When you are an employer, it can sometimes feel like your duties and obligations are almost endless. The ever-changing body of legislation in the field of employment law only extenuates this. While many of your duties and obligations may appear to be onerous, they are in fact critical to the success of your business.
Failing to comply with employment law is one of the greatest mistakes that business owners can make, as the costs and consequences of non-compliance can spiral out of control until they are having a significant impact on your business.
We Are Employment Law Specialists
At Simpkins & Co we are passionate about helping businesses to proactively manage their duties and obligations under employment law. By doing so, it is often possible to reduce the impact of and avoid many employment law issues from arising in the first place.
In this article, we outline a selection of the duties and obligations of employers.
Duties And Obligations Of Employers
Provide A Written Statement Of Terms
The Employment Rights Act states that an employer must provide their employees with a minimum of a written statement of terms. In many cases, this statement of terms is presented in the form of a contract of employment.
A written statement of terms should be issued at the commencement of the employment and it often includes the following:
- Identity of the parties (employer and employee)
- Date of commencement (date at which the member of staff became an employee of your organisation)
- Holiday/sickness pay arrangements
- Job title and job description
- Pay, method of calculating pay and the intervals at which wages are paid
- Hours of work
- Rules for overtime (if applicable)
- Pension arrangements
- Details of collective agreements
- Disciplinary and grievance procedures (often in the form of a reference to an employee handbook)
- Length of notice required to terminate the employment (this should be defined in terms of employer and employee notice)
If you do not provide an employee with a written statement of terms within one month of employment, they are entitled to apply to the employment tribunal to seek a declaration of what should have been included within these terms. At this stage, you will lose control over what the terms of employment are. This can result in unfavourable terms being imposed on the employer.
Provide Work And Pay Wages
As an employer, it is your duty to provide work to your employees and pay their wages. This legal duty also includes complying with the National Minimum Wage and National Living Wage. It is also a legal requirement to make relevant statutory payments for maternity, paternity, adoption and sickness and guarantee pay as appropriate.
Provide A Workplace Pension
It is now a legal requirement for employers to provide a workplace pension for certain members of staff. As an employer, you are responsible for enrolling them into a pension scheme and making a contribution to it.
If you are employing staff for the first time after the 1st October 2017, your legal duty for automatic enrolment (auto enrolment) begins on the date at which your employee starts their employment.
For employers who have employed someone since the 2nd April 2017, or if you are going to employ someone before the 30th September 2017; you should seek guidance from The Pensions Regulator here.
If you already employ staff and they started their employment before the 2nd April 2017, you can check your duties with The Pensions Regulator’s duties checker.
Maintain Mutual Trust And Confidence
The employer-employee relationship is very defined in respect of employment law. Every employer has a legal duty to maintain a relationship of mutual trust and confidence. Employment law dictates that the employer and employee are duty bound to not act in a way that undermines this. In many cases, where a breach of mutual trust and confidence is proven, the employer may face legal action and also be liable for any losses sustained as a result of a breach.
There are many actions that can be considered to be a breach of mutual trust and confidence, including:
- Accusing an innocent employee of theft
- Shouting at employees in front of other employees or customers
- Refusing to grant one employee a pay rise when every other employee has been awarded one
- Refusing to grant a promotion without adequate grounds for the decision
- Suspending an employee without reasonable grounds to do so
Provide Safe Working Conditions
The legal duty of an employer to provide safe working conditions for their employees is well established in law, principally by the Health And Safety At Work Act 1975. The act prescribes that employers are responsible for health and safety management. As part of this, an employer has a duty to protect the health, safety and welfare of their employees. To fulfil this duty, an employer is expected to do whatever is reasonably practical to do this. In practical terms this often means:
- Assessing workplace risks (as part of a risk assessment)
- Informing employees of the assessed risks and taking practical steps to mitigate against these risks (this may include providing your employees with health and safety instructions, training and consulting with your employees).
It is worth noting that an employer can be held liable for a breach of providing safe working conditions even if they are not personally responsible or aware of a condition that may cause a breach to arise. A prominent example of this concerns defective equipment, whereby even if equipment is defective due to the fault of the manufacturer or repairer, an employer may still be liable.
Provide A Safe System Of Work
This duty links directly to the previous duty to provide safe working conditions. A safe system of work is legal requirement for all businesses. However, the complexity of this system does vary depending on the nature of your business.
Generally, a safe system of work includes:
- Provision of protective clothing
- Clear instructions that detail how an employee should use the provided equipment and clothing
- Establishing safe working procedures
- Provision of appropriate training
- Providing washing and first aid facilities
- Displaying warning signs to alert employees to workplace hazards
Employ Competent Staff
It may surprise you to know that there is a legal duty for an employer to employ competent staff. The legal duty in question centres on the duty of care that an employer owes to all their employees; this duty of care is to ensure that one or more employees do not cause a danger to other employees.
To comply with your legal duty in this regard it is important that you take reasonable care in the selection, training, supervision, appointment and discipline of your workforce. This duty includes preventing hazards not necessarily closely related to the job in hand.
Your legal duty to employ competent staff also links to the legal principle of vicarious liability. Vicarious liability refers to a situation where someone, in this case an employer, is held responsible for the actions or omissions of another person, namely an employee. As an employer, you can be liable for the actions or omissions of an employee when it can be proven that these were undertaken in the course of their employment.
If you need help and support with an employment law matter, book a free initial consultation
About Simpkins & Co
Simpkins & Co is an accredited law firm that specialises in personal injury, clinical negligence, business, employment and litigation law. We have been providing professional and friendly legal advice for over a decade throughout the South Coast including Dorset and London. Our clients are served from our Dorset office in Highcliffe and our office in London.