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2 Employment

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1. Introduction

2. Do I need a contract of employment?

3. Do I have the right to work in the UK?

4. What is the least I should be paid?

5. How many hours can my employer make me work?

6. Does my employer have to recognise my trade union?

7. What if I´ve been dismissed unfairly?

8. Bringing a statutory claim for unfair dismissal

If you want to bring a statutory claim for unfair dismissal, you must normally have been working with your employer continuously for a year before being dismissed.

There are, however, exceptions to this time limit - for example, if your dismissal was:

  • to do with being pregnant or having a child;
  • related to enforcement of the Working Time Regulations or National Minimum Wage Act; or
  • because you asked for a written statement of your terms of employment.

When you have issued a claim, your employer must prove that the dismissal was for a 'fair' reason and that they used a fair procedure in reaching their decision to dismiss you. For example, if you were dismissed for misconduct, your employer must normally show that they conducted a resonable investigation and held a proper disciplinary hearing in which you had the chance to put across your case. You should be offered the right to appeal against any decision your employer reaches in a disciplinary hearing.

You and your employer must first follow certain disciplinary and grievance procedures to try to reslove the dispute before you go to an employment tribunal. If a dispute does go to a tribunal will look at whether you and your employer have followed this procedure when deciding the amount of any award it makes.

If you are told or asked to attend a disciplinary or grievance hearing, you have the right to take someone with you (normally a colleague or a trade union official). If your employer won't let you take someone to a hearing, you can claim compensation through the employment tribunal of up to two weeks' pay.

What can I claim for if I have been unfairly dismissed?
If you've been unfairly dismissed, you can apply to an employment tribunal for:

  • reinstatement, which means making your employer give you your job back, plus compensation for money you have lost since you were dismissed;
  • re-engagement, which means making your employer give you a similar job to the one you were dismissed from, plus compensation for the money you have lost since you were dismissed; or
  • compensation.

If you ask for reinstatement or re-engagement, the tribunal will consider whether this is reasonable and practical. Your employer can refuse to reinstate or re-engage you if they believe this would be unreasonable -for example, if trust and confidence between you and your employer has completely broken down. If your employer cannot show it would be unreasonable to take you back, but they still refuse to do so, the tribunal may award you extra compensation.

In practice, employment tribunals rarely force employers to reinstate or re-engage people. But if you lose your claim for reinstatement or re- engagement, you may still receive compensation.

How do I bring a claim?
You must make a claim for unfair dismissal to the employment tribunal within three months of being dismissed. To do this you must fill in an application form, called an ET1 and send it to the employment tribunal. The ET1 form is available from:

  • Jobcentres;
  • local law centres;
  • Citizens Advice Bureaux; and
  • the employment tribunal website (see 'Further help').

You must use the current ET1 form for all tribunal applications, complete all the sections and provide all the information the tribunal needs. If you use the wrong form or you don't give the information the tribunal asks for, the tribunal will not look at your claim.

When the tribunal has received your application, it will send a copy to your employer. Your employer must then send back another form (called and ET3) within 28 days, giving their side of the story. When you send your claim, an officer from the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (Acas) will be assigned to your case. They look at the case impartially (without taking sides) and will try and get you and your employer to agree a settlement.

If the Acas officer cannot get you and your employer to agree, you will have to go to a tribunal hearing. You and your employer will both have the chance to give your case and present evidence from witnesses. Employment tribunals consist of a chairman and two independent people who will look at your case. The tribunal is less formal than a court and you do not need a solicitor to represent you. You can present your own case or you can get someone else, such as a trade union official, to present your case for you.

The tribunal is unlikely to make you pay your employer's costs for defending your clain even if yuo lose. Similarly, if you win, the tribunal is unlikely to mkae your employer pay for your costs for bringing the claim (such as the cost of copying documents or getting the advice of a solicitor). You should be prepared to pay these costs yourself.

How compensation is worked out
Compensation for unfair dismissal has two parts:

  • the 'basic award', which is a maximum sum of between £155 and £465, depending on your age for each whole year you have worked for your employer (up to 20 years); and
  • the 'compensatory award', which is set by the employment tribunal and is meant to compensate you for money you have lost. The maximum is £60,000.

If you have been unfairly dismissed, you must try to reduce your loss by looking for (and taking) a suitable new job. An employment tribunal can reduce the amount of compensation payable in certain circumstances.

9. What if I´ve been made redundant?

10. Bringing a contractual claim for wrongful dismissal

11. What if I´ve been discriminated against?

12. What are my rights if I work part-time?

13. What are my rights if I´m having a baby?

14. Can I take leave as a new father?

15. What are my rights if I´m adopting a child?

16. What other leave can I get after my child is born or adopted?

17. Can I change my working arrangements if I have children?

18. Can I take time off if I am someone´s carer?

19. Further Help

20. About this leaflet




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This leaflet is published by the Gurkha Free Legal Advice (LSC). It was written in association with Ian Hunter, Head of the Employment Department, Bird & Bird, Solicitors.

The leaflets are regularly updated but the law may have changed since they were printed so the information in them may be incorrect or out of date.

Leaflet Version: July 2007