The purpose of employment law and how it is enforced. Role played by the tribunal and courts system in enforcing employment law. How the cases are settled before and during formal legal procedures.
Purpose of the Employment Law
The purpose of employment law is to provide legal protection to employees and employers, and to promote a productive, safe workplace. The aim is to promote consistency, fairness and justice for the employees.
Before the Employment law was introduced, workplaces were regulated only by the ethics of the top management and bargaining power of the employee.
There are 3 sources of UK employment law:
1) Common Law (Civil/Case Law) - Since all the UK employees work under the contract of employment, the common law creates the legal basis for the employee/employer relationship. It is the oldest source of law, common to all. It could be also called case law as it comes from an individual court case as result of one party suing another. 2) Statute Law - There has been quite extensive growth of the employment protection legislation since early 1970's which supplemented the common law rules. For example - Equal Pay Act 1970, Sex Discrimination Act 1975, Data Protection Act 1998, Employment Act 2002, etc. 3) European Law - This is law made by the European Union. The UK joined the EU on 1st January 1978. The European Law takes precedence over UK statute law. Enforcement of the Employment Law
Pre Tribunal Hearings
ACAS has always played an important role in employment tribunal proceedings, and from April 2014 this role became even more significant. All the claims has be lodged with ACAS first, before taking it to the Employment Tribunals, under the early conciliation service. Conciliation will be offered here, if unsuccessful the claimant can proceed to lodge the tribunal claim.
Employment tribunals deal with lots of claims from employees relating to their employment or its termination. The majority of the statutory right can only be enforced by employment tribunals (unfair dismissal, unlawful discrimination, equal pay, national minimum wage, working time regulations, deductions from wages, etc.).
It wasn't surprising that the amount of claims grow quite significantly between 2009 and 2013 in comparison to 1990's as employees have gained lots of new legal rights. After July 2013, when the employment tribunal fees were introduced, the number of claims dropped down by 70-80%.
Depending on the type of claim, the employment tribunal can consist of a panel of 3 – an employment judge and 2 lay members - each qualified person, one from an employer background, one from an employee background; or as of April 2012 more commonly only an employment judge sitting alone.
There are set time limits for a submission of the claim - 3 months from the termination of the employment or complaint risen. Some of the claims has 6 month limit - for example redundancy pay.
All accepted claims are brought to the tribunal in a form of a formal hearing.
There are 2 main type of the hearings:
1) Preliminary hearing - short hearing where any issues are raised and discussed, so the main hearing can go smoothly. 2) Full hearing
From Monday 29th July 2013, any claims made to Employment tribunal are subject to a fee or an application for a free remission.
The table below (Table 1) shows the type of claim and the fees applicable:
Type of claim
- unpaid wages
- redundancy payments
- unpaid holiday
- unlawful deductions
- unfair dismissal
- discrimination complaints
- equal pay claims
Employment Appeals Tribunal
The losing party has 42 days to appeal the decision. For lodging an appeal the issue fee is £400.00 and the hearing fee £1200.00 for both types of claims.
The role of Employment Appeals Tribunals (EAT) is very important as the judgements set out how the law should be applied in the future by all Employment Tribunals. Since April 2013 the judge usually sits alone.
There are 4 possible outcomes when the appeal is made:
1) the appeal may be dismissed
2) the appeal may be allowed
3) the appeal may be allowed and remitted back to the original employment tribunal panel for a final decision 4) the appeal may be allowed and remitted to a different employment tribunal panel to rehear the evidence and make a final decision.
Employment Appeal Tribunal verdict can be appealed to Court of Appeal. These cases are heard in London by panels of three Lords Justices of Appeal.
A further appeal to the Supreme Court can only be made if the point of law that has 'general public importance' is disputed. The Supreme Court has a final say in any matter which concerns UK law.
Any other appeals can be made to the European Court of Justice (ECJ) but only if the case relates to application or interpretation of European law. The ECJ only ever rule in correct interpretation of EU law, sits in Luxemburg and the panel consists of 28 judges, representing each state of EU.
High Court / County Court
When the claim relates to the common law - breach of contract, negligence or personal injury claims (either physical or mental) - it will be heard either in the county court or in the High Court.
The High Court will only hear the cases where more than £15000.00 in damages is wanted, or £50000.00 compensation in the case of personal injuries.
The cases are usually heard by a single judge. The claimants must either represent themselves or be represented by a lawyer.
Appeals from county courts or the High Court go directly to Court of Appeal. Settlement of claims
The disputes can be settled before going through the full hearing by:
- attempting to resolve the issues directly between parties involved
- using the conciliation service offering by ACAS
- using the private mediator or arbitrator
Early conciliation provided by ACAS offers help to resolve the dispute before going to the court. One month is allowed for the process plus additional two weeks in some cases. If no agreement is reached, ACAS must issue the early certificate. Employees will not be able to lodge the claim to the tribunal without this certificate.
ACAS can also assist with post claim conciliation. Once the claim is submitted the conciliation officers will try to promote a settlement if they consider there is a possibility of negotiating a settlement.
Arbitration involves an impartial person who is asked to make a decision on a dispute based on the evidence presented. It is a voluntary service so both parties must agree to go to the arbitration.
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ACAS, (2014) Early Conciliation [Online]. London: ACAS
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CIPD, (2014) Employment Tribunals [Online]. Factsheet. London: CIPD Available at: http://www.cipd.co.uk/hr-resources/factsheets/employment-tribunals.aspx [Accessed 13th December 2014].
CIPD, (2014) TS10: What is the role of an Acas representative in employment tribunal proceedings? [online]. Available at: http://www.cipd.co.uk/hr-resources/employment-law-faqs/tribunal-role-acas-representative.aspx [Accessed 16th December 2014].
Russell, T., (n.d) A Guide to UK Employment Law [online].
Available at: http://www.tim-russell.co.uk/upimages/employment%20guide.pdf [Accessed 13th December 2014].