Glossary of legal terms

A

ACAS

ACAS is an organisation devoted to preventing and resolving employment disputes. They provide employment advice and also conciliation and mediation services.

Acts or omissions

Negligently performing an act that a prudent person would not have done or not performing a duty that a prudent person would have done e.g. failing to apply the handbrake when parking a car resulting in injury or harm to another person.

Adverse possession

A method of acquiring the title to land by possession, for a statutory period, and under certain conditions.

Allocation questionnaire

A form which is completed by both parties involved in a legal claim. It includes information relating to which track the claim should be allocated to, whether pre-action protocols are required and have been complied with and where the hearing is to take place etc. The form allows the court to allocate the claim to a track and to set directions for trial.

B

Basic Award

The Basic Award is given in the Employment Tribunal in cases of unfair / constructive dismissal. It is calculated by taking the employee's age, years of service and average weekly pay to arrive at a figure. There are upper limits on the total award and the week‘s pay which are changed annually.

C

Claimant

The individual who brings (issues) a claim.

Circuit judge

Senior Judges who are appointed to one of seven regions of England and Wales and sit in the Crown and County Courts within their particular region.

Comparator

In discrimination law it is necessary to show that someone, who does not share the same protected characteristic as you, would be treated more favourably in similar circumstances.

Compensatory award

This is an award given in the Employment Tribunal and is intended to compensate the employee for financial loss relating to their dismissal, including expenses and loss of benefits.

When calculating a Compensatory Award the employment tribunal considers the following: loss of wages, future loss of wages, loss of perks, how the employee was dismissed, loss of employment protection and loss of pension rights.

Conciliation

A form of alternative dispute resolution whereby a third party – the conciliator – helps the parties to reach a legally binding agreement.

Constructive dismissal

Constructive Dismissal is where an employer has acted in such a way towards the employee that it causes them to leave their job and treat themselves as dismissed.

Contractual payments

This is any money that you are entitled to under your contract of employment and must be at least as good as your statutory entitlement but may sometimes be greater. Your contract would, for example, set out your wages / salary and may also include redundancy payments if these are more beneficial than the statutory minimum.

Contributory negligence

Where a claimant has contributed to the extent of their injuries by their own negligence. Compensation is usually reduced to reflect the extent of this contribution.

County court

A judicial Court for civil (non-criminal cases) A civil case arises where an individual or entity (such as a business) believes that their rights have been infringed.

Criminal compensation order

An order made against a convicted offender to provide financial compensation to the victim of the crime.

Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority

An organisation set up to compensate the victims of crime for injuries and loss.

D

Damages

A financial award made by a court or tribunal to compensate a claimant for their loss.

Defendant

The individual in a case who is responding to (or defending) a claim made against them.

Discrimination

Treating an individual less favourably because they have a protected characteristic. This can take many forms e.g. in the case of disability, failing to make reasonable adjustments to the work environment can amount to discrimination as can denying the individual promotion or training.

District judge

District judge is the title given to two different categories of judges. One group of district judges sit in the county courts and the other group sit in the magistrates' courts. District Judges are less senior than Circuit Judges and deal with the majority of cases in the County Court.

Duty of care

Is a legal obligation to take reasonable care not to injure others. It can be imposed on individuals and entities such as businesses. For example an employer owes a duty of care to its employees, a company owes a duty of care to the users of its products and individuals owe a duty of care to others.

E

Easement

Is essentially a right over another‘s land e.g. right of way.

Employment tribunal

An independent judicial body established to resolve disputes between employers and employees over employment rights.

Employer's liability insurance

An employer is required by law to have employer‘s liability insurance and to display the details of this insurance in their place of work. The insurance must provide cover for claims by an employee in relation to illness or injury that they believe was caused by their employer.

Encroachment

Is an intrusion on another person's property. This commonly occurs where the neighbour erects a fence on their neighbour‘s property, or where tree roots are encroaching onto the neighbour‘s land.

G

Grievance

Essentially this is a complaint made by an employee to their employer. The employee must raise a grievance formally and in writing.

H

High hedges (as defined by the Anti Social Behaviour Act 2003)

A hedge is defined as “two or more evergreen or semi-evergreen trees or shrubs standing in a line, at a height of over two metres above ground level”.

I

Injunction

A court order by which an individual is required to perform, or is restrained from performing, a particular act e.g. preventing an individual from building on his land or ordering that an individual remove an existing building.

I

Judicial review

A type of court proceeding in which a judge reviews the lawfulness of a decision or action made by a public body.

Jurisdiction

The right and power of a court to make and deal with legal decisions.

L

Litigant

An individual bringing or defending a legal claim. Litigant in person refers to an individual who is acting for himself (i.e. does not have legal representation) and is very common in the Small Claims Track in particular.

Loss of amenity

A consideration in personal injury claims. Loss of amenity would be awarded if the claimant‘s quality of life had been adversely affected by their injuries e.g. if a claimant was an avid cyclist but was no longer able to continue this pursuit as a result of their injuries.

