1. Sources of law

Employment law in England and Wales comes principally from three main sources. These are:

  • Domestic legislation ­ statutes (“Acts”) and statutory instruments (“Regulations” and “Orders”) are the primary source of law in England and Wales. New laws generally come into force in April and October each year;
  • European legislation ­ “directives” and “treaties” are made at European level and implemented by each Member State of the European Union. Most directives and treaties will have direct effect against public bodies but need to be passed into UK law before they will have any effect for private business; and
  • Common law ­ i.e. case law arising from judges’ interpretation of the legislation through the Employment Tribunal and Court systems.

In Scotland, although technically it is a separate jurisdiction and the terminology and procedures are slightly different, in reality, since the sources of law are the same, the practice is also very similar. This briefing note concentrates on the law in England and Wales.


This publication is intended for general summary guidance. It is not and should not be considered legal advice. Specific advice should be sought for specific cases; we cannot be held responsible for any action (or decision not to take action) made in reliance upon the content of this publication.