While the government has pledged in principle to loosen the grip of bureaucracy on small businesses, the fact is that the number of regulations relating to employers' responsibilities and employee rights has increased considerably in recent years. The official line from the Department of Education and Employment is that rules about terms and conditions, pay, tax and sickness will always be necessary to safeguard employees and employers alike. This feature aims to look at some of the main areas of responsibility faced by anyone running a pub. Since it is not possible to set out all the provisions of any piece of legislation, this information should not be seen as providing a definitive guide. Anyone seeking advice on a specific case should take legal advice or contact a trade association. There is also detailed information on employment legislation affecting small businesses on a government website, located at www.businessadviceonline.org
Terms and conditions of employment If employed for more than one month, employees must receive, within the first two months, a written statement of employment. This must contain the main terms and conditions including pay, holidays, details of notice and disciplinary procedures.
EqualityJobs, training and promotion must be open to all, regardless of colour, race, nationality, ethnic or national origin, sex, marital status or to anyone undergoing or who has undergone gender reassignment. It is unlawful for employers to discriminate against disabled job applicants or disabled employees.Under the Race Relations Act it is unlawful for an employer to discriminate on racial grounds:•in recruitment, including arrangements for deciding who should be offered employment or by refusing or deliberately omitting to offer a person employment•in terms and conditions of employment•in access to, or by denial of, opportunities for promotion, transfer, training or any other benefits•by dismissing an employee.The Sex Discrimination Act 1975 applies to both males and females and makes it unlawful for an employer to discriminate on grounds of sex in employment or training. It is also unlawful to discriminate against someone on the grounds of being married.The Equal Pay Act 1970 makes it unlawful to offer different pay and conditions where women and men are doing the same or comparable work, or rated as equivalent in the same employment. The act does not permit claims for equal pay with people of the same sex.Full and part-time workers New regulations covering part-time workers came into force on July 1 2000. These give part-time workers the right not to be treated less favourably in their term and conditions than comparable full-time workers, unless you can justify the different treatment. This is particularly relevant to pubs, which tend to employ more part-timers than most businesses. Under the regulations: •a full-time worker is an employee who works the normal full-time hours for your business•a part-time worker is a worker who works less than the normal full-time hours for your business.A part-time worker can compare their terms and conditions with a comparable full-time worker, doing similar work under the same type of contract. A worker who changes from full-time to part-time hours can compare their terms and conditions with their previous full-time contract. This also applies to someone returning part-time after a period of absence, such as maternity leave, as long as they are not away from work for longer than 12 months.Part-time workers should receive the same hourly rate of pay and overtime pay as comparable full-time workers. They should not be excluded from training and are entitled to pro rata holiday pay, as well as maternal and parental leave.
Maternity, parental and dependents leaveUnder provisions of the Employment Relations Act which came into force last year, employees are entitled to: • Maternity leave - all staff are entitled to 18 weeks leave, whatever the length of service. Staff with at least one year of service are entitled to a total of 40 weeks, 11 weeks before the birth and 29 weeks afterwards.•Parental leave - this is leave taken specifically to care for a child or make arrangements for its benefit - eg settling a child into nursery school. Both male and female employees with at least one year of continuous service are entitled to 13 weeks parental leave in the first five years after the birth or adoption for each child - so 26 in the case of twins.•Time off to care for a dependant, such as a parent, child or spouse, in cases of illness, bereavement, etc.Trade UnionsIn a business with more than 21 employees, a trade union can claim the right to recognition on behalf of its members. It is illegal to dismiss an employee for being a member of a union or taking part in trade union activity.
Period of noticeFor continuous employment of more than one month but less than two years, one week's notice must be given unless a longer period is stated in the employment contract. For continuous employment of two years or more, at least two weeks' notice must be given, and after two years' continuous employment, one additional week's notice for each further complete year is required. After 12 years' continuous employment a minimum of 12 weeks' notice is required. Employees should be paid at their normal rate during their notice period. This applies even if they are on sick leave, holiday or maternity leave, or if they are willing to work but none is provided.
Fair and unfair dismissal It is fair to dismiss an employee if two conditions are met. First, the dismissal must be for legitimate reasons. These include - among others - being unable or unqualified to do the job, and unacceptable conduct such as a poor attendance record. Second, the employer must act reasonably in deciding to dismiss the employee rather than, for instance, taking some other form of disciplinary action. Since there are no hard and fast rules about what is reasonable, this is potentially a problem area for employers. Some types of dismissal are judged to be automatically unfair, such as for being a trade union member, and being pregnant, taking maternity leave or other areas covered by the Employment Relations Act.Employees with one year's continuous service are normally entitled to make a claim to an employment tribunal. Complaints must normally be made within three months of the date of dismissalIf the tribunal hears the complaint it will consider the arguments put forward by both parties and make a decision. If it decides that the dismissal was unfair, the tribunal may order the employer to re-employ the employee but more usually will order the employer to pay the individual compensation.