Employment Law Glossary

Our Employment Law team has put together a glossary of terms used in employment law to help you get the best understanding of employment law.

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Anthony Wilcox
Partner in Employment Law

Our Employment Law team has put together a glossary of terms used in employment law to help you get the best understanding of employment law. Where possible, we seek to avoid using legalistic language, but also invite our clients to ask us if they are unsure about any terms we use.


Legislation makes it unlawful to treat an employee less favourably on specific protected grounds, which are known as protected characteristics – these are age; disability; gender re-assignment; marriage and civil partnership; pregnancy and maternity; race; religion or belief; sex; and sexual orientation. Discrimination can be direct or indirect and in the case of disability there is additional protection for discrimination arising from a disability and a legal duty to make reasonable adjustments.

In some instances, but not all, conduct that might otherwise be discriminatory can be lawful because it is considered to be legally justified.

Discrimination includes harassment and victimisation if it involves a protected characteristic.

There is no minimum period of employment required to qualify to bring a discrimination claim and claims can be pursued in respect of recruitment processes or post-employment treatment as well as with regard to employment.

Post Termination Restrictions

Employers wishing to protect their business against unfair competition from former employees use post-termination restrictions.  These primarily apply after the employment ends and they supplement and extend basic restrictions that the law implies.

Typically, such measures include provisions to prevent:

  • Soliciting business from former client/customers;
  • Dealing with former customers/clients;
  • Operating competing business either generally or in a restricted area;
  • The misuse of categories of confidential information; and
  • Poaching staff.

To be enforceable, the restrictions must only go so far as is reasonably necessary to protect legitimate business interests and must be in line with what the law permits.


Redundancy can arise when an employer’s need for a job no longer exists, work moves to a different location or an employer needs a reduced number of employees. If an employee has two continuous years of employment, they will normally be eligible to receive a statutory redundancy payment. Some employers enhance this or offer payments to employees who might not otherwise qualify.

Employers must conduct any redundancy dismissals in a fair manner otherwise employees with two years continuous employment will be dismissed unfairly. The process must involve proper consultation, objective selection (where appropriate) and consideration of alternative employment.

Where 20 or more dismissals are proposed at an establishment in a 90 day period, then collective obligations usually also arise.

Settlement Agreement

A legal document drafted to agree the settlement of possible employment claims and provide a clean break. In order to be valid, the employee must receive advice from a solicitor or from another legally prescribed professional. Some employment claims can only be settled using a settlement agreement or through ACAS conciliation.

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Unfair Dismissal

The claim considers whether the employer had one of the five legally fair reasons for dismissal, and whether the dismissal was conducted using a fair procedure.

If the dismissal is for one of a number of prescribed reasons (for example, health and safety, trade union involvement, pregnancy, whistle-blowing – these are only examples), then it will be automatically unfair.

Usually, employees must have two years’ continuous employment to claim unfair dismissal, although when dismissals occur in certain prescribed circumstances, this two year qualification period will not apply.

Wrongful Dismissal

When an employee is dismissed without receiving the appropriate notice or payment in lieu.

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For more information on our Employment Law and HR advice services, please contact Anthony Wilcox, Partner in Employment Law.

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