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LLM (Master of Laws) in Employment Law
Employment law is concerned with legal issues arising from the relationship between an employer and an employee. It includes arrangements where employers engage employees to carry out services in return for remuneration.
As per Section 230 of the UK Employment Rights Act 1996, an “employee” means an individual who has entered into or works under (or, where the employment has ceased, worked under) a contract of employment. All employees have a contract of employment, which need not necessarily be in writing and can be oral. It contains the terms and conditions governing the relationship between the employer and the employee.
Any rights that employees have under a contract of employment are in addition to their statutory rights, according to Citizens Advice, this includes the right to:
- Receive at least National Minimum Wage
- Paid holidays
- Written statement of employment
- Itemised pay statement
- Maternity leave
- Compensation for being made redundant
- Not to be unfairly dismissed
Employment law is generally concerned with the relationship between employees and their employer. It also addresses the collective relationship between groups of employees and those who represent their interests namely, trade unions. The typical activities of trade unions include providing assistance and services to their members, collectively bargaining for better pay and conditions for all workers, working to improve the quality of public services, political campaigning and industrial action.
An LLM in Employment Law (or an LLM in Labour Law as it is sometimes referred to) will explore the laws and legal rights of, and restrictions on, working people and the organisations that they work for.
Employment Law courses and their content can be divided up into two broad categories, the first being an individual employees' rights at work and the second being the tripartite relationship between employee, employer and trade union.
Areas of study likely to be covered by an LLM in Employment Law include the terms and conditions of employment; regulation of compensation; regulation of leave time; employee privacy in the private workplace; whistleblower protections; employee duties during and after employment; mediation skills between employee, employer and trade unions.
An Employment Law course may also study elements of company law such as: corporate personality; limited liability; corporate capacity and the authority of officers; shareholders' rights; directors' duties and their enforcement; takeovers and mergers.
An LLM in Employment Law will give its students the skills and knowledge to deal with legal issues that arise in the workplace.Find LLM programs in Employment Law
LLM in Employment Law – who’s it for?
An LLM in Employment Law is for those people who want to supplement their postgraduate degree in law with a higher degree in this specialist area to increase their chances of employment.
A Master of Laws in Employment Law is a significant asset on a CV. For practicing solicitors or barristers, this LLM would enable them to introduce an extra level of expertise into their firm. Other professionals studying LLMs in Employment Law could include advice workers and employment consultants.
Where can you study an LLM in Employment Law?
A number of higher education establishments in the UK offer an LLM in Employment Law, including the University of Bristol and the University of Leicester.
There are also several universities in the United States that offer LLM programs in Employment Law. Atlanta’s John Marshall Law School offers its LLM in Employment Law exclusively as an online postgraduate program – online study is an ideal option for busy practitioners who want to continue working while gaining their qualification.
What qualifications do you need to study an LLM in Employment Law?
Most law schools will expect prospective students to already hold at least a 2.2 Bachelor of Law honours degree or a good joint honours degree where law is the major component. However, in some cases people can study an LLM degree without an undergraduate degree if they can provide enough evidence to show they have relevant experience of working in Employment Law.
It is important to note that a person cannot practice as a solicitor or barrister by holding only a Master of Laws qualification. Graduates whose first language isn’t English are required to have high IELTS (or equivalent) scores of 7 or above or TOEFL: 107 or above. Because of ongoing changes in the law we advise international students to regularly check the UK government's visas and immigration website to make sure they can fulfil the necessary requirements. Most individual institutions also have useful information on the Tier 4 requirements for international students and can offer assistance in terms of student queries about their specific English language requirements. Click here to find out more about English Language requirements for International Students.
Student case studies
Jennifer from Lancashire always wanted to run her own employment agency, she explains, “Studying my LLM in Employment Law really put the gloss on my first degree. I know what I can and can’t do and am able to make sure my clients are treated properly by employers. I’m now running my employment agency with my husband and living the dream.”
Michael a solicitor from Kent says, “The work I did for my LLM has provided me with the tools to better advise and develop solutions for my business clients.”
