Using Law in the Workplace

WARNING!

DO NOT USE THIS SECTION AS ADVICE FOR MEMBERS!

IT SHOULD NOT BE TREATED AS LEGAL ADVICE AT ALL!

The reason this section is here is that most managers and HR advisors are scared of courts. Many reps have achieved a lot of success by telling the bosses that they are breaking the law. Management usually don't know nearly as much about the law as they pretend and may have to pay up to £1,000 an hour to a solicitor to find out if you are right or wrong in what you are telling them.

More warnings

1. Be aware that the law is a ever evolving animal and that even if a law isn't altered, everything can change because of a single court case.

2. Even highly trained solicitors don't always agree. If they did then cases should never actually get to court (actually an awful lot of them don't, with some form of settlement agreed between the parties or one side withdrawing its claim).

3. If your bluff is called, be sure to have stuff ready to back it up. You will need evidence to present your case, so think DOCUMENTS, DOCUMENTS, DOCUMENTS. Witnesses may help too.

This link is to an HR site listing a number of changes to UK law that are scheduled to come in force in the coming months and years changes to employment law

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Useful areas of law

1. Equality Law

Discrimination is (with a few exceptions) illegal. Does the person you are representing have a long term medical problem that has a significant effect on their ability to carry out day to day activities? (Disability Discrimination Act) Is there a reason why a condition imposed by the employer would have a larger impact on people of one particular gender or disadvantage people of a particular race or religion? Is English the first language of the member and would all the rules have been clear to them?

2. Health and Safety Law

Has the employer complied with all its legal obligations? Are risk assessments up to date? Was there meaningful consultion with the staff or at least their elected representatives? Were workplace inspections carried out every 3 months? Is plant and equipment the right type and has it been properly maintained and inspected? Is their adequate training and supervision? Is the right Personal Protective Equipment provided? Are there adequate welfare facilities including toilets, rest areas, etc. Have breaks been given in compliance with local rules and the Working Time Directive? Is lighting, heating and ventilation adequate?

3. Contract Law

The contract of employment is a special type of contract that gives certain rights to both the employer and the employee. The employer may give reasonable instructions to the employer and expect that the employee work their contracted hours and act in good faith towards the employer. The employee may expect to be paid without unreasonable deductions and be treated fairly and without any breach of trust. An individual's contract of employment may effectively change over time as the law changes and agreements are made with the trade union. The employee can make a written request for a statement of their employment particulars that should show any changes to their original contract. The employment handbook or company rulebook may be (but isn't necessarily) binding on both sides in contract law, as may any freestanding policies or general instructions to staff.