1. When is a staff member entitled to statutory sick pay?
Statutory sick pay (SSP) is the pay that certain individuals must, by law, be paid when they cannot work due to illness. Generally, someone is entitled to receive sick pay when they:
have done at least some work for their employer
earn on average at least £123 per week (before tax)
have been off work sick for 4 or more qualifying days (usually those in which they’re required to work) in a row, and
have given their employer notice that they’re sick within any deadline set by the employer or within 7 days
SSP is paid at a specified rate, which generally changes each April. For the 2023/24 year, it is paid at a rate of £109.40 per week for up to 28 weeks.
Some employers offer better rates of sick pay (ie ‘contractual’ or ‘enhanced’ sick pay) at their own discretion. Any entitlements set out in an employer’s Sickness policy should be granted.
2. How do I discipline an employee?
Managing relationships with employees can be challenging, especially when their poor performance or misconduct must be addressed.
To carry out disciplinary action, an employer should generally follow 2 broad steps: investigation and conducting a disciplinary hearing.
Carrying out a disciplinary investigation
Collecting accurate facts and evidence is crucial to enabling a fair disciplinary process. This should be a confidential process, so only the employee in question and necessary persons should be made aware of the investigation.
Investigation can consist of, for example:
speaking to witnesses
obtaining evidence (eg emails, documents, and recordings), and
speaking to the employee themselves
If an investigation involves talking to the employee, it should be made clear to them that such an investigatory interview is not a formal disciplinary hearing.
It may be appropriate to suspend an employee during a disciplinary investigation. For example, if doing so is necessary to ensure that they do not interfere with the investigation.
Once you've gathered and assessed all the information, you can decide whether to have an informal meeting to resolve the matter or proceed to a formal disciplinary hearing (eg if the evidence necessitates further action).
For more information, read Disciplinary process.
Conducting a disciplinary hearing
If a disciplinary investigation necessitates further formal action, you can formally invite the employee to a disciplinary hearing. The employee should be notified that they are entitled to bring someone to the hearing with them.
The disciplinary hearing is the meeting in which the reasons for holding the disciplinary process are discussed and the collected evidence considered. The employee should be allowed to provide a defence and any evidence supporting their case.
After the hearing, based on what was discussed, the employer can decide what action is appropriate. This could include:
issuing a formal warning
implementing supporting measures (eg training to improve the employee’s performance), and/or
no further action being taken
The employee should be informed in writing of what is to happen.
For more information, read How to run a disciplinary hearing.
When taking any steps towards disciplining an employee for poor performance or misconduct, it’s vital that an employer follows its internal Disciplinary procedure to help it comply with employment law.
3. How do I dismiss an employee?
An employer is entitled to dismiss an employee as long as they follow the correct procedure and uphold all of the employee’s rights.
The level of rights an employee has to protect them from dismissal depends on how long they have worked for their employer. Regardless of an employee’s level of protection, a fair process should be followed. What this will entail depends on the circumstances. It may include:
holding a formal meeting at the end of a series of informal chats
issuing formal disciplinary warnings to give the employee a chance to alter their behaviour or performance before dismissal (eg for less serious misconduct, giving at least 2 warnings before dismissal is likely to be fair)
communicating the employee’s dismissal in writing
allowing the employee an opportunity to appeal their dismissal
Employees should also be:
paid any outstanding salary payments
paid in lieu of any untaken holiday entitlements, and
given an appropriate amount of notice of their dismissal
Employees who have worked for an employer for 2 years or more are protected by the full unfair dismissal rules. This means that they can only be dismissed for a fair reason. Fair reasons for dismissal include:
Dismissal may be unfair automatically if it is due to certain reasons (eg an employee asking to be paid minimum wage or to take maternity or paternity leave). Employees who have less than 2 years’ service can also bring unfair dismissal claims, but only in relation to dismissals for a few specific reasons.
4. Can an employee appeal their dismissal?
An employee may challenge their dismissal via their employer’s internal appeals process or by making a claim to an Employment Tribunal.
An employer’s policies and procedures, their employee’s Employment contract, and/or communications relating to the employee’s dismissal (eg a Dismissal letter) may set out how appeals can be made. Any requirements should be followed by both sides.
Generally, an employee will start by writing a formal Appeal letter. This should set out the grounds of the appeal. For example, incorrect or new evidence, problems with the decision process, or unfair redundancy selection.
The employer may invite the employee to a formal appeal hearing. Such a hearing should be carried out fairly.
Claims to the Employment Tribunal
If an issue isn’t resolved via internal appeal, an employee may bring a case to the Employment Tribunal in relation to their dismissal (eg a claim for unfair dismissal). The employee needs to tell Acas before bringing such a claim. Acas may then facilitate a conciliation process (a type of alternative dispute resolution) before a Tribunal case is started.
