What is Employment Law


Employees have certain rights to minimum employment conditions under employment legislation in most developed countries. The term ‘employee’ relates to all persons employed for any amount of time i.e. even those employed for only an hour a week.

There is no legal requirement for employers to have knowledge of employment law however lack of knowledge does not exclude them from legal action by employees.  
Employing people is a complex issue, being well informed of your rights, responsibilities and legal obligations as an employer will help to reduce potential future problems.
Employers are required by law to respect and adhere to employment rights set down through legislation for their employees.
Employees are bound by the terms of their (legal) contract and are required work within those terms.

Employment law usually covers the following:

  • Terms of an employment contract.
  • Maternity and paternity leave rights.
  • Redundancy.
  • Unfair dismissal.
  • Wrongful dismissal (also sometimes called unlawful dismissal).
  • Minimum wages.
  • Working hours.
  • Annual leave; sick leave; long service leave; pension funds/superannuation.
  • Working conditions – rest breaks; health and safety.
  • Bullying and harassment.
  • Discrimination


Employee’s rights will vary from country to country following is an example of the UK model:

  • Written details of the terms of employment (including their job description) should be given to an employee within eight weeks of commencement.
  • Employees are entitled to special leave under certain circumstances e.g. maternity, paternity, funerals etc.  
  • Continued employment if the business changes ownership.
  • Freedom to join a trade union and take part in its activities.
  • Dismissal requires a set period of notice i.e. from one month to a year of employment = one week mandatory notice period. For more than one year – one week notice for every year completed service to a maximum of twelve weeks. Employees must also give the required amount of notice when leaving their employment.  
  • Reasons for dismissal must be clear and in writing.
  • Unfair dismissal claims may be brought forward after two years of service.
  • Unlawful dismissal claims (i.e. relating to gender, race, sexual orientation etc.) may be made after termination irrelevant of length of service.
  • Redundancy payments should be made if employment is terminated after two years of service.
  • Employees should receive a detailed pay statement at or before their pay dates.

Although all of this varies from country to country, so you need to find out what is relevant to your region (sometimes laws vary from state to state within a country too. Occasionally there are exemptions to certain rules which may apply to you.  They can be very helpful in some situations. For example the size of your business my exempt you from having to comply with some regulations in some countries.  So ensure you are aware of any exemptions that apply.

Empoyment Regulations are in place for good reasons - they protect your employees and also you and your business.

In many countries you as an employer have a ‘duty of care’ towards your employees. For example: there may be legal guidelines in your country restricting how many hours a person is allowed to work in any given week, say (for arguments sake) that is 40 hours maximum.  A member of your staff tells you they need the overtime and works regularly 60 hours a week for two years. At the end of that time, they go on sick leave for stress and you end up paying them sick pay, at the same time you also have to employ someone else to do their job. Then they claim damages against you for work-related stress, saying you forced them to work 60 hours a week. You cannot prove otherwise and you may end up paying damages. In many cases you should have insurance to cover such events but then your insurance company may put up your premiums later. Damages paid to employees are often quite substantial amounts. So in the best interests of you, your business and your employees – stick to the rules!