LLM in Employment Law advances careers in…
There are many interesting careers that could benefit from gaining an LLM in Employment Law, these include:
- Barristers looking to undertake employment work
- Solicitors aiming to take employment related cases
- Employment agency personnel
- Advice workers employed by third sector organisations
- Local Authority legal department officials
A famous LLM shooting star
Bob Mortimer of Reeves and Mortimer fame studied law at the University of Sussex before moving to Leicester to gain his LLM When he first met Vic Reeves, he was working in the legal department of Southwark Council, the rest is history.Find your PERFECT LLM PROGRAM
UK Employment Law
Any piece of government legislation designed to protect employees, falls within the employment law expanse. In the UK, employment legislation touches upon four broad areas that form the foundation of employee rights in the workplace namely:
- Health & safety
A significant portion of UK employment law is derived from European Union (EU) law. However, the UK's exit from the EU on 31st January 2020 will have had implications on some of these rights in the future. Most EU laws on worker’s rights are implemented in the UK through primary or secondary legislation. EU law introduced new rights into UK law, such as the right to holiday pay or the protection for agency workers. EU law has also extended rights that already existed in UK law, such as the right to equal pay. The UK has chosen to go beyond EU law requirements in some areas, such as providing 39 weeks of paid maternity leave compared to the 14 weeks required by EU law.
Sources of UK Employment Law
As summarised by Practical Law Employment, UK employment law has three sources:
Common Law: where the relationship between the employer and the employee is governed by common law via the contract of employment.
Domestic Law: statute and statutory instruments that confer some minimum statutory rights on employees.
EU Law: Employees in England and Wales with additional rights as a result of EU law, particularly in the areas of discrimination, equal pay, etc (however Brexit may have implications on some of these rights in the future).
UK employment legislation
There is plenty of legislation in the UK to protect employees and employers. This table illustrates some key pieces of UK employment legislation with brief details about what they cover.
What it covers
Employment Rights Act 1996
Covers the rights of employees in situations such as dismissal, unfair dismissal, paternity leave, maternity leave and redundancy.
National Minimum Wage Act 1998
Sets out the NMW for employees and employers across the UK. The government reviews this to keep it in line with inflation, etc.
Employment Relations Act 1999
Establishes a number of rights at work for trade union recognition, derecognition and industrial actions.
The Maternity and Parental Leave etc. Regulations 1999
Sets out entitlement to maternity leave and parental leave.
Part-Time Workers (Prevention of Less Favourable Treatment) Regulations 2000
Requires that employers give people on part-time contracts comparable treatment to people on full-time contracts who do the same jobs.
Transfer of Undertakings (Protection of Employment) Regulations 2006
Protection of existing employees’ rights and any employment contracts or promises when a company goes through a business transfer.
The Equality Act 2010
Prevents discrimination in workplace and recruitment processes.
Agency Workers Regulations 2010
Statutory legislation that prevents discrimination of people who work for employment agencies by treating them equally in pay and working time when compared to
What areas does Employment Law cover?
In general, the main areas of employment that are covered by law and regulations are:
- Contracts of employment
- Working hours
- Time off (annual leave or sickness)
- Health & safety
- Data protection
To further clarify and support these aspects of employment law:
1. All employees must enter into a contract of employment with the employer, which contains terms and conditions governing the relationship between the employer and the employee.
2. A national minimum wage (NMW) applies for all workers over compulsory school leaving age, and these rates vary depending on the age of the worker and whether or not they are in training. It is a criminal offence for employers to refuse to pay the NMW. Employees who are not paid the NMW can bring a claim in an employment tribunal.
3. There are several ways in which a contract may be terminated at common law, these include – notices given by the employer or the employee; mutual agreement; frustration; end of a fixed-term contract; dismissal by the employer; or termination by the employee.
4. A worker has the right to be accompanied by a colleague or trade union official at a disciplinary or grievance hearing. Disciplinary hearings are those hearings that could result in a formal warning, or some other action taken in relation to the individual. The Acas Code of Practice on disciplinary and grievance procedures is the minimum an employer should follow for handling these issues in the workplace. The Acas Code is designed to help employers, employees and their representatives deal with disciplinary and grievance situations in the workplace. Disciplinary situations include misconduct and/or poor performance. Grievances on the other hand are concerns, problems or complaints that employees raise with their employers.
5. The Equality Act (2010) is designed to prevent discrimination on a number of grounds. These grounds are called ‘protected characteristics’ and include:
Requirements of the Equality Act
No preference can be given to someone based solely on age unless there is a specific reason, for example being old enough to hold a driving licence for a job that involves driving.
Businesses cannot discriminate against disabled people and must take reasonable steps to enable access and provide appropriate equipment that disabled people need to work.
Unless there is a specific exception, a business cannot treat men and women differently or treat one gender less favourably.
People should not be treated differently because they are single, married or in a civil partnership.
Pregnancy & maternity
Women cannot be discriminated against on the grounds of being pregnant or during the period following the birth of their baby.
