place, and using it.
  • Training employees on the whistleblowing policy.
  • Investigating whistleblowing reports promptly and thoroughly.
  • Taking appropriate action if the allegations are substantiated.
  • Protecting whistleblowers from retaliation.

Working hours are the hours you work each day, week, month or other period. The Working Time Regulations limit the permitted working time to 48 hours each week for most occupations, which is averaged over a 17 week period. However, you can agree to work more hours a week.

It is generally accepted that 7 or 8 hours a day for 5 working days a week is full time working, but each employer could have a different definition.

No – working hours don’t include time taken on lunch breaks, or travelling to or from work. But if you’re working over lunch, like doing a training session or team meeting over lunch, then that will count as working time.

If you work more than 6 hours a day, you’re entitled to an unbroken 20 minute rest break, which should be taken away from your workspace. You must also get a daily rest break of at least 11 hours between working days, and weekly breaks of at least 24 hours a week, or 48 hours every 14 days.

It’s a good idea to take a short break from your screen every hour. HSE guidance suggests that “short frequent breaks are more satisfactory than occasional longer breaks”.

Contact our Employment Solicitors

Whether you’re an employee or employer, and you’re looking for expert employment law advice – QLAW CAN HELP! Reach out in whatever way best suits you. We’re looking forward to speaking to you very shortly!