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Frequently Asked Employment Questions

Our experienced team answers some of the most frequently asked Employment questions.

Absence Management

What does the law say about sickness absence and sick pay?

The law provides for statutory sick pay (SSP) if an employee is absent due to sickness. An employer may pay contractual sick pay if they wish. SSP lasts for 28 weeks and is payable from day four of the absence. Any ongoing sickness after that is unpaid. Managing sickness absence should be done fairly and consistently and take into account any issues under the Equality Act 2010 where applicable. Any decision to dismiss must be fair under the Employment Rights Act 1996.

What issues could I face when managing sickness absence?

It is important to understand the reason for sickness absences and to ensure that adjustments are made to the process, where appropriate, to enable an employee to engage with the process. You may also need to seek advice from the employee’s doctor or from Occupational Health.

What is the importance of managing sickness absence properly?

Managing sickness absences properly should mean that claims for unfair dismissal and/or discrimination are not brought. Effectively temporarily covering the workload of someone who is off sick to lessen the impact on other colleagues where possible can help with the running of your business and team morale.

Is Absence a misconduct?

If the absence is for a genuine reason and has been authorised in advance where possible, then no. If it is an unauthorised absence or is not genuine, then it could be a misconduct offence.

How can I manage employee absences, so it does not affect my business?

It is important to ensure employees are aware of the company policies in relation to absences. Analyse the absences and focus on the reasons for absence.

Claims

Unfair Dismissal

I have been unfairly dismissed. How much compensation could I get?

See the answer below.

How much can I recover in an unfair dismissal claim?

If a claim for unfair dismissal is successful then it will comprise of two parts: the basic award and the compensatory award. The basic award is calculated following a set formula relating to age, length of service (currently up to a maximum of 20 years service and 60 years of age) and weekly pay (subject to a cap, which is updated every April) in the same way a statutory redundancy payment. The compensatory award is at the discretion of the employment tribunal and will be awarded based on the facts of each claim, however, there is a cap on the compensatory award, which would be the lower amount out of the gross annual pay or the statutory cap, in force from time to time. The cap is updated every April and details can be found here www.gov.uk.

Disciplinary Processes and Dismissal

Can I have a solicitor at a disciplinary hearing?

As an employee, your statutory right to be accompanied to a disciplinary meeting is in respect of a colleague or a Union Rep. It is a right to be accompanied and not represented. However, where a career is at stake, such as with a doctor or a solicitor who faces being struck off, then the right to be represented by a solicitor may be appropriate.

Can you be dismissed at a disciplinary hearing?

Yes. However, it will depend on the circumstances of the case.

Is it a legal requirement to have a disciplinary procedure?

It is best practice to conduct a disciplinary process, especially where an employee has two or more years continuous service.

What if you are unable to attend a disciplinary meeting due to sickness and wish to postpone the disciplinary meeting?

Employers are required to be fair and reasonable throughout a disciplinary process. Where an employee is unwell and cannot attend a disciplinary meeting, the employer can request advice from occupational health or a medical professional to advise on whether the employee is able to attend the meeting and if the employer should make any adjustments to help with their attendance or cooperation if required. In any case, it will depend on the circumstances of the case.

What if there are delays by your employer in dealing with the disciplinary process?

It will depend on the circumstances of the case however usually the process should be conducted in an effective way, even if this means using other forms of communication i.e. telephone or video call, or written correspondence.

Can you insist on recording the disciplinary hearing?

This will depend on the terms of the company disciplinary process. As an employer, it is important to take advice in respect of any disciplinary process or dismissal you are contemplating, in order to minimise the risk of a tribunal claim against you or the company, such as unfair dismissal and/ or discrimination etc.

What if you don’t agree to the written notes of the meeting supplied by your employer?

You can state that you don’t agree with them and why. You could also take your own notes and provide those to your employer.

Can I appeal my employer’s decision about my disciplinary dismissal?

Depending on the circumstances of the case, a disciplinary decision can be appealed.

How does the disciplinary process work?

Depending on the seriousness of the allegation(s) or the circumstances of the case, the process may usually begin with a verbal warning regarding the issues (if they are not serious and can be easily remedied). A formal process usually involves issuing two written warnings, the second warning, being a final warning. In more serious cases, an employer may be able to issue a final written warning (without a previous warning being in place) or even dismiss the employee.

Can we dismiss an employee if they have been convicted of a crime?

This will depend on the employment contract and the nature and/or seriousness of the crime.

If an employer suspends an employee following an allegation of misconduct, do we still have to pay their wages?

An employee should receive full pay during any period of suspension, unless otherwise stated in the employment contract, for example during a “lay-off” situation. Suspension should only be for a reasonable period of time. As an employer, it is important to take advice in respect of any disciplinary process or dismissal you are contemplating, in order to minimise the risk of a tribunal claim against you or the company, such as unfair dismissal and/ or discrimination etc.

How many stages are in a disciplinary procedure?

Depending on the circumstances, there are usually four distinct parts; investigation; meeting; outcome; and appeal.

Employee Handbook

The dos and don’ts of creating an employee handbook

There are many “dos and dont’s” when creating an employee/staff handbook:

“Dos” include:

  1. The main policies, which are: Disciplinary procedures and rules; Grievance procedures; Information about pensions; Health and safety (if 5 or more employees); and Whistleblowing (in some cases). Other policies that are strongly recommended are: bribery; anti-facilitation of tax evasion; equal opportunities; data protection; and whistleblowing; and
  2. Keep it simple by making it easy to read and understand.

“Dont’s” include:

  1. Ensure the employee/staff handbook is not a binding contract;
  2. Do not include restrictive covenants in the handbook; and
  3. Do not include policies that simply do not apply.
Are employers required to provide an employee handbook?

Employers are not legally required to provide an employee/staff handbook, but it is recommended as employers should inform employees of any company policies. The higher the number of employees, the more convenient it is to refer to a handbook.

Why do I need an employee handbook?

An employee/staff handbook can be an effective and convenient way of informing all employees of the company policies.

To find out the answer to your frequently asked Employment question or if you would like advice…Talk to Tollers highly experienced Employment Law team on 01604 258558 and they will be happy to advise.

Find out more about our Employment and HR legal services here.

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Our Frequently Asked Employment Questions Experts

Gabriella Croxford
Solicitor
Gabriella Croxford is a Solicitor at Tollers having previously worked as a PA/Legal Secretary with the firm. She works in the Employment law team at Tollers...
Gary Tait
Partner and Head of Commercial Services
Gary joined Tollers in 1997. In 2000 Gary became a partner in the firm and in 2009 was appointed Head of the Commercial Services Division...
Rebecca List
Partner & Head Of Employment
Rebecca List, Employment Solicitor. Rebecca has experience of all areas of employment law, both contentious and non-contentious, including, TUPE...
Gabriella Croxford
Solicitor
Gary Tait
Partner and Head of Commercial Services
Rebecca List
Partner & Head Of Employment
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