People cannot be discriminated against on the grounds of their sexual orientation or if they are transgender.
Discrimination on the grounds of nationality, race, colour or ethnicity is not permitted.
Discriminating against people based on their religious beliefs, including those who have no religious beliefs, is not allowed.
Why is Employment Law important?
Employment law is constantly undergoing changes, and whether it is to do with free movement of workers or minimum wage, it is important for employees, employers, recruitment agencies and lawyers to stay up to date with these changes.
Employment law regulates the relationship between employers and employees. It governs what employers can expect from employees, what employers can ask employees to do and employees’ rights at work. Legislation is a set of laws put in place by the government to protect businesses, employees and consumers.
Businesses must operate within these laws to ensure the fair and safe treatment of any party involved with a business. If businesses do not comply with legislation, legal action such as fines, restrictions and imprisonment can be actioned. Employment law plays a crucial role in ensuring that businesses function efficiently.
There are various aspects within the remit of employment law that have made it a leading practice area for law firms and for companies to have specialised teams within their legal and HR departments. It is important to understand how rights have evolved given the purpose they serve for the organisation and the individual.
Key areas of Employment Law
Here are some of the key areas of employment law:
Status of workers
An individual can be an employee, a worker or a self-employed person. The distinction is important, as it determines an individual's statutory employment rights, and how taxes can be applied. Assessing an individual's status is not just determined by how the parties label the relationship. It is a question of law and fact.
Employers are responsible for the individuals they hire, and they need to conduct appropriate right to work checks before hiring them. Failure to do this could result in penalties. It is important that employers obtain the right approvals to employ any foreign nationals.
National Minimum Wage
All UK workers who are over school leaving age (currently 16 years old) must be paid the National Minimum Wage (NMW), while those above 25 years old must be paid the National Living Wage. The NMW hourly rate depends on the worker's age. These rates are updated annually. If an employer fails to offer the prescribed NMW it can lead to severe penalties.
Maternity, paternity & adoption
A new parent or a person expecting a baby is entitled to extra rights at work. These entitlements include: maternity rights, paternity leave and pay, shared parental leave, unpaid time off to look after the child and to attend antenatal appointments. There are also eligibility rules for leave and pay for parents who take time off to adopt a child or have a child through a surrogacy arrangement.
Health & safety
The Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 sets out the framework for managing workplace health and safety in the UK. The health, safety and welfare regulations apply to all aspects of the working environment and require employers to provide a workplace that is not only safe but also suitable for the duties that are being carried out within it.
Equality within a workplace ensures that everyone has equal opportunities and is not denied the rightful promotion or training considering their qualification or experience. Employers cannot discriminate against employees on account of age, gender, nationality, pregnancy and maternity leave, sexual orientation, disabilities, race, ethnic background, religion or beliefs.
What Employment Law issues are most important?
Some issues have taken more prominence in the last few years than others – as Employment Law is an ever-evolving field of law, it is subject to fluidity and change, responding to what is happening in the world on a daily basis.
Areas that have become more important over recent years include data protection, equality and discrimination, and more recently the pandemic situation that has necessitated swift decision-making on the part of governments which has in turn led to legislative changes in the way businesses are managed and thereby how employees’ issues are addressed.
Some of the main reasons that make Employment Law crucial to know and understand in today’s world are:
Covid-19 Pandemic: UK employers should monitor and follow advice and guidance from relevant authorities such as the World Health Organization, Public Health England, the NHS, the Government and Acas. As a result of the Coronavirus Pandemic, employers are required to assess the risks faced by their employees and visitors, and implement measures to mitigate those risks, paying particular attention to vulnerable staff.
Data protection: The roll out of GDPR in 2018 brought the issues surrounding data protection very much to the forefront, particularly in the business world. Data protection laws protect individuals from the misuse of information about them. Updated laws give individuals more control over their personal data as the digital age develops and evolves. Employers should develop policies that take a compliant, but balanced approach. They should also ensure that employees understand their own rights and obligations under data protection law.
Equality: Equality within a workplace ensures that everyone has equal opportunities and is not denied the rightful promotion or training considering their qualification or experience. Employers cannot discriminate against employees on account of age, gender, nationality, pregnancy and maternity leave, sexual orientation, disabilities, race, ethnic background, religion or beliefs.
Maternity, paternity, parental leave & adoption: A new parent or a person expecting a baby is entitled to extra rights at work. These entitlements include maternity rights, paternity leave and pay, shared parental leave, unpaid time off to look after the child and attend antenatal appointments. There are also eligibility rules for leave and pay for parents who take time off to adopt a child or have a child through a surrogacy arrangement.
