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Continuous employment

What does the law say about continuous employment?

Continuous employment is covered by sections 211-219 of the Employment Rights Act 1996 (ERA 1996). It is the period of time that you have worked for one employer without a break. This period is important because it determines the employment rights to which you are entitled. Continuous employment is calculated from your first day of work.There are some rights that you have from day one of employment and others that you accrue with time.  For example you need two years service to claim unfair dismissal and statutory redundancy pay. Compensation for your employer’s breach of your statutory rights increases with your length of service.

Calculating continuous employment

Under s210(3) ERA 1996, continuous employment is calculated on a week by week basis. In a situation where it is necessary to compute the length of your period of employment (for example, calculating whether you have two years’ service for claiming a statutory redundancy payment) it is computed in months and years of twelve months in accordance with s211 ERA 1996. A month means a calendar month, and a year means twelve calendar months.  The calculation of continuous employment in sections 210-219 ERA 1996 overrides the employment contract. It depends on when the continuous period starts and ends, as well as any break in continuity between the start and the end. Under s211(1)(a) ERA 1996, the continuous period starts on the start date of your employment contract and not the first day that you attend work. The date when your continuous employment ends depends on the particular right that you are trying to assert. It is the effective date of termination (EDT) for unfair dismissal, and the relevant date for redundancy.

Breaks in employment

S210(5) ERA 1996 says that there is a presumption that employment is continuous and any employer who says that an employee does not have continuous service must prove it. To break your continuous employment you must have stopped work for a week or more. According to s210(4) ERA 1996, a period of less than one week does not break continuity.

The following breaks in normal employment count towards your period of continuous employment period;

  • sickness, maternity, paternity, parental or adoption leave
  • annual leave
  • temporary lay-offs
  • employment overseas with the same company – s215 ERA 1996
  • reinstatement after an unfair dismissal claim – s219 ERA 1996
  • service as a reserve in the armed forces will also not break continuity in certain circumstances – s217 ERA 1996
  • concluding a dismissal procedures agreement – s110 ERA 1996
  • the intervention of a conciliation officer from ACAS – sections 18A to 18C Employment Tribunals Act 1996 
  • employer lockouts – s216(3) ERA 1996
  • strikes – s216(1)&(2) ERA 1996
  • when a business is transferred from one employer to another (TUPE) – s218(2) ERA 1996
  • when a corporate body gets taken over by another because of a legal change – s218(3) ERA 1996
  • an individual employer has died, but his personal representatives or trustees continue to employ people – s218(4) ERA 1996
  • your employer is a partnership, and the partners change, but the partnership itself continues – s218(5) ERA 1996
  • when you move between associated employers (essentially, two companies, one of which controls the other, or both of which are controlled by a third company) – s218(6) and s231 ERA 1996
  • you work in a school and move from one school maintained by a Local Education Authority to another school which is also maintained by the same Local Education Authority – s218(7) ERA 1996
  • specific health service employees who move to other health service jobs s218(8) -(9) ERA 1996 

What if your employer refuses to recognise your continuous employment?

Raise a grievance. If your grievance is not upheld, contact ACAS for Early Conciliation with a view to starting an Employment Tribunal Claim.

Updated: 01/03/2020


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