M

Mediation

Another form of alternative dispute resolution. A third party, the mediator, attempts to assist the parties to reach a legally binding agreement.

Medical records

Medical history which can include details kept by general practitioners, hospitals and specialists in both hand written and computerised form. You can obtain a copy of your records by formally making a Subject Access Request under the Data Protection Act. You will likely be asked to pay a fee and the request must be responded to within 40 days.

Minimum service

In employment law this is the minimum amount of time you have to have worked for your employer before you acquire the right to bring certain employment claims. Not all claims require that you have a certain number of years service though.

Since 6th April 2012 the minimum service required to bring an unfair or constructive dismissal claim has been 2 years.

N

Negligence

Conduct that falls below the generally accepted standard of behaviour provided for the protection of others against unreasonable risk.

NHS Complaints Independent Advocacy Service

The NHS Complaints Advocacy Service is a free and independent service that can help you make a complaint about the National Health Service.

Nuisance

Anything causing a substantial and unreasonable interference with a claimant's land or his use or enjoyment of that land. Nuisance encompasses noise, smells and other scenarios where damage to property occurs.

O

Ombudsman

A public official who acts as an impartial intermediary between the public and an organisation or authority. For example the Financial Ombudsman who adjudicates disputes between the individual and financial institutions or the Local Government Ombudsman who deals with disputes between the individual and various government departments.

P

Patient Advice and Liaison Service

The Patient Advice and Liaison Service (PALS) offers confidential advice, support and information on health-related matters. They can be contacted by patients, their families and carers and can help to resolve problems or concerns when using the NHS.

Protected characteristics

These are characteristics which are protected in law. Employers are not permitted to treat employees less favourably because they have one of these protected characteristics.

The protected characteristics under the Equalities Act are

  • Age
  • Disability
  • Gender reassignment
  • Marriage and civil partnership
  • Pregnancy and maternity
  • Race
  • Religion or belief
  • Sex
  • Sexual orientation

R

Re-engagement

This is an alternative to compensation and can be awarded by the Employment Tribunal. The employee returns to work but it does not necessarily need to be with the same employer (it could be with another company in the group). It must, however, be on terms which are, so far as is reasonably practicable, as favourable as an order for reinstatement.

Registered land

Land that has been registered with HM Land Registry. Since 1 April 1998 compulsory registration took effect in England and Wales. This means that, since that date, when land is transferred it must be registered with the Land Registry.

Reinstatement

This is another alternative to compensation in the Employment Tribunal. The employee is reinstated to their previous role with the company.

Right to light

This is effectively an easement that gives landowners the right to receive light through defined apertures in buildings on their land. There is no automatic right to light in English law but it is possible to acquire the right if the building has ‘enjoyed‘ that right for 20 years or more. It is also possible that there is an easement in the title deeds of the property. Although this is quite rare it may occur where, for example, a property owner has sold part of their land and wishes to protect their rights.

S

Self help

In Property law this is a type of remedy which an individual has the right to exercise without having to seek permission. For example, lopping the branches of their neighbour‘s overhanging trees back to the boundary line. These rights are not without restriction however e.g. you must not damage property belonging to your neighbour. In addition, the branches remain the property of your neighbour as does any fruit etc which might be attached to the tree.

Set aside

A party can apply to ‘set aside‘ the judgment in certain limited circumstances e.g. they were not served notice of the court proceedings. If granted the order would no longer stand.

Settlement agreement

It is a binding contract that records the terms and payments to be made from an employer to a current or a former employee in return for a waiver by the employee of any employment contract that was in place. In order for a settlement agreement to be legally binding certain criteria must be met for example an employee must seek independent legal advice on its terms.

Statute Law or Statutory Law

Is written law as opposed to oral or customary law derived through case law or convention.

Statutory demand

A statutory demand is a demand for a debt of £750 or more which is sent to the debtor in a prescribed form.

Statutory payments

This would be anything that the law says you are entitled to under legislation e.g. the national minimum wage or redundancy payments.

Surveyor

A person who examines the condition of land and buildings professionally.

The Patient Advice and Support Service (PASS)

Is an independent service which provides free, accessible and confidential advice and support to patients, their carers and families relating to NHS healthcare.

T

Transfer of Undertakings Protection of Employment Regulations 2006 (TUPE)

This is a piece of legislation designed to protect employees‘ terms and conditions of employment where a business is transferred from one owner to another.

Tree Preservation Order (TPO)

This is an order put in place by a local authority to prevent the tree in question from being lopped or removed. If a tree is subject to a TPO you must speak to the Local Authority prior to carrying out any work to the tree. Carrying out work, in breach of a TPO, is a criminal offence and could be subject to a large fine.

Trespass

Entering someone‘s land without permission.

U

Unfair dismissal

Occurs where an employee is dismissed for an unfair reason or where the employer has a fair reason but does not follow the correct dismissal procedure.

Unregistered land

Land not yet registered with the Land Registry.

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