The British Employment Law Jargon Buster


HR Insights for ProfessionalsThe latest thought leadership for HR pros

Monday, October 2, 2017

Employment law is full of jargon that can be difficult to unravel. Here we take a look at some of the most common phrases HR professionals are likely to encounter and what they mean.

Article 6 Minutes
The British Employment Law Jargon Buster

Employment law encompasses a lot of different situations and phrases that can be fairly confusing. Unless you are fully trained in employment law, it can be difficult to know exactly what everything means or how it relates to certain situations.

With this in mind, here is a jargon buster for some of the most common employment law phrases that you're likely to encounter:


The Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (Acas) works with both employers and employees when it comes to resolving employment disputes. They can offer support before a claim progresses to an employment tribunal and offer confidential, independent advice to both parties.


All employees must be given an employment contract within two months of their start date. The more information included, the better the company and the worker are protected. Contracts should include details concerning duties, responsibilities, working hours, salary, holidays and any other relevant information.

Breach of contract

When an employee or an employer breaks a term of the employment contract. This can relate to agreed, written terms or implied terms, which are not always detailed in a contract. Breach of contract can lead to a formal warning or dismissal, depending on its severity. If an employer is at fault, the employee can take a case to an employment tribunal.


Also known as 'referred redundancy', this is when an employee who holds a redundant position bumps another employee out of their role, making them redundant instead. Often this happens when senior employees agree to take on junior roles in a bid to avoid redundancy. Employers do not need to consider bumping when it comes to redundancies, but not looking at it as an option could result in unfair dismissal claims.

Constructive dismissal

When an employer acts in a negative way to an employee so that they feel they have no choice but to leave their job, the employee can class themselves as being dismissed. Although in cases of constructive dismissal the employer hasn't fired the worker, their behavior is what resulted in the employment coming to an end.

Disciplinary proceedings

If an employer is unhappy about the standard of an employee's work or their conduct, disciplinary action may be taken against them. The types of disciplinary proceedings an employer will take need to be outlined in contracts or in a separate document - such as an employee handbook - that is referred to in the contract.


Discrimination at work can fall under a number of categories, including age, disability, gender, religion, sexuality and pregnancy. Treating people unfavorably based on any of these or other reasons not related to workplace performance can be met with legal action.

Deduction from wages

Employers cannot fail to pay wages without written consent from the employee, even if the employee owes the company money - such as through overpayment. Removing money from owed wages without consent can be classed as unlawful. There are only three instances when deducting directly from wages is acceptable.


If an employee cannot perform at the level required in a position, they may be demoted as part of the disciplinary proceedings against them. This means they will have fewer responsibilities and will often be subject to lower pay.

Fixed-term contract

Rather than an open-ended contract that simply states when employment starts, a fixed-term contract lasts for a set amount of time, which is decided on in advance. This type of contract might also come to an end once a specific task has been completed.

Garden leave

This is a term used to describe a period of time where an employee is not required to continue employment and is serving a period of notice. During a period of garden leave, they receive their full salary and benefits, as usual, however, they cannot start new employment with another company until the notice period has elapsed.

Gross misconduct

While disciplinary procedures need to be followed in most cases if an employee is not working to the standard expecting, instant dismissal can occur in instances of gross misconduct. This can include offensive behavior, theft, negligence, indecent behavior or breaching health and safety regulations. Anything that will be classed as gross misconduct should be listed in the disciplinary procedure.

Holiday pay

Employees have a right to paid statutory holiday leave, which is 5.6 weeks' pro-rated. Statutory holiday leave entitlement does not change depending on age or length of time in employment and employees must be paid their normal rate during holidays. Companies can give more holiday leave, but they cannot reduce it below statutory rates.

Minimum Wage

Minimum Wage covers those who get paid by the hour, whether they are classed as full or part-time employees, so long as they are of school-leaving age. It is also different to National Living Wage, which only applies for those aged 25 and over. Failure to pay the Minimum or National Living Wage can result in legal action being taken against employers.

Parental rights

Those who are expecting a baby, are new parents or are adopting are entitled to a number of extra rights that an employer needs to take into account. Parental rights cover things like maternity leave, paternity leave, adoption leave and shared parental leave. They also include maternity and paternity pay, which need to adhere to the government's regulations.


Redundancy is different to standard dismissal, as it is undertaken when an employer needs to downsize rather than as a result of an employee's conduct. It also means that employees may be entitled to certain rights, such as a notice period, redundancy pay, time off to find another job or the option to move into a different position.


The Transfer of Undertakings Regulations (TUPE) protects the terms and conditions of current employees' when a business is transferred from one owner to another. When a business is bought by another party, the workers automatically become the employees of the new owner and operate under the same terms and conditions. Employees must also be consulted by employers when a company transfer is taking place.


Employees are able to make a disclosure in the public interest if any wrongdoing is taking place in their workplace and still have their employment rights protected. This means employees can report any instances of law breaking, negligence or improper behavior and do not need to worry about being victimized by their employer.

Working Time Regulations

Working time relates to any and all periods of time that an employee is classed as working. This includes when they are carrying out their duties or are at their employer's disposal. There are basic rights covered under these regulations that employers must stick to unless an employee voluntarily opts out of them.

Click here for our US Employment Law Glossary.

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