Basic principles of employment law – it’s all common sense really.

Jan 7, 2019 | Good Management

Of course that’s very simplistic. But actually once you start gaining any scant knowledge of employment law, the main key principles you’ll encounter are generally pretty consistently applied.

Most of our clients and contacts have a sense of these general principles, and what they often need help with are the specifics of how these might apply to a situation they are in, how to use them, and how they translate into specific actions, words and timescales.

Here are what we think are the general principles of UK employment law. Some have specific laws attached, and others are principles which help avoid breach of several different provisions.

  • Don’t treat people less favourably because of a protected characteristic or because they exercised one of their statutory rights
  • Don’t dismiss people for an unfair reason or without following a fair procedure
  • Make sure people have some sort of contract and don’t break it
  • Give people time off for holidays
  • Give people time off for having a family
  • Consider requests from those entitled to ask for flexible working
  • Pay people at least the minimum wage
  • Pay people some sick pay if they are off sick for a while
  • Remember your duties of care and trust
  • Give people a reasonable chance to put things right where they’ve done wrong (this applies to employees and employers alike)
  • Protect people’s information and privacy

There are others of course, and there are plenty of ins and outs and quirky bits and interpretations to worry about, which is where expert advice comes in. But we find that the fact that employment law is generally consistent in application of these principles helps enormously, as when advising a client, they normally are not surprised by our advice and work readily with us to achieve their goals within the specifics and the wider principles of the law.

A good rule of thumb to work by is if it feels wrong, then it probably is wrong.

If you’re an employer and you want to take action in some way, think about those principles, think about the perspective of the affected employee/s, and think about the perspective of a neutral outsider. Would they consider what you are planning to be fair and reasonable? Would they consider that one of the principles above is not being followed? If you think they might, take some specific advice about what you are planning and how to achieve what you need for your business without falling foul of employment legislation.


If you need advice or help with any aspect of employment law, do get in touch.