Employment law: how the current economy could affect your job and how to deal with unfair dismissal and discrimination if it arises

In the current economy, job roles are frequently being dissolved as companies take drastic measures to cut costs. While the UK has narrowly avoided a triple-dip recession, redundancy is still on the up.

Earlier this week, the Independent announced to its employers that it would have to axe 27 jobs out of a staff of 190 as a cost-cutting measure. And Transport for London has announced it will slash hundreds of London Underground and Overground jobs to meet the government’s cost-cutting demands. 

In turn, these hundreds of redundant workers will have to start the search for a new job. With fewer employment opportunities and often copious numbers of applications for any one available position, job hunters will likely develop a ‘take what you get’ mentality.

While many people feel lucky to have retained their job in light of the current economic situation, this doesn’t mean that standards regarding acceptable work conditions should slip. Legislation covering employment law is in place to ensure that every working person is treated fairly and rightly. So, even in these tough financial times, you shouldn’t sacrifice your employment rights in fear of losing your job.

With any great relationship, both parties need to know what to expect from the other. This applies to your relationship with your employer, and comes in the form of an employment contract which clearly outlines your rights, responsibilities and working conditions, such as annual leave entitlements, salary and working hours. If this contract is broken in any way, then you have a right to bring it up with your employer and, if need be, take legal action. 

While everyone dreams of finding a job they love with a boss and colleagues who all get along, this is often not the case. In an office full of people from all different walks of life, there’s occasionally conflict. However, some situations are much worse than others.

Discrimination at work is more common that you may think. Between when the recession hit in 2008 and mid-2012, there were 141,110 employment tribunals directly relating to discrimination. 

In 2012, changes to unfair dismissal laws were brought in, meaning that employees would need to have worked for their employer for two years to be eligible to claim unfair dismissal. Previously, it was one year. While this change was expected to reduce the number of unfair dismissal claims by 2,000 per year, there were still hundreds of thousands of tribunal claims in the system – many of which were discrimination related.

Whether because of your race, gender, age, religion, sexual orientation or because you’re pregnant or have a disability, discrimination is completely unacceptable. However, if you are being discriminated against, it can be hard to stand up for yourself in a work place environment. Ironically, discrimination can also occur against someone as a result of standing up against discrimination in the first instance. Clearly, it can be a hard environment to navigate. But it’s this fear of standing up against discrimination that can actually allow the problem to prosper. 

So, if you feel you’re being discriminated against, what should you do?

Firstly, you should bring the matter up with your line manager. However, if this is not possible or doesn’t solve the problem to your satisfaction, then try talking to someone from your HR department. At this point, you could also suggest bringing in a third-party mediator to address the issue between you and your employer. If this doesn’t suffice then you may consider lodging an internal grievance with your employer, who should then organise a meeting with you to address the problem. However, if this is unsuccessful and/or you still feel the problem is unresolved, then it may be time to approach an employment law specialist. 

If you’re suffering from other employment related issues such as unlawful pay deductions, disciplinary procedures or redundancy, then the procedure above also applies. However, for a more in-depth outline, check your employment contract or your company's HR policies and procedures for advice. For more information, read the employment law pages of our website.


Posted in: Employment law

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