Problems at work legal glossary

Knowing where you stand at work, your rights and making a claim against your employercan be confusing, especially when it comes to dealing with the legal side of things. That’s why we believe in providing clear advice that’s easy to understand, without all the legal jargon. Here we’ve translated some of the legal terms often used when talking to lawyers into plain English.

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CapabilityAn assessment that an employee is unable to perform their duties satisfactorily. It is assessed by reference to their skills, aptitude, health or any other physical or mental qualities. Rather than follow a disciplinary procedure, the employer may follow a capability procedure to find out the reasons for the unsatisfactory performance and tries to help them achieve the appropriate level of performance required for their posts within a reasonable time.
Chair of the tribunalThe employment judge who runs and decides the outcome of Employment Tribunal hearings of workplace disputes, usually sitting with two other people (not from a legal background) who help him reach decisions.
Compromise agreementA legally binding agreement where the employee and employer agree the terms for ending employment.
DefamationAn untrue statement about another, which damages their reputation.
DiscriminationBeing treated differently or unfairly because of a disability or race, religion or belief, sex or sexuality.
Employment judgeA legally-qualified person who runs employment tribunal hearings. The judge will usually be joined by two people (who are not from a legal background but are there to help assess what is fair and reasonable) – one from an employer-focused background and one from an employee or trade union background. However, sometimes the employment judge will decide cases alone.
Employment tribunalThis is the special court for resolving disputes in the workplace such as unfair dismissal, discrimination or unfair pay deductions. It is independent and has the power to order remedies such as the employer to pay compensation where it finds the employer has acted unfairly or broken the law. An employee usually has to notify the tribunal of the dispute (using the official form and paying an ‘issue fee’) within three months of the unfair treatment or employment ending.
Equal payThe law in England and Wales says that men and women employed by the same company have the legal right to be paid the same as each other, for doing the same work or work of an equal value.
GrievanceA workplace complaint. Most companies will have a formal procedure for employees to make a complaint and for it to be considered fairly.
Minimum wageThe government sets a national wage which is the minimum an employee should receive (and which has very few legal exceptions).
Redundancy agreementA legally binding agreement where the employee and employer agree the terms for ending employment.
RespondentThe person or business defending an employment law claim brought by a claimant.
Severance agreementA legally binding agreement where the employee and employer agree the terms for ending employment.
Termination of employmentThis is the date your notice period expires, or your last working day (where you were not given any notice period).
WhistleblowingThe expression used to describe the actions of an employee who exposes serious problems in the work place. The employee will be protected in law from unfair treatment by the employer in certain circumstances. The whistleblowing has to be honestly believed and normally will need to be first made to the employer rather than to the media.

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