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Employment Law

Employment law governs the relations between the employer and the employee and the conditions under which work occurs. It is usual to distinguish between individual employment law, which is the law governing the relationship between employer and employee, and collective labour relations law, which is chiefly the law governing relationships between trade unions and employers.

The following principles are generally accepted in most spheres of employment: 1) discrimination is generally not permitted on the grounds of sex, race, disability, religious belief, sexual orientation, marital status, pregnancy, or membership of a trade union; 2) all employees have certain statutory rights, including entitlement to at least the national minimum wage, equal opportunities, equal pay for like work, maternity rights and benefits, a healthy and safe working environment, etc.

Employment contracts may either be concluded for an indefinite period or on a fixed-term, short-term, or part-time basis. Fixed-term contracts of employment expire without notice once the agreed period has finished. An employment contract for an indefinite period can be terminated by either party on giving the required period of notice. The notice period will usually be specified in the employment contract. The employee also must be informed as soon as possible about the impending redundancy and must be allowed to take time off to look for other employment.

An employee may be dismissed without notice if he or she is guilty of gross misconduct. What constitutes gross misconduct will vary from case to case, but typical examples include theft, damage to the employer’s property, incapacity for work due to being under the influence of alcohol or illegal drugs, physical assault, and gross insubordination. Wrongful dismissal refers to a situation where the employer has dismissed the employee in such a way as to breach the employment contract. It should be differentiated from unfair dismissal. Unfair dismissal can be described as dismissal which is technically not in breach of the employment contract but which is illegal because it breaches the employee’s statutory right not to be unfairly dismissed from work.

The lawyer can assist an employee by advising on the proposed terms of an employment contract, and in acting for an employee where the terms of an employment contract have been breached or where it appears that an employer has acted unlawfully in relation to an employee.

Capital punishment

Capital punishment is the ultimate penalty by death. It is carried out by hanging, electrocution, gassing or lethal injection, beheading or stoning, or shooting. Although most countries still have a death penalty, almost half of the countries of the world have ceased to use the death penalty. The UN has declared itself in favor of abolition, and the issue is now the focus of great debate.

Supporters of capital punishment believe that death is a just punishment for certain serious crimes. Many also believe that it deters others from committing such crimes. Opponents argue that execution is cruel and uncivilized. Capital punishment involves not only the pain of dying but also the mental anguish of waiting, sometimes for years, to know if and when the sentence will be carried out. A further argument is that, should a mistake be made, it is too late to rectify it once the execution has taken place. Research has shown that capital punishment is used inconsistently. For example, in South Africa, black murderers are far more likely to be sentenced to death than whites.

As the debate about capital punishment continues, the phenomenon of death row (people sentenced but still alive) increases. In 1991, no one was executed in Japan, but three people were sentenced to death, bringing the total number on death row to fifty. The debate also involves the question of what punishment is for. Is the main aim to deter? Is it revenge or retribution? Is it to keep criminals out of society? Or is it to reform and rehabilitate them? These questions are still to be answered.

International Law

There are two main kinds: private and public. The former concerns the role of foreign laws within a particular country. For example, if an Englishman wants to sell property he owns in France to another Englishman, any English court must consider French law when deciding the legality of the contract of sale. Public international law, on the other hand, deals with relations between states.

International law is not new. Nations have always made political and economic treaties with each other. In Medieval Europe, the Canon Law of the Catholic Church had an important role. Law Merchant regulated trade across political frontiers. Nevertheless, most international law has been created in the twentieth century. The League of Nations was set up after World War I to regulate disputes between nations. However, it failed to stop the tension that led to World War II, partly because some powerful countries did not join (the USA) and others left when they disagreed with its decisions (Germany, Japan). But it led to important international legislation like the Geneva Convention on the treatment of prisoners of war and the 1951 Convention on the Status of Refugees.

There are some important differences between international laws and those created inside individual states. Domestic laws are passed by legislative bodies, most of which have some popular political support. International laws, on the other hand, are created by agreements among governments.

While movement toward an international government continues to be slow, international law is developing rapidly in the form of limited practical agreements to facilitate trade and protect the environment. More and more people are affected by activities in areas that are not under the exclusive control of any one nation. The future of law, the ‘the necessary evil’, seems to be one of inevitable expansion.

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