Health & safety: The Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 sets out the framework for managing workplace health and safety in the UK. The health, safety and welfare regulations apply to all aspects of the working environment and require employers to provide a workplace that is not only safe but also suitable for the duties that are being carried out within it.
Brexit: Although this article does not purport to provide an analysis of Brexit implications on UK employment law, it is understood that the vast majority of EU laws and case law will become ‘retained law’ in the UK. However, employment law in the UK might start to change gradually which makes it pertinent for employers, employees, lawyers and recruitment consultants to stay up to date with any new developments.
By ensuring compliant, safe and stress-free work practices, employers can secure the best interests of their employees and create safe working spaces. For an employee, by understanding their rights and entitlements, and being able to assert them, they can ensure that employers are kept in check and maintain healthy workplace environments.Find your PERFECT LLM PROGRAM
Recent case law in Employment Law
Reviewing case law can help understand how the courts and tribunals have interpreted employment law and regulations and how individuals have sought remedies under the various employment legislations. Here are details of some recent cases compiled by Personnel Today.
Case Law Citation
Employer not vicariously liable for rogue employee’s data leak
Vicarious liability of employer for data breach committed by an employee
WM Morrison Supermarkets plc v various claimants (Supreme Court, 1 April 2020)
Senior lawyer’s homophobic comments on radio breached EU law
Highlights the importance of training programs on diversity and inclusion
NH v Associazione Avvocatura per i diritti LGBTI – Rete Lenford (ECJ, 23 April 2020)
Discrimination arising from disability: focus on employer’s thought processes
Brings out the importance of training staff on disability discrimination
Robinson v Department for Work and Pensions (Court of Appeal, 7 July 2020)
Keeping within pay constraints justified discriminatory pay policy
Government imposed budgetary constraints leading to discriminatory pay policy
Heskett v Secretary pf State for Justice (Court of Appeal, 11 Nov 2020)
Gig economy: EU health and safety rights extend to workers
Stress the need for businesses to review health and safety for workers
R v Secretary of State for Work and Pensions and another (High Court, 13 Nov 2020)
Is Employment Law the same as Labour Law?
The terms ‘labour’ and ‘employment’ laws are often used interchangeably.
Labour laws are much narrower in comparison to employment law, as it concerns the relationship between unions and collective bargaining agreements.
Employment law on the other hand deals with individual employment contracts in which the employee is not either a member of a union or bound by a collective bargaining agreement. Issues within the contract of an employee are tackled within employment laws. Discrimination, wages, working hours, harassment, privacy rights and whistleblowing are all dealt with within employment rights. These laws are not bound by any collective agreements.
Labour law’s main concerns are to ensure that every working person has a minimum charter of rights in their workplace, and voice at work to get fair standards beyond the minimum. While labour law regulations have existed since people started to undertake paid work, employment law became more prominent in the 20th century.
The 20th century saw a shift from employer-based work to employee-based work. Employers gradually took on more responsibilities and duties regarding the safety, well-being, benefits and employee obligations towards the government.
How Employment Law differs around the world
Employment laws are well established around the world, placing certain obligations on employers and giving rights to employees to a varying extent depending on the applicable laws. In most jurisdictions, the employee relationship is required to be contractual so the local principles of contract law will also apply. Thomson Reuters Practical Law lists some key areas on how employment law differs around the work – these are elaborated below.
Terms of employment: The terms of the employment relationship between the employer and employee may be given different names in different jurisdictions including clauses, articles, sections or paragraphs. The written document they are contained in may be referred to as an employment contract, employment agreement or statement of terms.
Employment status: In some countries, the relationship between the employer and the individual may not be a typical employer–employee relationship. For example, in Singapore, the Employment Act differentiates between those employees who receive additional entitlements because they fall under a particular section of applicable legislation to those who do not. Whether an employee falls under a particular section would depend upon their salary not exceeding certain prescribed thresholds.
Working hours: In other jurisdictions such as France, employees may not work more than 10 hours per day, and they may not work more than a maximum of 48 hours in any one week. These maximum limits however do not apply to senior executives or employees who work a fixed number of days per year.
Minimum wage: Whilst the UK has a National Minimum Wage, some countries – even in Europe – do not. For example, Switzerland has no Swiss minimum wage, despite efforts from the government to introduce one in 2014. This means that salaries in Switzerland are left to the open market, except in some industries where collective bargaining agreements result in specific worker rights and minimum wages.
