The Data Protection Act 1998 (DPA) requires anyone (for example, an employer) who handles personal information to comply with a number of important principles. It also gives individuals rights over their personal information. The type of information that is covered by the DPA includes automated and computerised personal information kept about workers by employers, for example, personnel files, any CCTV recordings etc.
There are eight data protection principles which state that personal data must be:
- processed fairly and lawfully
- obtained only for specified and lawful purposes, and shall not be processed in any manner incompatible with those purposes
- adequate, relevant and not excessive in relation to the purposes for which it is processed
- accurate and, where necessary, kept up to date
- kept for no longer than is necessary for the purposes for which it is processed
- processed in accordance with the rights of data subjects under the Act
- subject to appropriate technical and organisational measures to protect against unauthorised or unlawful processing and accidental loss, destruction or damage
- not be transferred to a country or territory outside the European Economic Area unless that country or territory ensures an adequate level of data protection.
The Information Commission has produced an Employment Practices Code to provide information and guidance for employers.
Information Commissioner - Employment Practices CodeQuick guide to the employment practices code
The law protects individuals from having unauthorised deductions made from their wages, including complete non-payment. This protection applies both to employees and to some other workers.
One of three conditions has to be met for an employer lawfully to make deductions from wages or receive payments from a worker. The deduction or payment must be:
- required or authorised by legislation (for example, income tax or national insurance deductions); or
- authorised by the worker's contract - provided the worker has been given a written copy of the relevant terms or a written explanation of them before it is made; or
- consented to by the worker in writing before it is made.
Protections for individuals in retail work make it illegal for an employer to deduct more than ten per cent from the gross amount of any payment of wages (except the final payment on termination of employment) if the deduction is made because of cash shortages or stock deficiencies. Workers who believe they have suffered an unlawful deduction from wages can make a complaint to an Industrial Tribunal.
LRA Information Note No.7 - Deductions from wages by employers
See Time Off Work
An employee is allowed a reasonable amount of time to deal with unexpected or sudden emergencies concerning a dependant. This is unpaid unless contractual arrangements state otherwise.
The Disability Discrimination Act 1995 states that “a person has a disability for the purposes of this Act if he has a physical or mental impairment which has a substantial and long-term adverse effect on his ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities”. Recent changes to the definition of disability include the removal of the term ‘clinically well diagnosed’ in relation to mental illness and the addition of Cancer, HIV Infections and Multiple Sclerosis as disabilities from the point of diagnosis.
Definition of'disability’ http://www.nidirect.gov.uk/definition-of-disability
Access to Work (NI) - Access to Work (NI) can help by providing advice and an assessment of your employee's disability needs in the workplace and, if appropriate, a financial grant towards the cost of necessary support.
For further information see below
Employees - nidirect
Employers - nibusinessinfo.co.uk
Every business or organization needs rules. They set the standards of conduct and performance at work. Rules cover things like timekeeping, absence, discrimination and gross misconduct. Disciplinary procedures are used for dealing with problems with employees' conduct or their performance which could lead to warnings or dismissal and grievance procedures are used for considering problems that employees wish to raise with their employer.
Code of Practice -Disciplinary and Grievance Procedures
Advisory Guide - Advice on handling discipline and grievances at work
Information note No. 1- Employee grievances
Information note No. 2- Disciplinary Matters
Advisory Guide - Advice on Conducting Employment Investigations
The Industrial Relations (Northern Ireland) Order 1992 places a general duty on employers to disclose, when requested, information to Trade Union Representatives that is necessary for the purposes of Collective Bargaining. The Trade Union must be recognised by the employer for collective bargaining purposes and the information is that which is in the possession of the employer, and is that without which a trade union representative would be impeded in the bargaining process.
LRA Code of Practice - Disclosure of information to trade unions for collective bargaining purposes
Employers have a legal duty to ensure that they do not treat an individual less favourably on any grounds related to their age, gender, marital status, disability, race/nationality, sexual orientation, religious belief or political opinion. This applies in access to employment, during the employment relationship and after the employment relationship has come to an end. Discrimination can occur in three ways:
- Direct discrimination - Treating a person less favourably on the grounds of their sex/race/sexual orientation/disability/religious belief/political opinion/age, for example, not appointing a female to a job because the preference is for a male.
- Indirect discrimination - Occurs where a provision, criterion or practice is applied, which although equally applied to all, has the effect of disadvantaging a particular group and cannot be justified, for example, rules about clothing or uniforms that disadvantage a racial group and cannot be justified.
- Victimisation - Treating a person less favourably because they have either previously taken action in relation to discrimination, have assisted or been involved in action taken by someone else in relation to discrimination.
Fair treatment is not just a moral and legal right. It makes very good business sense. Employers who treat employees fairly and flexibly will be best placed to recruit and retain staff in an increasingly diverse and competitive labour market.
A dismissal occurs when an employer terminates an employee’s contract of employment for one of the following potential reasons:
- a reason related to capability or qualifications;
- a reason related to the conduct of the employee;
- that the employee’s position was redundant;
- that the employee could not continue to work in the position which he or she held without contravention (either on the employee’s part or on that of the employer) of a duty or restriction imposed by or under an enactment;
- some other substantial reason of a kind such as to justify the dismissal of an employee holding the position which that employee held;
The above can be viewed as potentially fair reasons for dismissal; therefore dismissal for a reason other than that specified above is automatically unfair, for example, dismissal on the grounds of pregnancy, or for asserting a statutory employment right.
However, in order to demonstrate that a dismissal is fair an employer must also follow the minimum Statutory Dismissal and Disciplinary Procedure and show that they acted reasonably in dismissing the employee for that reason. In other words, an employer must ensure that the reason for the dismissal is one of the five specified above and that the decision to dismiss was reasonable based in all the circumstances, including the completion of a fair procedure.
Employees - Unfair dismissal
Employers - Dismissal
If you are involved in a dispute or disagreement at work, whether it involves individuals, groups of people, or the whole workforce, the Labour Relations Agency can help try to resolve it. Our aim is for you to reach an acceptable solution without having to go through any kind of court hearing, such as an industrial tribunal. We can advise on ways of managing conflict and dealing with disputes or act as a neutral third party. All our services are voluntary, confidential and free of charge.
On 3 April 2005, the Employment (Northern Ireland) Order 2003 (Dispute Resolution) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2004 came into effect giving new rights and responsibilities to both employers and employees.
From that date, all employers where required to follow minimum procedures for resolving disputes about employment issues. The minimum procedures are for dealing with grievances (complaints by an employee) and with disciplinary action and dismissal (actions the employer can take against an employee). The statutory procedures relating to grievances were repealed on 3rd April 2011.