For anyone starting their own business, it is essential to have a good understanding of employment law or to employ a specialist in this field to make sure you don’t encounter any potential problems within your workforce.
Whether you have 1 or 100+ employees, employment law has a very important place within your business. These laws were created to protect both employers and employees to ensure a safe and fair working environment for all, therefore it is imperative to adhere to them 100%
With laws being continually updated and changed, it can be a bit of a minefield keeping fully up to date with the many different statutes. Failure to do this could end up resulting in hefty fines and even, in the most serious cases, custodial sentences.
Employment law is a very broad term that encompasses everything from health and safety, minimum wage regulations and working hours, as well as equal opportunity, which includes race, gender, age, sexual orientation, disability, pregnancy, and religion/beliefs. Should an employee believe they are experiencing prejudice of any type in the workplace, this can be a real problem for an employer and if they don’t know their stuff, can land them in some very hot water!
Another common occurrence is wrongful termination of employment by constructive unfair dismissal. A recent case in the UK saw a major health food chain found guilty of this when it failed to provide a disabled manager ‘adequate reasonable adjustments’ to assist with her medical needs. The employee then resigned but was later found to have been treated unfairly by the employer and a ruling of constructive unfair dismissal was applied.
In Spain, in 2019 there was a case of an employee having offensive material as their screensaver – it was a photo of Auschwitz concentration camp. When questioned about it by her superior, the employee replied it was because she felt the Company was run like a concentration camp. The fact that the Company in question was German didn’t exactly help the employee’s case, and so it was deemed offensive enough to constitute fair dismissal.
There was also a case in Melbourne, Australia back in 2015 whereby a female employee was sexually harassed, bullied, and abused by colleagues at a construction firm. The case resulted in the firm being found guilty of negligence and liable to pay the employee $1.3 million in compensation due to the mental health conditions that she subsequently suffered.
From the example cases above, you can see that anything is possible in the workplace. As an employer you will encounter all manner of situations for which you need to be forearmed and have all your employment law requirements in order. No matter in which part of the world you decide to set your business up, you need to be fully abreast of the regulations in place. If you fail to do so, you could end up facing anything from a fine to bankruptcy and/or imprisonment.
So make sure you don’t overlook the importance of this subject by ensuring that work contracts are clear and within the law, that the workplace is safe, employees are treated fairly and that any grievances or disputes are dealt with promptly and in strict adherence with your local employment laws.