Q One of our employees has to take her son to a hospital appointment. I told her to use her holiday entitlement. She insisted that she has a right to take unpaid leave. Is this true?
A No, not yet. She is currently entitled to unpaid leave if her son (or any other dependant) were rushed to hospital in an emergency, but not for a routine appointment. However, the Government is considering extending this to routine hospital appointments. So your employee may be right in the future!
Q Our staff are entitled to three months’ notice, although we have a discretion to pay in lieu. A few weeks ago, we dismissed an employee who had only been with us for six months and paid him three months’ salary in lieu. We have since found out that he started a new job a week later, leaving him far better off than if he had not been dismissed! Presumably there was nothing we could do?
A It is too late now that you have made the payment, but if you were still negotiating, you might have been able to avoid a substantial payment.
The Court of Appeal has recently confirmed that, in these circumstances, it is possible to pay a departing employee only the difference between what he would have earned during his notice period and what he will actually earn over the same period in his new job. So an employee who is lucky enough to move straight into a new job could be able to claim very little from you, and perhaps nothing at all if the new job is as good as the old one.
Q I work for a small UK company. I was alarmed to be told that we now have to consult our staff about all major business decisions. Is this right?
A Your obligations are not that extensive at the moment. There is a draft EC directive which proposes that all employers with 50 or more staff must inform and consult their employees’ representatives about various matters. However, this has not yet been adopted, partly due to opposition from the Government.
In fact, UK employers generally have fewer obligations than their European counterparts to inform and consult their employees’ representatives. The only