Money: Undeserved P45 could soon be worth pounds 50,000

Legal rights of employees to improve from June, writes Ian Hunter

Last week's news of 6,000 job losses at Barclays shows that the only job for life these days is parenthood. But there is some good news for those on the receiving end of a P45. The first of the Government's promised measures to strengthen employees' rights comes into effect next month.

Employees who, with effect from 1 June, have completed over one year's continuous employment may have a potential claim for unfair dismissal if they lose their jobs.

Until now, you have had to work for two years before you have rights to claim for unfair dismissal.

There may be no way of knowing you are about to be dismissed, and there is no set format for a dismissal meeting. Some employees are asked to work out their notice, while others are immediately escorted - bulging black bin-liner in hand - to the door.

If you find yourself in this situation, the golden rule at any dismissal meeting is not to agree or disagree with anything said to you. Ask for any proposals to be put in writing. Whatever you do, do not resign voluntarily. You could prejudice your right to compensation.

Once you have the offer in writing, the next step is to compare it with what you are entitled to get. Be aware you have two potential claims: one is contractual, and the other is statutory.

Every employee is usually entitled to receive notice before his or her employment is terminated, unless he or she is dismissed for serious misconduct such as theft or dishonesty. Your contract of employment should include your notice period.

If you are dismissed without notice, or good reason, the starting point for calculating contractual compensation is an amount equal to the value of your net salary and fringe benefits (such as the use of a car or pension contributions) that you would have received during the notice period.

If you do not have a written contract of employment (and many people do not) you will be entitled to at least a statutory minimum period of notice of one week for up to the first two years of employment and after that to one week for each year of employment - up to a maximum of 12 weeks.

You may, in certain circumstances, be able to argue for a longer period of notice based on what is "reasonable" in your business or profession.

The length of notice you are entitled to is vital in calculating your contractual entitlement.

The new rights coming on to the statute books are distinct from your employees' contractual rights.

Awards for unfair dismissal are made up of two parts. First there is the basic award, currently between pounds 110 and pounds 330 for each completed year of employment (up to a maximum of 20 years) depending on your age.

The second tier, the compensatory award, is subject to a maximum of pounds 12,000. However, under the terms of the Employment Relations Bill that will become law in the near future, this figure will soar to pounds 50,000.

If you think you have a case for unfair dismissal you should submit it to the Employment Tribunal within three months of your dismissal.You can also submit to the tribunal any disagreements over your contractual claims, up to pounds 25,000. There is no qualifying period of service.

Alternatively contractual claims can be pursued in either the County or the High Courts.

It is relatively easy to bring an unfair dismissal claim. The original idea behind the Employment Tribunals was that they should be informal and that employees should be able to bring claims without professional advice.

In practice, in many cases, both parties do instruct solicitors. Some solicitors and consultants will take employees' cases on a "no fee no win" basis. Employees can also get help from law centres, citizen's advice bureaux or trade unions.

Legal aid is not available for these claims, nor can the winning party normally recover its legal costs.

In many cases, employers will seek to reach an amicable settlement with employees before the case gets to an Employment Tribunal or a court. Usually up to the first pounds 30,000 of any compensation can be paid tax free.

You may also be able to secure extra benefits that are of value to you but do not cost the employer much time or cash:

References are often important to employees to help in the search for a new job, but an employer is under no obligation to provide a reference. If possible, the wording of any reference provided should be agreed.

If you are a member of a company health scheme or a potential beneficiary under a firm's group life insurance policy, you can often remain on the group policy until the end of the contract's current year.

