Beginning and ending employment
Information and resources on various aspects of beginning and ending employment. You can also assess working practices in your organisation by taking our audit. Explore the links below to learn more.
Employment law is the body of laws, administrative rulings and precedents that address the legal rights of, and restrictions on, working people and their employers. It mediates many aspects of the relationship between trade unions, employers and employees.
Employers and employees should keep themselves informed of developments in employment legislation. To see a list of employment law developments for 2010–2011 or simply to check the National Minimum Wage, see the Chartered Institute for Personnel Development (CIPD) website.
The Equality Act 2010 introduced a new framework for combating discrimination and will have a major impact on workforce management. It unites existing legislation on unlawful discrimination and introduces some new features such as the concept of ‘protected characteristics’. There are nine protected characteristics: age, disability, gender reassignment, marriage and civil partnership, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion or belief, sex and sexual orientation.
Employers need to note that the Equality Act states that direct discrimination is considered to have occurred against a worker if they consider that they have been treated less favourably because of having a protected characteristic. The Act also sets out a single definition of indirect discrimination that is applicable to each of the protected characteristics (except pregnancy and maternity).
The employment contractOpen
An employment contract is an agreement between employer and employee and forms the basis of the employment relationship. A contract is made when an offer of employment is accepted. A number of rights and duties, enforceable through the courts, arise as soon as this happens.
The employment contract does not need to be in writing to be legally valid, but writing down the terms of the contract, and their acceptance by the employer and employee, is good practice. The Employment Rights Act 1996 requires employers to provide most employees with a written statement of the main terms within two calendar months of starting work.
The terms and conditions of the job are generally stated in the contract of employment, which sets out what the employer and employee can expect of each other. It is important to attend carefully to the content of the contract as mistakes can be costly to put right, and may create tension in employee–employers relations and have a negative impact in the workplace.
Many employers include an introduction to terms and conditions as part of the induction programme. This is a chance for employees to ask questions and for the employer to test an employee’s understanding of the employment contract.
The employment contract will have different content for casual workers, self-employed contractors and agency staff. Employers need to inform themselves of employment law that relates to these differences in the employer–employee relationship. Volunteers are not employed as they do not receive payment for their services. They should not have an employment contract, but rather a volunteering agreement. Please see the section on Voluntary staff for more information.
In adult social care, many people who have a personal budget are employing their own personal assistants, and are therefore taking on the role of employers. Being the Boss website provides information to disabled people who employ personal assistants, by sharing information based on the experiences of disabled people who employ their own personal assistants. Skills for Care has also produced a practical Toolkit to help people employ their own personal assistants. For more information, please see the Key additional resources section.
Volunteers do not receive payment for the work they do and so should not have a contract of employment. However, there should be a volunteering agreement in place, which sets out what the expectations are of the volunteer and what support will be made available. Volunteers will frequently have a ‘role description’, and in this way will often have many of the documents associated with employment. The distinguishing feature of volunteering is that the organisation does not pay the individual but provides them with work experience and training, a social environment and the opportunity to fulfil a useful role helping others. Volunteers have no employment rights but should still be able to claim state benefits and/or allowances if appropriate.
If pay is introduced into the relationship (for example by offering a regular payment instead of reimbursement of expenses) then an employment relationship is created. In this case, the employer and employee acquire certain rights and obligations, such as the right to a minimum wage, maternity pay and the right not to be unfairly dismissed. For this reason it is important that care is taken to avoid any misunderstanding about the employment status of volunteers and the rules on payment.
When a volunteer is taken on, a volunteer agreement and role description should be produced in writing and agreed between the organisation and the volunteer. The agreement must be worded so that the volunteer is clear that it is not a contract of employment, for example the agreement must not suggest that the organisation and the volunteer have any obligations towards each other.
A sample volunteer agreement can be viewed on the Volunteering England website.
Staff who are carersOpen
According to the organisation, Employers for Carers, one in seven employees is caring for a family member. And according to Carers UK, there are six million carers in the UK. If an organisation is looking to develop a carer-friendly policy in order to retain skilled workers or if they wish to identify the business benefit of supporting carers in the workplace, Employers for Carers may be able to help.
Terms and conditionsOpen
By law, employers are obliged to give employees a written statement of terms and conditions within two months of the start of employment. The terms and conditions of employment should be consistent for all staff (or for particular groups of staff) and should cover the following areas:
- the National Minimum Wage
- employment contracts and conditions
- time off and holidays
- flexible working
- working hours
- sickness absence
- business transfers and takeovers (TUPE) – see below.
There are particular issues for the social care sector in relation to Transfer of Undertakings (Protection of Employment) (TUPE) legislation. This potentially gives workers transferring from one employer to another continuity of service and the right to have their terms and conditions protected.
In the field of social care, there are specific regulations and requirements that impact on the contractual implications, terms and conditions of employment:
- the Qualifications and Credit Framework (QCF)
- Criminal Records Bureau (CRB) checks for the protection of vulnerable adults and children
- the requirement to register with the General Social Care Council/Care Council for Wales (GSCC/CCW)
- GSCC/CCW Codes of Practice
- an additional requirement to include information on grievance, disciplinary and consultation procedures.
Disagreement and conflict over terms and conditions are the source of many employee relations cases and, if not handled consistently, can result in a dissatisfied, demotivated workforce. Disagreements must be dealt with promptly as they can result in grievance or discrimination proceedings being undertaken by employees. Ensuring that terms and conditions are consistent, equitable and lawful is a priority for any employer.
Certain procedures to end employment must be followed to ensure that the process of leaving an organisation is fair, compassionate as well as professional and legally correct. There are a number of resources (listed below) to consult to help inform best practice:
- Equality and Human Rights Commission, Avoid discrimination when making redundancy decisions, London: Equality and Human Rights Commission.
- Employment termination general guide (Business Balls).
- CIPD (2010) Redundancy, London: CIPD. A factsheet of basic information.
- ACAS, Redundancy and notice, London: ACAS.
- UNISON (2009) Redundancies: the general legal position, London: UNISON. A branch guide. See also best practice redundancy agreement.
- Redundancy and leaving your job (Directgov website), which offers practical information on dismissal, retiring, redundancy etc.
Key additional resourcesOpen
- ACAS (2009) Employing people: A handbook for small firms, London:ACAS.
- ACAS, Employment contracts, London: ACAS.
- ACAS, ‘Top tips for better management’, London: ACAS.
- Being the Boss (a website for people employing a personal assistant).
- Humans resources(a section on the Business Balls website that offers advice and a number of free resources).
- Business Link, Employing family members or voluntary staff.
- CIPD, Policies and procedures for people managers, London: CIPD.
- CIPD (2010) Discipline and grievances at work, London: CIPD.
- Employment terms and conditions
- CIPD (2005) Bullying at work: Beyond policies to a culture of respect, London: CIPD.
- The practical implications of the Equality Act(HR Magazine, 5 October 2010).
- Labour Research Department (2006) New guidance for workers being transferred from one employer to another, London: Labour Research Department.
- Legal Action Group (2007) Employment law: An adviser’s handbook, London: Legal Action Group.
- CIPD (2010) Next generation HR, London: CIPD. A report on the changing nature of HR and the best/emergent practice.
- Skills for Care (2007) Guidebook for managers looking to employ overseas social care staff, Leeds: Skills for Care.
- Skills for Care (2009) A toolkit to help people employ their own personal assistants, Leeds: Skills for Care.
- Worksmart (to help working people get the most out of work – from the TUC).
- Volunteering England.