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Law of employment

The evolution and development of our complex, modern, Western societies have been accompanied by the need to regulate many of the activities of various groups of people. Without this regulation, society would not be what it is today. In the case of employment, the activities of employees were long regulated by legal institutions such as magistrates, who had, among a number of powers, the power to set rates of pay. More recently, the activities of employers became subject to increasing regulation in order to provide employees with greater protection in economic and physical terms. Factories legislation is just one example. Up to the 1980s the increasing power of trade unions, as distinct from individual work people, caused concern, particularly to Conservative governments, with the result that the power of unions has been reduced by legislation.          
As stated above, until fairly recent times in history the responsibility for regulating conditions of employment rested largely on Parliament and on local magistrates. This was relatively easy while the number of categories of workers was small. Gradually, however, as society became more industrialized it became increasingly difficult to exercise this control. The pendulum swung the other way. As was seen in the last article, various laws were passed that made it possible for both workers and owners to combine into trade unions and associations in order to bargain, until the stage was reached where the state appeared to avoid any direct involvement in the relationships between employers and employees. The whole system of bargaining and negotiation then rested on voluntary understandings between the workers and their employers. However, as industrial society developed even further, the power of trade unions grew and the concentration of certain vital resources and services into what became vulnerable positions made it possible for many groups of people to disrupt supplies to the whole community.

Figure 16.1 An illustration of the areas of employment regulated to a greater or lesser extent by the law (this is illustrative only)
Before employment
Sex, race, age discrimination – e.g. advertising and interviewing
Rehabilitation of offenders – certain offenders do not have to reveal spent convictions
Employing overseas workers – work permits needed in certain cases
Employing children – local authority approval needed
Employing young persons – e.g. licensing law restrictions
Employment agencies – who is the employer? who pays the agency?
Disabled workers – physical impediments or obstacles to their employment to be removed
Trade union membership – free to belong or not to belong

On starting employment
Contract of employment – certain terms and conditions to be given in writing
Health and safety – e.g. induction, fire training, safety precautions
Employer’s liability insurance – needed to indemnify employees in case of accidents at work

During employment
Maximum hours
Statutory paid holidays
Health and safety at work – range of health and safety measures
Disciplinary procedures – need to be communicated and fair
Time off – for sickness, maternity, jury service, etc.
Trade union membership – free to belong or not to belong
Harassment – employer to take reasonable measures to prevent harassment
Discrimination – e.g in promotion

Discipline and grievance procedures
Pay and other benefits
Minimum wages
Equal pay – pay to be equal for men and women doing work of equal value
Statutory pay for sickness and maternity
Taxation and National Insurance – who is responsible for collecting tax and deductions
Deductions – lawful and unlawful deductions

Termination procedures – resignations and dismissals

Written reasons for dismissal
Transfer of undertakings – protection of employment.



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