Home » Employment Law » Glossary of Employment Law terms

Do you know the difference between unfair dismissal and constructive dismissal? What happens at an employment tribunal?

The world of employment law can be a minefield for employees and employers alike. To help guide you through the process we’ve defined some of the most common employment law terms.

Please note that these definitions, whilst a helpful guide, do not constitute legal advice. Should you have any questions or concerns, please obtain proper legal advice.

Acas – The independent government-funded public body that aids both employers and employees in order to resolve employment disputes and build better workplace relationships. Acas also produce guidance which is often referred to within an Employment Tribunal.

Claimant – The individual bringing a claim to an Employment Tribunal.

Constructive Dismissal – A situation where an employee is treated so badly in the workplace that they are left with no choice but to resign. As a result, they can claim that they have been ‘constructively dismissed’.

Contract of Employment – A legally binding agreement between an employer and an employee.

Capability meeting – A meeting arranged by an employer to discuss an employee’s performance, sickness, or absences.

Disciplinary Hearing – A disciplinary hearing is a formal meeting that is arranged by an employer to address any conduct issues they have with an employee.

Discrimination – From a legal perspective, discrimination occurs when an employee is treated unfairly on grounds such as sex, race, disability, or age. These are known as Protected Characteristics.

Employment Tribunal – Employment Tribunals are a type of court that will hear most claims from employees such as discrimination or unfair dismissal. The majority of employment disputes are brought to an Employment Tribunal by the employee.

Equal Pay – Set out in the Equality Act 2010, equal pay must be given to men and women in the same employment, performing the same work, unless there is a reason a difference in pay can be justified.

Garden Leave – When a notice has been given to terminate an employment contract, and the employee is required to remain employed, but not required to perform their usual duties. The right to put an employee on garden leave will be outlined in their employment contract.

Grievance – Any concern or complaint raised by an employee is known as a grievance.

Gross Misconduct – Gross misconduct is any action by an employee that is so serious it terminates their employment contract and no notice is required to be given or paid. The type of termination is referred to as a summary dismissal. This could include things such as theft, assault, or harassment.

Harassment – Unwanted behaviour of a discriminatory nature (see Discrimination definition above) that an individual finds offensive and has the purpose or effect of making them feel intimidated/ humiliated or violating their dignity. This behaviour could be spoken, written, or physical abuse.

National Minimum Wage/ National Living Wage – The minimum hourly rate an employer is required to pay an employee. This figure changes most years.

PILON (Payment in Lieu of Notice) – When an employer pays an employee’s salary (and potentially benefits) for the equivalent duration of their notice period but, the employee does not have to work during this time. Put simply, an employee may receive notice pay instead of working their notice period. They would not be considered as employed as at the date the contract is terminated.

Redundancy – The situation where an employee loses their job due to certain factors such as the level of work available, or for a reason not related to them.

Respondent(s) – The party or parties who the claim is made against in an Employment Tribunal. This will normally be the employer, but in certain situations will include named individuals.

Restrictive Covenants – A clause in an employment contract that sets limits on what the employee can do. Usually these will prohibit an employee from competing with their former employer for a set period of time after leaving the business.

Settlement Agreement – An agreement where an employee can settle claims against their employer, usually in return for a payment. Common examples of when these would occur are when an Employment Tribunal claim has been started or when an employee is leaving a business.

Summary Dismissal – See gross misconduct.

Unfair Dismissal – A statutory employment claim that employees may bring in an Employment Tribunal. Employers can only dismiss employees for one of the following reasons: misconduct, capability, redundancy, illegality and/or some other substantial reasons. Any other reason is classed as unfair and may give rise to a claim.

Victimisation – A form of discrimination where an employee suffers a detriment because they have raised a discrimination complaint themselves or have supported another individual with their complaint.

Whistleblowing – Also referred to as ‘making a protected disclosure’ this is the act of informing on a company or an individual who is acting unlawfully. Employees gain protection when disclosing certain information, which means that they cannot suffer a detriment or be dismissed because of the disclosure.

Without prejudice – Private settlement discussions which should not be referred to in regular correspondence or to the Employment Tribunal. These can be to settle the dispute, or sometimes employers use this term to discuss exit packages with an employee.

Working Time Regulations – Legally binding rules which (amongst other things) sets out the minimum rest and break periods that are required each day/week, and the maximum working hours. Typically, working time should not exceed 48 hours per week.

Wrongful Dismissal – Usually this occurs when an employee is dismissed without any, or the correct, period of notice that is required either in their contract of employment or by statute.