Employing people, especially for the first time, can be a daunting prospect. Not only do you have new dependants who rely on the success of your business, but you also have a bewildering maze of law to negotiate. In the last two years or so reforms to the employment tribunal system have reduced the potential damage that employment claims can cause businesses, but it is still the case that employers need to take care when dealing with the recruitment, management and dismissal of staff.

At Gowen & Stevens we have many years’ experience dealing with the concerns of employers and are well aware of the need to strike the right balance between risk and benefit when advising one or the other. We always promise to give you affordable and practical advice and specialise on:

  • Employment contracts and workplace policies
  • Managing performance, discipline and absence
  • Discrimination
  • Settlement agreements
  • Business re-organisations & TUPE transfers
  • Redundancies & dismissals

Employment contracts & workplace policies

Employment contracts need not be in writing. As soon as someone begins work for an employer a contract arises. However, a statement of the main terms of employment must be given within two months of commencement of employment, and this often doubles as evidence of the contractual term. It is infinitely preferable to have a written contract, so that at a later date its terms do not have to be deduced by a court or a tribunal. That contract can also specify which parts are contractually binding and which are matters of policy only, such as any disciplinary/grievance procedure.

Managing performance, discipline & absence

Employees are but human, and can make mistakes. They can also fall ill. The occasional lapse of judgment in performance or discipline, or absence because of illness, would not normally justify a dismissal. However, continued or prolonged instances of either might well result in a warning process culminating in a dismissal if matters do not improve. At Gowen & Stevens we can advise on the implementation of such internal procedures.


An employer may one day have to face a potentially damaging, both in financial and reputational terms, claim for discriminatory conduct on one of the eight proscribed grounds. These are:

  • Age
  • Disability
  • Gender reassignment
  • Marriage/civil partnership
  • Pregnancy and maternity
  • Race
  • Religion/religious belief; and
  • Sex/sexual orientation

At Gowen & Stevens we can advise you on the policies and monitoring of staff conduct that should be in place to try to minimise the risk of this happening.

Settlement agreements

Redundancies are often accompanied by a Settlement Agreement, which precludes a claim in tribunal. Many disputes and disagreements are also resolved by their use. For both employers and employees they are a sensible way to bring an employment relationship to an end without unnecessary expense and fuss.

Business reorganisation & TUPE transfers

When a business is sold the rights of the employees under their contracts of employment automatically transfer to the buyer. A dismissal that arises as a result of the Transfer, as it is known, will be automatically unfair unless justifiable for an economic, technical or organisational reason. This is a very complicated area of employment law which we at Gowen & Stevens can assist you with.

Redundancies & dismissals

There are five potentially fair reasons for dismissal. They are:

  • Incapacity
  • Misconduct
  • Redundancy
  • Contravention of a duty or restriction; and
  • Some other substantial reason.

In any dismissal of someone who has the necessary length of service, not only must there be one of these reasons, but there must also be a fair procedure. At Gowen & Stevens we can advise both employers and employees about both parts of the process.