We have been preparing our monthly Employment Law updates for quite a while now, and have covered a vast number of topics in that time: the office Christmas party, bullying in the workplace, discrimination, redundancy, and numerous proposed changes to the law made by Government. We very much hope that our clients enjoy reading these updates and find them useful, but our main aim is to make sure that you, dear reader, know what your rights and responsibilities are, whether you are an employee or an employer.
We have therefore devised this short quiz (don’t worry, it’s only for fun!) to see how well you know your employment rights and correct some common misconceptions. No peeking at the answers!
1. Which one of the following is not a potentially fair reason for dismissal?
(a) Poor performance
2. How long must a redundancy consultation last before the first dismissal takes place
(a) 45 days
(b) 30 days
(c) 7 days
(d) There is no minimum period
3. True or false: employers have to allow members of staff to wear religious articles of clothing or jewellery if it is a genuine manifestation of their belief?
4. Which one of the following must be paid to an employee who has resigned?
(a) Statutory redundancy pay
(b) A payment in lieu of notice
(c) Accrued untaken holiday
(d) A pro-rated performance related bonus
5. True or false: the maximum notice required to terminate on employee’s contract will be the period specified in the employee’s contract?
The answer to question 1 is (b) Retirement. Whilst this used to be a potentially fair reason for dismissal, this was repealed from 6 April 2011 and is therefore no longer a potentially fair reason. Companies can no longer force employees to retire. Employees can dismiss for the other three reasons, subject to following a fair procedure.
Question 2 is a bit of a trick question (sorry!). Where the employer is proposing to dismiss 100 or more employees within a 90-day period, the consultation must last at least 45 days. To dismiss 20-99 employees, it’s 30 days. There is no prescribed minimum where less than 20 employees will be dismissed, but the Employment Tribunal has previously indicated that 7 days is the “bare minimum” for an adequate consultation.
The statement at question 3 is false. The right to manifest one’s religion by wearing articles of clothing or jewellery has to be fairly balanced against the needs of the employer and, more generally, the community as a whole. Accordingly, a blanket ban on crucifixes or turbans in the workplace would be unfair, but the prohibition of such items may be lawful in respect of particular roles. For example, nurses may reasonably be required not to wear any jewellery for health and safety reasons, so even religious jewellery can be prohibited.
If an employee resigns, they are entitled to their accrued untaken holiday (i.e. their pro-rated holiday entitlement from the start of the holiday year to their termination date, less any days they have already taken as holiday). The answer to question 4 is therefore (c). They would also be entitled to their notice period, but there is no obligation to make a payment in lieu of notice; employers can require the employee to work their notice period, during which time they would be paid salary as normal. Alternatively the employee could be required to spend their notice period on garden leave, if this is permitted by the contract. Again the employee would be paid salary during this period rather than a payment in lieu of notice.
There is no obligation to pay statutory redundancy pay unless the employee is dismissed on grounds of redundancy and has two years’ continuous service, and bonus payments will be subject to the terms of the employee’s contract. Some bonus clauses specify that the employee may only receive their bonus if they are in employment at the time the bonus is paid, irrespective of whether the employee worked all or part of the period to which the bonus relates. The employee may therefore not be entitled to a pro-rated bonus.
Question 5 is false. An employee’s contractual notice period cannot be shorter than the statutory minimum notice period, which (after the first month of employment) is one week for the first two years of employment, and then one additional week per completed year of service up to a maximum of 12 weeks. The contractual notice period may be incorrect and inadequate if the contract has not been kept up to date.
So, how did you do? Did you get any wrong? If you didn’t, congratulations! Be warned though: employment law changes all the time, and compliance with the rules and regulations can only properly be ensured on a case by case basis.
This article was first published as part of our Employment Law Update - May 2013. You can subscribe to receive these monthly updates by email. To join our mailing list, please email email@example.com.