Employment Law Glossary

Please find below our Employment Law glossary.


– acronym for Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service. The UK government funded independent body offering conciliation services to parties involved in employment tribunal claims. Acas also provides advice and guidance on workplace issues to individuals and employers.


an individual who has issued a claim in an employment tribunal.

Conciliation Officer

An employee of ACAS who has a statutory duty to help both parties to an employment tribunal claim understand the tribunal process and try to reach a solution which avoids the need for a tribunal hearing.

Constructive Dismissal

A constructive dismissal occurs where the employer does not dismiss the employee, but the employee resigns and can show that they were entitled to do so by virtue of the employer's conduct. The employer's conduct in such cases is a repudiatory breach or fundamental breach of contract, and the employee's resignation in response is an acceptance of the employer's repudiation of the contract. A constructive dismissal may be an unfair dismissal and a wrongful dismissal as the employer has breached the employee's contract of employment.


Under the Equality Act 2010 in Great Britain it is potentially unlawful to discriminate in relation to age, disability, gender reassignment, marriage or civil partnership, pregnancy or maternity, race, religion or belief, sex or sexual orientation.


– acronym for Employment Appeal Tribunal. A tribunal established by statute to hear and rule on appeals from decisions of the employment tribunal.

Employment Tribunal

A tribunal established by statute to hear and rule on certain disputes, including those arising out of employment. They generally consist of a legally qualified chairperson and two lay members with appropriate experience.

Equal Pay

A concept introduced under the Equal Pay Act 1970 which requires no less favourable contractual terms and conditions of employment for men and women in the same employment when employed on like work (work of the same or broadly similar nature), work of equal value, or work rated as equivalent under a job evaluation scheme. The "equality of terms" provisions of the Equality Act 2010 (which repealed and replaced the Equal Pay Act 1970 from 1 October 2010) largely replicate the effect of the Equal Pay Act 1970, although there are some significant changes.


The claim form that a claimant must use to initiate a claim in an employment tribunal. The Tribunal Service will serve a copy of the ET1 on each named respondent.


A response form in which a respondent sets out their defence to a claim or claims brought against them in an employment tribunal.

Ex gratia Payment

A payment made (for example, by an employer to an employee) where there is no contractual requirement to do so.

Fundamental Breach

A breach of contract which deprives the other party of substantially the whole benefit the parties intended he should obtain from the contract. It entitles the innocent party to elect to rescind the contract (and claim damages).

Garden Leave

The term used for a period during which an employee remains on normal salary and bound by their contract of employment but is requested, usually under an express term of the contract, not to attend the office or contact clients or customers. Employers often use garden leave during an employee's notice period to prevent the employee from having further access to customers, clients and staff and to prevent the employee from working for a competitor.

Gross Misconduct

Misconduct so serious as to justify summary dismissal of an employee. What constitutes gross misconduct may vary according to the particular circumstances of the employer and the work the employee is carrying out. Acts of gross misconduct, such as theft, fraud, physical violence, serious negligence or serious breach of health and safety regulations, will result in a serious breach of contractual terms and examples of such conduct will usually be given in an organisation’s disciplinary procedure.


Under the Equality Act 2010, where A engages in unwanted conduct related to a protected characteristic (or of a sexual nature) that has the purpose or effect of violating B's dignity or creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment for B. Whether the conduct has that effect is judged subjectively from B's viewpoint, subject to a test of reasonableness.


A flexible, voluntary and confidential form of alternative dispute resolution(ADR), in which a neutral third party assists parties to work towards a negotiated settlement of their dispute, with the parties retaining control of the decision whether or not to settle and on what terms.


– acronym for Payment in Lieu of Notice. A contractual right to pay an employee a lump sum rather than require them to work out their statutory or contractual notice period. If there is no PILON clause in a contract of employment then an employer who pays an employee a lump sum payment instead of requiring them to work their notice period will be in breach of contract.


– acronym for Pre Hearing Review. An interim hearing that takes place before a substantive hearing that may be used to make case management decisions and to determine preliminary issues (such as whether the claimant is an employee or whether the claim was brought in time). It may also be used to consider whether a party's case has any reasonable prospect of success, and if not, whether it should be struck out or whether the party should have to pay a deposit to continue with it.

Probationary Period

A period at the start of an employment relationship during which the employee is assessed by their employer and following which time they are notified as to whether their appointment will be made permanent. The scope and terms of any probation period are governed by an individual’s contract of employment, but it will typically last three or six months and may involve either formal or informal assessments. Employees may not be entitled to all of the contractual benefits during the probationary period.

