UK law grants employees a range of protections that create obligations and potential risks for employers. Although these are generally less stringent than in other European countries, you will nonetheless need to be aware of them.
The obligations an employer owes its UK employees include:
Union or other collective rights are less significant in the UK than in many other European countries. The law in the UK requires an employer to recognise a trade union or establish a national works council or committee in certain circumstances, but only where such an arrangement is specifically requested by a union or workers. As a result, many UK employers have no such arrangements in place.
Employers making collective redundancies will need to assess and manage a number of legal risks. It is worth noting that where there are between 20 and 99 employees affected, the collective redundancy consultation period is 30 days; however, where 100 or more employees are being made redundant the consultation period is 45 days. It is worth noting that employees whose fixed-term contracts are coming to an end will not count towards the total number of employees for the purposes of collective consultation obligations.
It is beneficial for an employer to establish a comprehensive contract of employment to be issued to each employee. This can include all of the terms and conditions of employment, covering the rights described above, and in addition protect the employer’s business interests by placing obligations on the employee. Examples are specific requirements to keep information about the business and its customers confidential, provisions securing ownership of inventions and developments made in the course of employment, and covenants restricting certain competitive activities after employment ends, such as poaching customers or key staff.