Permission to work: In certain circumstances, the employer may want to expressly include requirements in the employment terms to ensure that the employee is eligible to commence their employment. For example, the employer may want to make any offer of employment subject to the employee having the required qualifications.
Annual leave: In most jurisdictions in accordance with the legislation, the employee is entitled to paid annual leave which can vary depending on their length of service and is usually prorated in the first and last years of service according to the amount of the leave year that is worked by the employee. In certain jurisdictions, annual leave has to be accrued before it can be taken.
All employees should have a contract of employment – which can be written or oral – that contains the terms and conditions governing the relationship between the employer and the employee. Other forms include statutory terms derived from employment legislation or terms incorporated into contracts from other sources such as collective agreements.
An employment contract is made up of:
✓ Specific terms agreed in writing – 'express terms' – such as the employee's pay and working hours.
✓ Terms that are part of employment law – 'statutory terms'.
✓ Terms too obvious to be written – 'implied terms'.
✓ Terms put into the contract from other sources – 'incorporated terms' – such as a staff handbook or an agreement affecting many employees.
It is important for employment lawyers to be aware of the situations in which a term will be implied into a contract of employment.
An employment contract consists of terms from a number of sources. While some terms may be contained in a collective agreement, which has been incorporated into the employment contract, usually by explicit reference or by custom and practice, others are not expressly agreed at all but are implied into the contract, either by common law or by statute.
Implied terms are most frequently cited against employers, as the basis for either a constructive dismissal claim or a claim for damages. However, employers may also need to rely on implied terms where the contract is silent.
Duty of Care & Duty of Trust
Every contract of employment has general implied terms for employees and employers, for example an employee and employer have a duty of trust to each other, therefore if an employee lied when they said they were sick to get time off work, they would have broken an implied contractual term of trust.
An employee and employer have a duty of care towards each other and other employees – an employer should provide a safe working environment for their employee and the employee in turn should use equipment safely.
Employees have a duty to obey any ‘reasonable’ instructions given by their employer, and whilst there is no legal definition of reasonable, it clearly wouldn’t be reasonable to tell an employee to do something illegal
Terms implied by custom & practice
One can only imply a term by ‘custom and practice’ when there’s no express term dealing with the issue. For example, if an employee worked 35 hours a week for 10 years, even though the contract says they should only do 30 hours, they don’t have the right to work 35 hours by custom and practice. The exception to this would be if the employee and employer have verbally agreed that the employee will always work a 35-hour week. To summarise, if there’s nothing clearly agreed between an employee and employer about a particular issue, it may be covered by an implied term.Find your PERFECT LLM PROGRAM
How to become an Employment Lawyer
An employment lawyer will have plenty of interaction with people on a day-to-day basis, with much of their time spent giving practical solutions and advising on complex issues. Employment law is a specialist area of practice, and lawyers who want to go into this field will require the motivation to work hard at solving problems and be able to stay pragmatic and focused on the practical and emotional sides that come with resolving client issues.
An employment lawyer will need to demonstrate high levels of commercial awareness, attention to detail, organisational skills, the ability to assimilate large amounts of information quickly and relationship management skills.
To become an employment lawyer, you will need to go through the same process that applies to becoming a solicitor or a barrister in the UK. Employment lawyers may qualify as barristers or solicitors and can work in a range of settings, including companies, organisations, charities or the public sector.
To become a lawyer through the traditional route, you’ll need to complete a qualifying law degree LLB at university or study another subject at undergraduate level then take the Solicitors Qualifying Examination (SQE).
Solicitor route to becoming an Employment Lawyer
The main route to becoming an Employment Lawyer is the Solicitor’s Qualifying Exam (SQE). The SQE was introduced in September 2021 as the primary means to qualify as a solicitor in the UK, and will eventually replace both the Graduate Diploma of Law (GDL) and the Legal Practice Course (LPC).
There are four stages to the SQE:
1. Degree or equivalent qualification in any subject.
2. SQE1 and SQE2 assessments.
3. Minimum of two years’ Qualifying Work Experience (QWE)
4. Demonstrate your suitability.
Let's look at these four components in further detail.
