Jacksons Law Firm was established in 1876 and offers a wide range of legal services to businesses and private clients. Its team of 81 includes 11 partners and more than 40 legal experts. Jacksons work with clients from a wide range of sectors.

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Business law Q&A

CASE FILE

I feel like I’m being edged out of my job. Is this constructive dismissal?

An employee is constructively dismissed when they terminate their employment by resigning in circumstances where they are entitled to do so based on their employer’s unreasonable conduct. The conduct concerned must be so significant as to go to the root of the employment contract and, effectively, indicate that the employer is no longer prepared to be bound by the terms of the contract – this is referred to as a repudiatory breach. Where there is a repudiatory breach, the employee must resign in response to the breach only and avoid delaying their resignation otherwise they may be regarded as having waived the breach and affirmed the contract.

I messed up at work and I’m worried I may lose my job. Do my employers have to give me written and verbal warnings first?

It depends what you’ve done wrong and how serious it is. There are some situations where a dismissal sanction may be fair, such as a clear-cut case of theft, following an investigation and disciplinary hearing. In other cases a verbal warning may be more appropriate. Where an employee has been previously verbally warned about unacceptable conduct and has persisted in doing it, the company may then proceed to a written warning. In some circumstances the conduct may be serious enough to jump to a written warning without initially issuing a verbal warning.

 

I accepted a job but the company withdrew the offer. Can they do this?

An employer can withdraw a job offer at any time until it has been accepted. If the job was offered on a conditional basis (i.e. subject to suitable references) it can be withdrawn if any of the conditions of the offer are not met. The employer is under no obligation to provide any reason for the withdrawal or to provide a copy of references. If you accept an unconditional job offer then a legally binding contract of employment is in place and you could take legal action for ‘breach of contract’.

Is there a law against forming personal relationships in the workplace?

It is not unreasonable for a company to have a policy which requires employees to inform their manager that they are in a relationship where there is the potential for it to affect decisions at work, influence their conduct or create a conflict of interest. Care must be taken when drafting such a policy as employees have fundamental rights to private and family life, as enshrined in Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

My friend wants us to go into business together. Should we have a legal document drawn up?

Absolutely! Agreeing and formalising a structure at the outset can help prevent disputes. If you do not agree the terms of the relationship, then the law has default provisions to govern it. A business is more likely to thrive if it is set up correctly and efficiently. For some relationships, a partnership agreement would be ideal; if you want a bit more protection for your personal assets then a limited liability partnership would be right, or it could be that your business would be financially better off if it was run as a company.

 

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