A claim to an Employment Tribunal for unfair dismissal must usually be made within 3 months minus one day from the effective date of termination.
5. What is TUPE?
‘TUPE’ refers to The Transfer of Undertakings (Protection of Employment) Regulations 2006. In broad terms, TUPE protects an employee’s terms and conditions of employment when a business or service, or part of one, transfers to a new employer.
Individuals with employee status are generally protected by TUPE. Those classed as workers may be, but this is an uncertain point in the law.
TUPE protects employees by, for example:
preserving an employee’s terms of employment (eg their pay and benefits)
requiring that their employer informs them about a transfer and, in some circumstances, consults them about it
requiring that their employer consults employees about any post-transfer redundancies
making dismissal due to the transfer automatically unfair
For more information, read Transfer of undertakings.
6. How can I make somebody redundant?
An employer can dismiss an employee due to redundancy if the employee’s job is no longer needed. They must follow a correct, fair process, including by making necessary redundancy payments.
What is necessary for a fair redundancy process varies depending on the circumstances of a particular redundancy situation. Often, a fair procedure will include:
considering alternatives to redundancy (eg redeployment or part-time working)
multiple rounds of pooling and selecting employees for redundancy
formally communicating the outcomes of the redundancy process
allowing employees a chance to appeal their redundancy
If, after considering alternative employment solutions, redundancy appears necessary, the employees to be made redundant must be selected carefully and fairly. This is often done by redundancy pooling (ie determining a group of employees that are at risk of being made redundant) and then selecting those to be made redundant from this group based on objective criteria. A redundancy pool is often not relevant in small and micro businesses, as there may only be one employee performing the role that’s no longer needed.
All employees potentially affected by redundancies should be consulted about the redundancy process before final decisions are made - even in small and micro businesses. One-to-one consultations can help managers find alternative employment options and show the employer’s continued efforts to keep employees informed and involved.
As usual, any dismissals or other alterations to an employee’s employment should be done in accordance with their Employment contract and any of the employer’s internal policies and procedures (eg a Redundancy policy).
7. Can I dismiss an employee who has taken time off due to pregnancy?
At the end of this period of leave, a returning employee who has taken 26 weeks or less of leave generally has the right to return to the same job that they were doing before their maternity leave. If they’ve taken longer than 26 weeks’ maternity leave, they instead have a right to return to a job on the same terms as when they left, but it could be a different job if returning to the same job isn’t reasonably practicable. In both cases, they should return on equally favourable terms and conditions (eg regarding holiday and pension entitlements).
Dismissal of an employee due to pregnancy, maternity leave, or employment adjustments resulting from childbirth will generally be considered unfair, and usually automatically unfair. This includes when an employee is simply not allowed to return to work after their maternity leave.
Maternity and redundancy
If a redundancy situation arises whilst an employee is on maternity leave, the employee may be made redundant. However, they have protections in addition to those generally granted during a redundancy process. For example, their employer should offer them alternative employment. For more information, read Redundancy and pregnancy or maternity leave.
8. How do I respond to a flexible working request?
Employees have the right to make a formal request for a flexible working arrangement if they’ve worked for their employer for at least 26 weeks and they haven’t already made a request within the last 12 months. If a request is made, an employer must:
evaluate and handle the request fairly and reasonably (eg in accordance with the Acas Code of Practice on handling flexible working requests and with the employer’s own Flexible working policy)
only refuse the request if they are doing so in reliance on one of the specified statutory grounds for refusal (eg as it would inhibit the business’ ability to meet customer demands)
respond formally to the request within 3 months
formally communicate their decision and formalise any changes in an alteration to the employee’s contract of employment
Note that changes to flexible working laws are coming in 2024. These will include requiring employers to respond to requests within a shorter timeframe and making it easier for employees to make requests.
For more information, read Flexible working.
9. Do I need to conduct a workplace risk assessment?
Employers have a duty to take reasonable steps to ensure the health and safety of those present in their workplaces. As part of this, an employer is obliged to conduct risk assessments to identify risks posed to those present in the workplace and to establish how these should be mitigated. If a business employs 5 or more people, they must record the main points of their risk assessment (ie what the hazards are, who might be harmed and how, and what is being done to control the risks).
Risk assessments should:
be updated regularly (including when something changes, eg if a workplace is refurbished)
After a risk assessment is carried out, an employer should implement any measures required to address the identified risks (eg by installing signage or facilitating training).
More questions about employment law?
Employment law is vast and can be complex, and the consequences of breaching it can be legally, financially, and ethically severe. If you have any more questions about employment law, you can Ask a lawyer.
A great way to start out as an employer, or to improve your compliance, is to check that you’ve got all of the HR policies and procedures you need in place and all of the appropriate employment documents sorted out. You could also make an Employee handbook to consolidate your HR policies.