1. Attaining a university degree or equivalent (any subject).
2. Passing both Stage 1 and Stage 2 of the SQE:
Stage 1 – functioning legal knowledge section that tests legal knowledge and but practical application. It comprises of two exams, each containing 180 multiple-choice questions on the following:
Exam 1 covers topics such as:
- Legal system of England and Wales
- Business Law and Practice
Exam 2 covers topics such as:
- Land Law
- Criminal Law and Practice
- Property Law and Practice
Stage 2 – core legal skills section that entails both written and oral and written assessments designed to test your practical application:
Assessed skills cover areas such as:
- Legal research and written advice
Assessed subjects cover areas such as:
- Criminal Practice
- Business Practice
3. Pass the character and suitability test set by the Solicitors Regulation Authority.
4. Undertake a Training Contract at a law firm specialising in Employment Law.
Barrister route to becoming an Employment Lawyer
The initial stages of the barrister route are as follows:
1. Study LLB or any undergraduate degree with the GDL.
2. Pass the Bar Course Aptitude Test (BCAT).
3. Commence a Bar Course – this used to be known as the Bar Professional Training Course (BPTC) but the BPTC has been replaced by a variety of different Bar courses that have different names depending on the provider. The name of the course could be Bar Course, Bar Training Course (BTC), Bar Practice Course (BPC), Bar Vocational Course (BVC) and Bar Vocational Studies (BVS).
4. Complete a pupillage with a barrister (Similar to a Training Contract).
Although it is an extremely useful addition to your legal qualifications, it is not necessary to study an LLM in Employment Law to become an Employment Lawyer, whichever route you choose to follow. However, a Master of Laws in this field is a great addition to your CV and will help you gain invaluable skills and knowledge – and this could in turn help you stand out from other applicants and land that dream legal position.
What skills do you need to be a successful Employment Lawyer?
To be a successful employment lawyer you will need certain skills such as research skills, negotiation and communication skills, as well as the ability and drive to excel in problem solving.
This table illustrates some of the key skills that employment lawyers must have:
All Round Skills
Experienced, sector focused
Strong negotiation and drafting skills
Driven by success
Good research and organisational skills
Accuracy and speed
High level of accuracy and attention to detail
Good sense of judgement
Excellent communication skills with the ability to explain legal matters to clients in a clear, concise manner
Adaptability and proactivity
Some of specialist skills may vary from the sectors that employment lawyers work in, for example within an in-house corporate team, an employment lawyer may have additional duties such as conducting training, writing briefing papers and working closely with different departments. These additional skills demonstrate the following traits:
✓ Sound understanding and knowledge of commercial and corporate law.
✓ Depending on the requirements of the role, employment counsel may be asked to have a number of years’ experience working in-house or in a law firm.
✓ Strong communication and presentation skills.
✓ Excellent negotiating and drafting skills.
✓ Ability to build and maintain strong professional relationships across the business.
✓ Ability to communicate complex legal issues and risks in terms that non-legal colleagues can understand.
✓ Ability to work in a highly autonomous role and set standards for in-house working procedures including in contract management.
Where do Employment Lawyers work?
Companies and clients seek the advice of employment lawyers to ensure that as employers, they comply with the laws and regulations in hiring and retaining workers. They also seek specialist advice on employment contract templates, senior management employment terms, non-compete clauses where necessary, and other related fields.
Being an employment lawyer is an exciting and diverse role and employment lawyers can work in a range of places, including:
- Law firms
- Government bodies
- In-house corporate teams
- HR departments
- Recruitment agencies
What does an Employment Lawyer do?
Employment lawyers assist their clients (employers or employees) in resolving disputes arising within the workplace, which include pay, contracts of employment and unfair dismissal. Employment lawyers also provide specialist advise to prevent future disputes – they are also involved in other aspects, including.
Litigation: Employment lawyers who represent clients in tribunals, court cases or in arbitration matters spend time preparing briefs and submissions. Their daily schedule will involve reading client papers, researching relevant legislation, liaising with clients to ensure that they have all the information needed for the case and finalising litigation paperwork.
Project-specific roles: Employment lawyers in a law firm may also undertake large projects assigned by a client company who want to ensure that a new recruitment policy is lawful, or they may advise a company making large-scale redundancies as to how they can do so, whilst acting in a lawful manner. This may save a company a significant amount of time and money in the long run.
Expert commercial advice: Employment law experts can offer commercial advice on a wide range of employment issues that can directly impact on business performance and growth. This can include developing new business strategies that could align with any new employment regulations or helping in the transformation process for businesses by advising them on hiring, employment structure, pay and tax.
Agreements: A contract of employment is the principal document that outlines the nature of duties and responsibilities of an employer and employee. Employment lawyers are able to provide advice on the following areas:
- Breach of contract terms
- Reviewing of consultancy agreements
- Employment status and immigration advice
- Directors’ service agreements
- Discrimination matters (related to sex, race, disability, age, religion and sexual orientation)
- Dismissals and disciplinary-related issues
- Harassment and bullying
- Issuing employment claims and representation at employment tribunal
- Redundancy and lay off
- Restrictive covenants and confidentiality
- Settlement agreements and termination packages
- Transfer of undertaking regulations
- Unfair dismissal
- Variations to your contract of employment including salary/wage reductions
- Whistleblowing at work
What about in-house Employment Lawyers?
