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Book reviews

14 November 16

Reviews of Butterworths Employment Law Handbook, Tolleys Employment Law Handbook

by Steve Briggs (review editor: David J Dickson)

Butterworths Employment Law Handbook

24th edition

Edited by Peter Wallington QC

ISBN/ISSN: 978 1405799980
PRICE: £120 (book or e-book; £150 for both)

This weighty tome, now running to nearly 3,000 pages, is an invaluable resource for employment law practitioners. Its focus is very much on statutory materials, reproducing all of the key Acts of Parliament, statutory instruments, codes of practice and European materials, including those enacted but not yet in force.

It provides users with a quick reference to the statutory position in respect of virtually all conceivable employment law issues and disputes, though caution must be used to check that the law as stated is in force at any given time. A key example of this is that at the time of this review the Trade Union Act 2016 has not yet been brought into force. This will tighten up the regulation of industrial action, and will set very high hurdles for strike action in certain key public services.

The inclusion of the ACAS codes of practice is a particularly useful feature of the publication. While adherence to the codes is not compulsory, employers who can demonstrate that they have complied with the codes will be in a much stronger position than those who have not. Having said that, this is a publication for advisers rather than employers, and the onus remains on advisers to ensure they are up to date with all aspects of the law and expected good practice.

With Brexit likely to take place in the next two to three years, the European law guidance may have a limited shelf life, but unless and until the UK leaves the European Union, the many directives, and their UK legal enactments, will remain in full force, and decisions of the European Court of Justice will continue to apply to the UK.

And even after Brexit, it appears the Government intends to ensure that European law is assessed and amended carefully and slowly. With the debate focusing on “hard” or “soft” Brexit, the value of the pound plunging, and projections of thousands of job losses in the offing, a crystal ball would be needed to predict what the statutory framework will look like by 2020.

From a Scottish perspective, it should be noted that there are plans to devolve control of the employment and Employment Appeal Tribunals to the Scottish Parliament, and that the Scottish Government has made a commitment to abolish the fees currently payable to raise claims before them.

Although Butterworths is a costly purchase, it is an essential reference work for all employment law practitioners, and will always more than repay its cost. Wise practitioners will also ensure that they remain up to date with the law as it changes between publication dates. The Trade Union Act 2016 is a key example of this.

This and the next work reviewed can be purchased together for a reduced cost of £224.

Steve Briggs, Beacon Workplace Law Ltd

Tolley’s Employment Handbook 2016

30th edition

Edited by Mrs Justice Slade and members of 11 King’s Bench Walk Chambers

ISBN/ISSN: 978 0754552604
PRICE: £140 (book or e-book; £175 for both)

Tolley’s Employment Law Handbook is a weighty and lengthy reference work, running to more than 1,000 pages. Unlike Butterworths, this publication is aimed at a wider audience than the legal profession, including trade unionists, advice centre workers, and HR practitioners. It explains the law in context, and deals thematically with the various stages of the employment relationship from the commencement of employment through to termination.

It is certainly not bedtime reading, and is designed to be used to explore particular legal issues as they arise. It refers the reader to more than 1,000 relevant cases, referenced both by index and topic.

It should be noted that Tolley’s makes clear that it makes no attempt to deal with the differences between the law in England & Wales and Scots law, although nearly all of the material is applicable north of the border. And notwithstanding this caveat, several Court of Session decisions are referred to in the text, as are decisions of the Scottish division of the Employment Appeal Tribunal.

The text deals at length with the employment tribunal and appeal processes, equal pay, discrimination, dismissals, transfers of undertakings, and working time.

It should be noted that since the introduction of fees for lodging a claim the number of applications has fallen by around 67%. However, the Scottish government has committed itself to abolishing fees for claims made in Scotland, and the fees scheme is still facing a legal challenge by UNISON, due to be heard by the Supreme Court, possibly later this year.

An additional factor in the reduction in claims was the extension in 2013 from one to two years’ service that an employee requires before being entitled to make a claim of “ordinary” unfair dismissal. Having said that, the number of claims of unfair dismissal that can be brought without any service is a lengthy one, including discrimination, trade union activities, asserting a statutory right, whistleblowing, and raising a health and safety issue, among others.

The wise employer will always take advice before dismissing an employee, regardless of the length of time he or she has been employed.

Tolley’s also deals admirably with a variety of rights that stem partly or wholly from the UK’s membership of the European Union, including maternity and paternity rights, working time rights, and health and safety.

All in all, Tolley’s is an excellent handbook for all those advising parties to an employment dispute. At £140 it is not cheap, and it will require to be replaced annually as the law changes. Users will also have to keep a careful eye on legal changes that take place between publication dates.

This book and the book reviewed above can be purchased together for a reduced cost of £224.

Steve Briggs, Beacon Workplace Law Ltd

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