If you have a company car, you should investigate the possibility of buying the car from the employer at its book value. Your employer, if asked as part of a settlement, may be prepared to let you keep personal computers or fax machines.

n Ian Hunter is a partner and employment law specialist at City Law Firm Bird & Bird. He is also author of the `Which? Guide to Employment'. pounds 10.99

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
The Apprentice candidates Roisin Hogan, Solomon Akhtar, Mark Wright, Bianca Miller, Daniel Lassman
tvReview: But which contestants got the boot?
Arts and Entertainment
Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels ride again in Dumb and Dumber To
filmReview: Dumb And Dumber To was a really stupid idea
News
people

Jo from Northern Ireland was less than impressed by Russell Brand's attempt to stage a publicity stunt

Sport
Scunthorpe goalkeeper Sam Slocombe (left) is congratulated by winning penalty taker Miguel Llera (right)
football
Life and Style
A woman walks by a pandal art installation entitled 'Mars Mission' with the figure of an astronaut during the Durga Puja festival in Calcutta, India
techHow we’ll investigate the existence of, and maybe move in with, our alien neighbours
Arts and Entertainment
Sir Ian McKellen tempts the Cookie Monster
tvSir Ian McKellen joins the Cookie Monster for a lesson on temptation
News
i100
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
Travel
Tourists bask in the sun beneath the skyscrapers of Dubai
travelBritish embassy uses social media campaign to issue travel advice for festive holiday-makers in UAE
Arts and Entertainment
Jennifer Saunders stars as Miss Windsor, Dennis's hysterical French teacher
filmJennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress
Life and Style
tech
Sport
Nabil Bentaleb (centre) celebrates putting Tottenham ahead
footballTottenham 4 Newcastle 0: Spurs fans dreaming of Wembley final after dominant win
Life and Style
Sebastian Siemiatkowski is the 33-year-old co-founder and CEO of Klarna, which provides a simple way for people to buy things online
tech
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Ashdown Group: Java Developer - Hertfordshire - £47,000 + bonus + benefits

£40000 - £470000 per annum + bonus: Ashdown Group: Java Developer / J2EE Devel...

Ashdown Group: Direct Marketing Manager - B2C, Financial Services - Slough

£45000 - £55000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: An exciting opportunity h...

Carlton Senior Appointments: Sr Wealth Manager - San Francisco - Inv AdvisoryFirm

$125 - $175 per annum: Carlton Senior Appointments: Senior Wealth Manager – In...

Carlton Senior Appointments: Private Banking Manager - Intl Bank - Los Angeles

$200 - $350 per annum: Carlton Senior Appointments: Managing Producer – Office...

Day In a Page

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas
La Famille Bélier is being touted as this year's Amelie - so why are many in the deaf community outraged by it?

Deaf community outraged by La Famille Bélier

The new film tells the story of a deaf-mute farming family and is being touted as this year's Amelie
10 best high-end laptops

10 best high-end laptops

From lightweight and zippy devices to gaming beasts, we test the latest in top-spec portable computers
Michael Carberry: ‘After such a tough time, I’m not sure I will stay in the game’

Michael Carberry: ‘After such a tough time, I’m not sure I will stay in the game’

The batsman has grown disillusioned after England’s Ashes debacle and allegations linking him to the Pietersen affair
Susie Wolff: A driving force in battle for equality behind the wheel

Susie Wolff: A driving force in battle for equality behind the wheel

The Williams driver has had plenty of doubters, but hopes she will be judged by her ability in the cockpit
Adam Gemili interview: 'No abs Adam' plans to muscle in on Usain Bolt's turf

'No abs Adam' plans to muscle in on Usain Bolt's turf

After a year touched by tragedy, Adam Gemili wants to become the sixth Briton to run a sub-10sec 100m
Calls for a military mental health 'quality mark'

Homeless Veterans campaign

Expert calls for military mental health 'quality mark'
Racton Man: Analysis shows famous skeleton was a 6ft Bronze Age superman

Meet Racton Man

Analysis shows famous skeleton was a 6ft Bronze Age superman
Garden Bridge: St Paul’s adds to £175m project’s troubled waters

Garden Bridge

St Paul’s adds to £175m project’s troubled waters
Stuff your own Christmas mouse ornament: An evening class in taxidermy with a festive feel

Stuff your own Christmas mouse ornament

An evening class in taxidermy with a festive feel
Joint Enterprise: The legal doctrine which critics say has caused hundreds of miscarriages of justice

Joint Enterprise

The legal doctrine which critics say has caused hundreds of miscarriages of justice
Freud and Eros: Love, Lust and Longing at the Freud Museum: Objects of Desire

Freud and Eros

Love, Lust and Longing at the Freud Museum