In-house employment lawyer’s responsibilities typically include:
- Providing day-to-day advice on a broad range of employment matters including recruitment, employment contracts, consultation, grievance and disciplinary processes, performance management, corporate restructuring, redundancies, leaves of absence, litigation risks, statutory notice, severance and other regulatory obligations.
- Developing and maintaining strong relationships with business and HR teams throughout the various businesses within the UK and throughout Europe where applicable.
- Developing, revising, and implementing employment policies suitable for a commercial environment.
- Reviewing, analysing and negotiating employment clauses of commercial agreements and employment-related agreements, including staffing, consultancy, incentive, non-compete, volunteer, confidentiality and settlement agreements.
- Drafting, reviewing and assisting with the implementation of global employment and compliance policies.
- Developing, implementing and conducting training on employment policies and programs.
In-house employment lawyers will need to:
- Collaborate with other departments, including HR, on internal investigations.
- Liaise with the corporate governance and marketing teams so that commercial, pragmatic and salient advice and guidance on business opportunities can be followed at all times.
- Support and work collaboratively with international legal teams on cross border issues and shared projects.
- Support other colleagues in the legal team with researched points of law as and when required.
- Organise and lead workshops and in-house events on employment law regulations and developments.
Day in the life of an Employment Lawyer
An Employment lawyer’s role is multifaceted and is constantly facing new challenges. There are various strands to the kind of work an employment lawyer will do in a day, and this will depend on where they work and the level of tasks that they can get involved in.
Although the legal profession is a highly competitive environment and hard work is key to success, a typical mid-level associate would be ideally placed to see work ranging from processing paperwork to providing advisory services.
Employment Law is constantly changing with regulatory updates and news on employment related issues. This can make it highly challenging for lawyers to stay up to date and ensure that the right advice is given to clients at the time when it is sought. Lawyers must be prepared for a fast-paced working culture.
Essentially, employment lawyers help their clients manage their workforce better. It requires a good balance between imparting advise through the understanding of the laws and regulations and the need to facilitate satisfactory outcomes for clients – working with a wide range of people can often be a task in itself!
By advising clients day in day out, employment lawyers get a really good understanding of what it is like to work in that organisation. An employment lawyer can influence how people feel about working for an organisation through the advice given. With all the time spent communicating with clients, attending meetings, reviewing paperwork and attending court, an employment lawyer will still need to make time for research and analysis of the recent developments in the law.
With a constantly evolving system, employment lawyers can add more value through their opinion and advise to clients thereby building up the goodwill and trust.
In general, day-to-day responsibilities of an employment lawyer include:
✓ Advising clients on aspects of the law relating to their case.
✓ Researching documents and case law to prepare opinions and advisory notes.
✓ Drafting legal documentation such as contracts, notices or claims.
✓ Conducting negotiations on behalf of clients.
✓ Ensuring that agreements are implemented and providing ad hoc services as required.
✓ Representing clients or instructing barristers on the case.
✓ Taking instructions from clients.
✓ Supervising the role of paralegals and training junior associates.
✓ Meetings with partners, associates and in-house support staff
Employment Lawyer salary expectations
Employment lawyers are able to offer a wide range of services in a highly competitive environment with quick turnaround times. Given the demanding nature of advice and support required, employment law professionals are able to charge highly competitive rates.
Simplyjobs states that the starting salary for an employment lawyer in the UK ranges between £20,000 to £30,000 whilst experienced professionals could earn anything between £30,000 to £75,000. This would depend upon the size of the firm, level of experience and location. Senior professionals usually earn more than £100,000 a year.
According to Totally Legal’s Report of 2018, the average salary for employment law professionals was around £46,054, and junior associates could expect to be earning up to £30,000, whilst an experienced lawyer in London could earn around £75,000 or more.Find your PERFECT LLM PROGRAM
Interview with an Employment Lawyer
Silas Biyogo is a Legal & Human Resource Manager at Biodeal Laboratories Ltd in Kenya, a large pharmaceutical manufacturing company with a workforce of over 250 people.
We asked Silas what it was like to work as an Employment Lawyer.
What daily responsibilities do you have in your role?
My daily responsibilities include:
- Legal representation in Courts.
