The Employment Rights Act (ERA) 1996 governs the employer-employee relationship across the UK.
This lengthy legislation covers everything from protections against unfair dismissal to maternity or paternity rights—as well as periods of holiday entitlement and what happens when an employee's contract comes to an end.
For this reason, it’s crucial for employers to understand how the ERA 1996 protects employees' entitlements in order to avoid costly, time-consuming lawsuits.
What is the Employment Rights Act 1996?
The ERA 1996 amalgamated and updated a confused mixture of individual labour law legislation, including the Contracts of Employment Act 1963, the Redundancy Payments Act 1965, the Employment Protection Act 1975, and the Wages Act 1986, into one Act.
Although this article concentrates on the law in England and Wales, the ERA 1996 applies across the whole of the UK.
The legislation enshrines certain employment rights, such as the right to redundancy pay, maternity leave, and flexible working, to name but a few, in the statute. This means that employers must comply with the rights prescribed by the ERA 1996 or face a claim by the employee whose rights under the Act have been breached.
In addition, the ERA 1996 sets out specific duties, and responsibilities employees have towards their employer.
What does the Employment Rights Act 1996 cover?
The ERA 1996 provides the following statutory rights:
- The right to receive a Statement of Particular Employment Terms before or on the first day of employment
- The right to paid leave for jury service
- An employee must not disclose private or confidential information to a third party
- The duty of both parties is to provide reasonable notice if they plan to terminate the employment contract
- The right of an employee not to be unfairly dismissed
- The right of employees to be paid wages/salary from the National Insurance Fund if the employer becomes insolvent
- The right to redundancy pay
- Protection for whistleblowers
- The right to request flexible working
- Holiday reference periods to calculate holiday pay
- Parental bereavement leave
- Maternity, paternity, and adoption leave
- An employee’s right to request study or training
- Protection of wages
- Sunday working hours for shop and betting workers
- An employee’s right to take time off to care for dependents, attend ante-natal or adoption appointments, and perform employee representative duties
As you can see from the above list (which is not exhaustive), the scope of the ERA 1996 is extensive.
How does the Employment Rights Act 1996 protect employees?
The ERA 1996 is divided into 15 parts. Each covers a specific topic; for example, Part 10 covers unfair dismissal. The sections of the part set out:
- The statutory right not to be unfairly dismissed
- What constitutes unfair dismissal (setting out the circumstances in which dismissal is fair)
- Situations where a dismissal will be deemed automatically unfair (for example, being dismissed for making a protected disclosure or being pregnant)
- When the right to unfair dismissal is excluded (for example, the employee has not worked for the employer for two or more years)
- The remedies available for unfair dismissal
Because the right to not be unfairly dismissed is set out in the ERA 1996, the right is a ‘statutory’ right which means unless the legislation expressly provides that an employer and their employee can contract out of certain provisions, the employee enjoys the protection provided for by the legislation.
The same applies to all the rights covered by the ERA 1996, for example, the right to parental leave, the right to receive an itemised pay statement, and the right to receive redundancy payments.
How does the Employment Rights Act 1996 apply to TUPE?
If a business or service contract transfers, employees’ rights are covered by The Transfer of Undertakings (Protection of Employment) Regulations 2006 (TUPE).
TUPE provides extra protection for employees of the business that is being transferred in that it makes dismissals that are solely or principally related to the transfer automatically unfair.
As a result, an employer's ability to dismiss employees fairly when there is a TUPE transfer is severely limited. To protect your best interests, you should consult one of our specialist employment law solicitors before dismissing any employees if you transfer your business, and TUPE covers the transfer.
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