Employees Rights

By law, all workers have a number of rights that have been carefully laid down to ensure that all individuals are treated fairly by their employers. These rights, which have been given by state law in the UK, are called your statutory rights.

While statutory rights form the basis for fair treatment in the workplace, your specific employee rights may vary slightly depending on the type of job you are hired to do and the arrangement you have with your employer along with a few other variables. Your exact rights at work will ultimately be derived from a combination of your statutory rights and your employment contract.

Statutory Rights

These are legal rights that almost every worker is entitled to.

Your statutory rights include:

  • You must be paid at least the National Minimum Wage, which is currently £8.21 per hour for workers aged 25 and over. For 21 to 24-year-olds the national minimum wage is £7.70 per hour, 18 to 20-year-olds £6.15 per hour, under 18 £4.35 per hour and apprentices £3.90 per hour.
  • Within two months of starting the job you should receive a written statement clearly stating the basic details and the main terms and conditions of your employment. These would include your job title, expected hours of work, monthly wages, paid holiday and sick leave entitlement, details of any applicable pension scheme, minimum notice period, disciplinary process and procedure for reporting a grievance.
  • You must receive an itemised payslip that provides a detailed breakdown of your pay and any deductions.
  • Your employer cannot make illegal deductions from your wages.
  • You must not be discriminated against in the workplace. This applies to all forms of discrimination including age, disability, sex, race, sexual orientation and religious beliefs.
  • Under health and safety laws, you have a right to daily and weekly rest breaks. This includes getting a daily rest period of at least 20 minutes if the working day exceeds 6 hours and at least one full day off during every 7 days.
  • Health and safety laws also state that employers have a statutory duty to take care of the health and safety of their employees by providing a clean environment to work in, first aid equipment, protective clothing, drinking water and washing facilities and ensuring all machinery is safe.
  • You cannot be forced to work more than an average of 48 hours a week unless you agree to put in additional working hours and confirm this in writing.
  • You have the right to a certain amount of paid holiday each year. As a full-time employee you are entitled to 5.6 weeks paid leave per year. Part time workers receive pro-rata entitlement.
  • You have the right to take unpaid time off to undergo additional training, attend trade union activities or to look after dependents in an emergency.
  • Women are entitled to time off for antenatal care and can take 52 weeks statutory maternity leave.
  • Eligible employees are entitled to take 1 to 2 weeks paternity leave at or around the period in which the baby is due or is born.
  • When adopting a child, one of the adoptive parents is entitled to 6 months paid leave and 6 months unpaid leave and the other partner is entitled to paternity leave.
  • You should not be harassed, victimised, treated unfairly at work or given dismissal notice if you file a complaint or expose suspected wrongdoing in their workplace.
  • If you have been working for an employer for at least one month, they must give you notice if you are to be dismissed.
  • If you receive a dismissal notice while you are pregnant or on maternity leave, the notice must be accompanied by a written explanation of the reason.
  • If you need to attend a disciplinary hearing, you are entitled to have a trade union representative accompany you to the hearing if necessary.
  • An employer may put you on short-time working or lay you off if there is a downturn in the industry and they do not have any work for you. You will not get paid if you are laid off but will receive part of your regular income if you are on short-time working. In both instances, you may be entitled to a payment called ‘guarantee payment’ from your employer.
  • Fixed-term workers have the same contractual rights as permanent employees in similar roles.
  • Part-time workers have the same contractual rights as full-time employees in similar roles. However, entitlements to holidays and similar rights for part-time workers may be calculated on a pro rata basis. There are no specific number of hours that differentiates a part time worker from a full time worker. It would vary from one company to another. Which category you come under will be stated in your contract or job description.

As a general rule, you will gain the above rights as soon as you begin work in a particular company. There are a few exceptions where statutory rights only accrue after you have worked for the employer for a specified period of time.

  • After 6 months (26 weeks) of working for an employer, you have the right to submit a request for flexible working hours. You are allowed to make one request to work flexibly each year. Flexible working hours could include working flexitime, staggering hours, school hours, home working, working shifts or job sharing. Compressing hours are also allowed wherein you work your total number of agreed hours over a shorter period of time. While employers are not mandated by law to agree to your request, they must give your application serious consideration and have a compelling reason if they decide to turn it down.
  • After 12 months of working for an employer, you have the right to take unpaid parental leave.
  • After 24 months of working for an employer, you can claim compensation for unfair dismissal. You can also take paid time off to look for work and claim redundancy pay if you are being made redundant.

Contractual Employee Rights

As a worker, you may have some rights that are set out in the terms and conditions of your employment or your contract, other than those required by law. These are known as contractual employee rights.

The terms of the contract may vary the terms of your employment and may award you additional rights beyond the statutory minimums. For example, an employer may offer maternity and paternity leave at full pay. However, this is not obligatory by law and is at the discretion of the employer.

An important point to note regarding contractual rights is that an employment contract can offer you additional rights but they cannot offer you fewer rights than those offered by statute law. In other words, contracts of employment cannot forcefully restrict your statutory rights. They can only limit your rights with your consent. For example, if you agree, of your own will, to opt-out of the maximum 48-hour working week or you agree to work on Sundays, it overrides your statutory rights regarding these terms.

Once the terms of the employment contract have been agreed upon, your employer must abide by them. If they do not, they could be held liable for breach of contract.

Are All Workers Entitled To Statutory Employment Rights?

No, not all workers are entitled to statutory rights. Only employees who work with a company or individual employer are entitled to statutory employment rights. If you are a freelancer, self-employed or you work for an agency, you are a worker and not an employee and as such you would not be entitled to the same rights as an employee.

However, whether you work as a freelancer or for an agency, you still have the right to receive the minimum wage and the right not to be discriminated against.

Others who may not receive full statutory employment rights include trainee doctors, merchant seamen, police officers and armed forces employees.

Special Note Regarding Disabled Employee Rights

Under the Equality Act 2010, employers cannot discriminate against you at any stage if you are suffering from any type of physical or mental disability. If you are suitably qualified for the job and an employer is aware of your disability, they have a duty to make reasonable adjustments in the workplace to ensure you have access to all the facilities as employees who are not disabled so you aren’t serious disadvantaged when doing your job.

Reasonable adjustments may include removing physical barriers that limit your movements, installing an audio-visual alarm for a deaf employee or a ramp for a wheelchair user, providing a special keyboard if you have arthritis or offering additional training opportunities if necessary.