Employment law, much like commercial law, is all about business.
However, unlike commercial law, this field is focused specifically on the relationship between employers and employees.
As such, you won’t be assessing contracts and transactions but rather dissecting the workplace social dynamics and helping bosses and workers adhere to the laws of employment.
Believe it or not, there are myriad rules and regulations surrounding the process of employment on both the end of the employer and the employee, and it’s the job of the employment lawyer to enforce them.
In this guide, we’ll provide insights into what exactly you can expect if you embark on a career in employment law.
What are the types of employment law?
There are many types of employment laws, each covering a different aspect of the employment process.
Without further ado, let’s dive into the main types of employment law you will come across if you choose to pursue this field of study.
- Civil rights
The first type of employment laws - and arguably the most important - are the civil rights laws.
Civil rights laws are those which protect the employees of an organisation against any form of discrimination. As such, they are essential for maintaining a civil and pleasant workplace for all.
The employment laws that fall under the umbrella of civil rights range from race and color to religion and sex, but also include everything from nationality and age to disability.
Examples of laws include the Age Discrimination Act and the Equality Act.
- Worker’s compensation
Worker’s compensation is another area that is hugely important within the branch of employment law, as it deals with accidents in the workplace.
We’ve all seen the adverts.
You know, the ones where the actor suffers a horrific accident and the pleasant voiceover claims how you could be entitled to a large sum of money?
Yes, these adverts depict key worker’s compensation laws that are in place to minimise the occurrence of accidents at work.
- Family and medical leave
Sick leave and paternity or maternity leave are a given in the vast majority of jobs, and this is so because of the family and medical leave employment laws in place.
Without them, we wouldn’t have a leg to stand on when we called in sick, so these are laws that we should be especially grateful for.
The specific laws will of course depend based on the country and region sometimes, but they are more or less universal.
- Workplace safety
Closely tied to worker’s compensation are the workplace safety employment laws.
These laws are of course in place to protect the employees from potential hazards and ensure that the employer is doing everything in their power to keep the workplace 100% safe.
- Labour relations
Labour relations refer to the relationship an employee has with any trade unions they choose to join.
These laws are mainly in place to protect the employee from discrimination that may come as a result of being involved in a trade union.
- Child labour
Needless to say, forced child labour is inexcusable but there has been a precedent for many years now that is strict on what is fair for employees under the age of 18.
These employment laws also outline what the minimum wage should be for the younger age brackets.
- Immigrant employment
Immigrant employment laws make sure that employers do not hire illegal immigrants to work for them.
With all of these employment laws, there are areas in which employers might not be well-versed, which is where the employment lawyer usually needs to step in. It is the role of the employment lawyer to get employers up to scratch and make them aware of what laws they should be aware of in various situations.
What are the main employment laws in the UK?
If you’re based in the UK, you might find it useful to know what the main employment laws are in the country, as that will give you a good idea of what issues you might come across should you decide upon a career in this field of law.
Employment laws are subject to constant change, though many of them stem from Acts that were first put into place many years ago. Each Act is relevant for a different stage in the process of becoming and working as an employee. Here are some of the most important employment laws in the UK relevant in 2021.
Equality Act 2010
First up, we have the Equality Act of 2010.
This Act not only applies to the first stage of life as an employee - the recruitment - but it also applies to various other stages of the employment process such as performance management and training and development.
As you can imagine, this employment law is all about ensuring standards for equality are met at every step of the employment process.
To give you an idea of exactly what this Act covers, here are the protected characteristics of any employee:
- Gender Reassignment
- Marriage and civil partnership
- Pregnancy and maternity
- Religion or belief
- Sexual orientation
As someone who works in the field of employment law, you would have to in some instances deliberate over cases in the workplace in which this Act might be ignored with regards to one of the characteristics listed above. As such, it’s important that you know this Act inside and out.
Immigration, Asylum, and Nationality Act 2006
This Act, first put into place in 2006, usually applies to the pre-employment checks stage of the employment process.
The Act brought into effect many measures regarding the rights of immigrants and asylum-seekers, many of which apply to how they can be legally employed.
As such, it’s an important act to know about if you are dealing with a case in which the client is a migrant worker in the workplace.
Employment Rights Act 1996
The Employment Rights Act 1996 is most pressing when the employment offer is made by the employer.
This is a huge Act that details all the rights of the employees, from the protection of wages to time off work.
It’s essential that you are familiar with this Act if you wish to practise employment law, since it lays out exactly what rights the employee has with relation to their employer, so you can know if they are being treated unfairly or unlawfully.
Is employment law the same in different countries?
No, unfortunately, if you live in one country and decide to move to another to practise law you will likely have to learn a whole new system at the national and perhaps also local level.
Even between the UK and the US which share a lot of laws there are differences in employment laws, so you can’t bank on just knowing the laws of one country and practising law in another.
Why study employment law?
If you’ve made it this far, there’s a strong chance that you are at least somewhat interested in pursuing a career in employment law.
But you may still be wondering what exactly you stand to gain from choosing this field of law over another, so here are some compelling reasons why it’s a solid choice:
- You can stay out of court
For some, appearing in court is a lifelong dream and a compelling reason to become a lawyer. For others, it’s a real pain in the neck and something to avoid at all costs.
If you fall into the latter camp, then you would probably feel very at ease as an employment lawyer.
Unlike, say, in criminal law, employment lawyers rarely spend time in court though it is of course possible on occasion.
- Many clients are long-term
If you enjoy stability and familiarity, then becoming an employment lawyer is a much better choice than working as a family lawyer.
Unlike in the case of family law where you’d likely have to hop between married couples, surrogate mothers, and children up for adoption, with employment law you often work with clients for long periods of time.
It’s not unheard of for employment lawyers to work with a single client over the period of several years in fact, which is great news if you don’t want to deal with new faces every week.
- Employment laws change often
This might not sound like a good thing, since you will have to stay abreast of all of the changes over time, but the fact that employment laws change often can actually be a blessing.
Well, because it guarantees a steady stream of work.
Since businesses will always have new laws to adhere to, they will require the services of an employment lawyer. If you’ve already shown several companies that you can do a good job, then the odds are they’ll want to hire you again and so starts the cycle of long-term work.
If you like the sound of employment law but you also want to explore other options, you might like to look into the following fields of law:
Superprof is an online tutoring platform that allows you to connect with law tutors locally and from around the world, so you can get the best one-to-one tuition and deepen your curiosity in the field of employment law.
The platform that connects tutors and students