- Receiving and processing numerous employee relations’ complaints and inquiries via phone calls, emails and in-person visit.
- Supporting and advising the leadership with investigations to facilitate a win/win solution.
- Researching, developing, designing and facilitating the Employee Relations Department (ERD) database for efficient maintenance of electronic records including inquiries, complaints, grievances, harassment and discrimination investigations, telephone calls, and statistical data.
- Counselling employees and managers regarding interpretation and implementation of company policies and procedures, and relevant employment laws.
- Managing employee relation processes, including complaints, interviewing, investigations, data analysis, reporting, and conclusion notifications.
- Recruitment, onboarding and training of staff.
What’s the first thing you do when you get into the office?
When I get into the office in the morning the first thing I do is go through all of my emails and correspondence.
Can you give a breakdown of how you spend the average working day?
My average working day is spent responding to emails, attend to staff grievances, attending court sessions and conducting recruitment interviews.
How do you handle, organise and prioritise your workload?
I start by addressing any of the urgent items that have come through and then move onto important projects.
What sort of projects do you manage from day to day?
On a day-to-day basis I am responsible for coordinating training of staff and conducting performance evaluations.
What sort of clients do you generally deal with?
The clients that I usually work with are Kenya Chemical & Allied Workers Union, suppliers of the pharmaceuticals’ raw materials, pharmaceutical regulatory bodies, government ministries, county governments, hospitals, vendors of manufacturing products and the general public.
How much contact do you have with your clients?
I maintain regular and close contact with my clients.
How do you communicate with them (email/phone/letter/meetings)?
I communicate with my clients through emails, telephone calls and letters. Also, as a result of Covid-19, I now do lots of Zoom meetings too.
How important is communication for an employment lawyer?
Communication is very important for an employment lawyer as it improves and facilitates understanding and enhances all round feedback.
What do you consider to be the most interesting element of your work?
For me, one of the most interesting elements of my work as an employment lawyer is applying alternative dispute resolution mechanisms like mediation, reconciliation and arbitration rather than litigation.
Why did you choose to specialise in employment law?
I have a passion for the workforce and the employers, as they are the engines of production in any economy, this is why I wanted to go into employment law specifically.
How would you define employment law?
Employment law is the statutes and regulations that govern labour relations between employees and employers – employers’ organisations and employees’ organisations. Employers’ organisations are partners in the employment sector, they negotiate working conditions on behalf of employers in a particular country for example Federation of Kenya Employer (FKE). Employees’ Organisations negotiate welfare terms on behalf of the employees, who are their registered members in a particular country for example Kenya Chemical & Allied Workers Union (KCAWU).
Did you work in any other fields of law before becoming an employment lawyer?
Before becoming an employment lawyer, I worked in the construction industry for seven years. I worked as an Assistant Quantity Surveyor and an Assistant Human Resource Officer, and I used to be part of arbitration of construction disputes, which I was passionate about. It is because of this passion that I chose to pursue a legal career.
What qualities does a lawyer need to be successful in employment law?
Research and reading are imperative skills and interests for employment lawyers. To be successful in employment law, it is essential to keep abreast of any changes in employment law and emerging prudence through intensive and extensive research and reading.
What is the most challenging aspect of being an employment lawyer?
One challenging aspect of being an employment lawyer is following up of procedures before decision-making, especially when the management of a company that is not fully versed with the law.
What is the most rewarding aspect of being an employment lawyer?
I consider the most rewarding aspect of being an employment lawyer is being part of the growth and maintaining emerging jurisprudence in employment law.
What advice would you give to aspiring lawyers looking to eventually qualify in employment law?
Employment law is an interesting and rewarding field. I would advise anyone looking to enter this field of law to put in more effort through intensive and extensive reading of precedents and emerging jurisprudence.
What was your career and academic path to becoming an employment lawyer?
I started with human resource management, which has a direct correlation with employment law. I initially worked with NK Brothers Ltd & Kenya Revenue Authority, where I honed my human resource management skills. I perfected these skills at Career Directions Ltd, where I was in charge of employee relations.
Would you recommend this route, or with hindsight could you have achieved your career goal in a better way?
In my view this is one of the best strategies, as my previous work experience provided a critical background to perfect my employment law skills.
Employment Law firms
Although most top tier law firms have a dedicated team of employment lawyers led by a partner, there are specialist law firms too that are usually small to mid- tier firms that provide specialist employment law advisory services. Some of the popular names late specialise within this area are:
Here are some useful resources to explore employment law further:Find your PERFECT LLM PROGRAM