Protected Characteristic

The Equality Act 2010 is concerned with discrimination and harassment in respect of nine protected characteristics: age; disability; gender reassignment; marriage and civil partnership; pregnancy and maternity; race; religion or belief; sex; and sexual orientation.

Qualifying Period

the period of time employees must have worked continuously for an employer in order to be eligible for certain statutory rights. For example, employees must usually have worked for one year to claim unfair dismissal, one month to request a written statement of changes in terms and two years to be eligible for time off to look for other work or for training if under notice for redundancy.


A situation in which an employer decides to reduce the number of its employees, either within the business as a whole, or within a particular site, business unit, function or job role. To fall within the statutory definition of "redundancy" set out in section 139(1) of the ERA 1996, an employee's dismissal must be "wholly or mainly attributable to" the employer:

  • Ceasing or intending to cease to carry on the business for the purposes of which the employee was employed by it;
  • Ceasing or intending to cease to carry on that business in the place where the employee was so employed; or
  • Having a reduced requirement for employees to carry out work of a particular kind or to do so at the place where the employee was employed to work.
Repudiatory Breach

A breach of contract by one party that is sufficiently serious to entitle the other to treat the contract as terminated with immediate effect and sue for damages for breach of contract.


a person, company or organisation against which a claimant brings a claim in an employment tribunal.

Restrictive Covenant

Used in employment contracts to protect the employer's business by restricting the activities of an employee, generally after the employment has ended


– acronym for Some Other Substantial Reason. One of the potentially fair reasons for dismissal under section 98 of the ERA 1996. It is a residual "catch-all" potentially fair reason for dismissal. If the employer's reason for dismissal falls outside section 98(2) of ERA 1996, it must fall within the SOSR category if it is to qualify as a potentially fair reason at all.

Summary Dismissal

Immediate dismissal of an employee without notice. This will be a wrongful dismissal unless it is in response to the employee's gross misconduct or another repudiatory breach of contract by the employee.

Trade Union

An organisation of workers whose principal purposes include the regulation of relations between workers and their employers.


The Transfer of Undertakings (Protection of Employment) Regulations 2006 or, before 6 April 2006, the Transfer of Undertakings (Protection of Employment) Regulations 1981. TUPE gives effect to the Acquired Rights Directive (2001/23/EC, formerly 77/187/EC). If there is a relevant transfer of an undertaking or part of an undertaking, under TUPE the transferee will transfer the transferor's employees assigned to the undertaking (or part of the undertaking) transferred.

Unfair Dismissal

A dismissal of an employee in contravention of section 98 of the ERA 1996. For a dismissal to be fair it must be for one of the five potentially fair reasons in the ERA 1996 (conduct, capability,redundancy, breach of a statutory restriction or "some other substantial reason"), the employer must follow a fair procedure, and the decision to dismiss must be within the range of reasonable responses open to an employer in the circumstances.


Where a person (A) treats another person (B) unfavourably because A knows or suspects B has done or intends to do a protected act. Protected acts include bringing discrimination proceedings, giving evidence or information in connection with discrimination proceedings, making an allegation of unlawful discrimination, or doing anything else under, or by reference to, discrimination legislation.


The act of a worker (or "whistleblower") making a qualifying disclosure, in good faith, to an employer, regulator, legal adviser, minister or other responsible or prescribed person about a dangerous or illegal activity or omission. In these circumstances and subject to fulfilling certain criteria, it will be a protected disclosure and the whistleblower will be protected from being dismissed or subjected to a detriment because of the disclosure.

Without Prejudice

The without prejudice (WP) rule will generally prevent statements made in a genuine attempt to settle an existing dispute, whether made in writing or orally, from being put before the court as evidence of admissions against the interest of the party which made them. One reason for having the WP rule is the public policy of encouraging parties (or potential parties) to litigation to settle their disputes out of court. The rationale is that settlement discussions (and, it is hoped, settlement itself) will be facilitated if parties are able to speak freely, secure in the knowledge that what they have said and, in particular, any admissions which they might have made to try to settle the matter, may not be used against them should the settlement discussions fail. The inclusion of the words "without prejudice" will not necessarily bring the communication within the ambit of WP privilege if it is not, in substance, a communication made in a genuine attempt to settle an existing dispute.

Wrongful Dismissal

The dismissal of an employee by an employer in breach of the contract of employment. Unlike in an unfair dismissal claim, fairness is not an issue: the sole question is whether the terms of the contract have been breached. The employee will have a claim in damages if the employer, in dismissing them, breached the contract and thereby caused the employee to suffer loss.