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Employment Legal Terms Glossary

If you get tangled up in an employment dispute, you’ll want to ensure you understand the terminology and phrases being used. This handy glossary can help you with the meaning of any confusing legal wording.

ACAS (Advisory, Concilliation and Arbitration Service)

If you are in dispute with your employer and are thinking of taking a claim to the Employment Tribunal, firstly you must contact ACAS. It is an independent, advisory body that provides advice in relation to employment disputes and gives you the option of seeking Early Conciliation - a free service which involves you and your employer discussing the issue with an ACAS representative, who will attempt to find a solution which is acceptable to both of you.

Contract of Employment

A contract of employment is the agreement between you and your employer regarding the details of the job. The purpose of a contract of employment is to set out the terms and conditions of your employment, including your rights and responsibilities. An employment contract does not have to be an actual written document; it could simply be something you have discussed verbally with your employer.

Disciplinary Hearing

If your employer is displeased with the quality of your work, how you act in the workplace, your attendance or any other serious issue, they may ask you to attend a disciplinary hearing to discuss the issue.

Discrimination

Discrimination occurs when you are treated differently in the workplace on the basis of one or more of what is termed as ‘protected characteristics’. These characteristics are defined under law in the Equality Act 2010.

Early Conciliation

This is the process of trying to resolve an employment dispute before it goes to an employment tribunal. The process is free and confidential and provided by ACAS. In most cases an individual must go through the early concilliation process in order to make a claim to the employment tribunal.

Employee

An individual may be legally considered an “employee” where they have an obligation to personally perform work for their employer, have a mutuality of obligation between themselves and their employer and the employer has a sufficient element of control over their work.This is often confused with other definitions of status such as a contractor, worker and self-employer person and can be a point of contention because of differing rights of each group.

Employment Appeal Tribunal

If you have taken a claim to the Employment Tribunal and believe that the tribunal made a legal error when making their decision, you can contact the Employment Appeal Tribunal, which rules on points of law relating to employment tribunal cases. You must usually contact the Employment Appeal Tribunal within 42 days of the tribunal’s judgment having been sent to you.

Employment Tribunal

Employment tribunals are independent bodies which deal with claims by individuals who feel that they have been treated in an unfair or illegal way at work. They have the capacity to hear a variety of types of legal claims relating to working relationships. The tribunal will decide whether your employer was in the wrong regarding your dispute.

Redundancy

Redundancy is a type of dismissal which can occur when an employer wants to reduce the number of staff working for them and can cover a number of situations such as the closure of a place of work or the reduction in the number of employees carrying out a particular role.

Statutory Rights

Statutory rights are essentially legal rights which come from an act of Parliament, rather than through developed case law. The statutory rights of workers and employees differ, but in general both groups are given some protection by law. You can find more information on what are deemed as statutory rights in our Rights at Work section.

Settlement Agreement

Settlement agreements can be entered into when an employee leaves employment – for example, through dismissal or redundancy. The purpose is to settle any claims the employee may have upon their leaving. They can also serve as a means of settling other types of employment claims (e.g. claims of discrimination or harassment) against an employer, irrespective of whether the employment relationship has ended. An individual must take legal advice on the terms and effect of a settlement agreement for it to be a binding contract, but the employer will often pay or contribute towards legal costs.

Unfair dismissal

In order to dismiss an employee in any circumstances, your employer must have a good reason for doing so, which is defined by statute and they must also follow the appropriate procedures when dismissing you. ACAS has issued guidelines about the process that they expect to be followed and although this isn’t legally binding on an employer, the Tribunal will expect them to follow it. If they don't meet these two requirements, then this could be classed as unfair dismissal.