Employee Rights in the UK
An employee right is a moral or legal entitlement that UK employment law bestows upon people with employee status. It can be upheld in a court of law without the need for an employment contract to recognise it.
Some of these employee rights include:
- Protection against unfair dismissal
- Protection against illicit deductions from wages
- Flexible working
- Paid holiday
- Minimum length of rest breaks
- Statutory Sick Pay
- Statutory maternity, paternity, and adoption pay and leave
- Parental leave
- Statutory Redundancy Pay
- Minimum notice period
- Payment equal to or above the National Minimum Wage
- Time off for dependants
- Protection for whistleblowing
- Protection against discrimination, victimisation, bullying, and harassment
- The right to a healthy and safe working environment
Many of these rights are collected in various legal instruments, such as the Employment Rights Act 1996 and the Employment Relations Act 1999, to name a few.
- Employee Rights
- Check Your Employment Status
- Protection Against Unfair Dismissal
- Protection Against Illicit Deduction from Wages
- Flexible Working
- Paid Holiday
- Rest Breaks
- Statutory Sick Pay
- Statutory Maternity, Paternity, and Adoption Pay and Leave
- Parental Leave
- Statutory Redundancy Pay
- Minimum Notice Period
- Payment Equal to or Above the National Minimum Wage
- Time Off for Dependants (Compassionate Leave)
- Whistleblower Protection
- Protection Against Discrimination, Victimisation, Bullying, and Harassment
- The right to a healthy and safe working environment
- How We Can Help
- Frequently Asked Questions
Check Your Employment Status
Before determining you are entitled to the legal rights of employees, you must assess your employment status.
To do so, various aspects must be considered, including the terms of your written contract and the functions you perform. Moreover, while the contract title provides an important clue, it might be misleading, and its content at times needs to be carefully analysed by a judge.
That said, while all employees are workers, not all are deemed employees in the strict sense. Employees are those under an employment contract proper and who, among other things:
- Are required to work on a regular basis while not on leave (holiday, sick, maternity, parental, etc.)
- Are assigned a specific number of working hours per week and are paid for worked time
- Can’t send someone else to work at their behest
- Are under the direct responsibility of a manager or supervisor who handles their workload
- Can be subject to a disciplinary procedure
- Work at an address specified by the business or in the company’s facilities
- Work using the materials provided by the organisation
- Have redundancy procedures laid out in their employment contracts
Not all of these conditions must by necessity apply for someone to be considered an employee, but at least most of them should. Otherwise, you may fall into a different worker category, such as a self-employed person.
Understand that employment status may differ from the viewpoint of tax and National Insurance authorities, and it’s the sole duty of employers to sort this out for you. For example, you could be deemed self-employed for tax and National Insurance contributions purposes, albeit this should not affect your statutory employment rights.
Protection Against Unfair Dismissal
Employees who have worked continuously for the same employer for two years have the right to claim unfair dismissal. This entails that the employer, after the aforementioned period, is no longer free to boot you unless there is a “fair reason” for doing so.
These “fair reasons” are summarised as follows:
- You’re unable to do your job appropriately
- You have indulged in gross misconduct
- Your role is no longer essential to the company’s goals (it’s considered “redundant”)
- There is a legal impediment that prevents you from working
- It’s practically impossible to keep you employed (e.g., the company went bankrupt, the facilities were destroyed, etc.)
- There’s “some other substantial reason” (a clause that covers a wide variety of circumstances)
In most of these cases, the dismissal must be preceded by a procedure, which can be disciplinary (in accordance with the Acas Code of Practice or its principles) or related to performance. If they want to make your job redundant, they should initiate a selection process (more on this below).
Some circumstances allow you to challenge a dismissal even if you don’t fulfil the 2-year rule. For example, suppose you have been dismissed for a reason considered “automatically unfair” based on what UK employment law cover (e.g., your pregnancy, your whistleblower status, or a complaint you made concerning health and safety hazards).
In that case, you could make your unfair dismissal claim from your first working day.
You also enjoy this protection if you were forced to resign due to a serious breach on the employer’s part (constructive dismissal).
Protection Against Illicit Deduction from Wages
If your employer has not paid you what you were due or has failed to pay you altogether, you could claim an unlawful deduction from your wages.
Not all deductions are unlawful, but only those that:
- Are authorised or demanded by law
- Are approved by virtue of the employment contract
Some examples of lawful deductions are those made because you were overpaid in a previous payslip or took part in an industrial action or strike.
If you work in retail, your employer can only deduct 10% of your gross weekly or monthly pay unless it’s your final pay upon termination of the contract.
Your employer must notify you whenever they believe you owe them money. They should also explain how they expect to claim it back.
Flexible working is a type of working that’s suited to the employee’s needs. To illustrate, under a flexible working arrangement, you can (among other things):
- Work from home or other locations
- Enjoy more flexible start and finish times (flexitime)
- Flexible working hours – work a fixed number of annual hours while being able to work a flexible number of weekly hours (annualised hours)
- Work full-time hours over fewer days (compressed hours)
- Share your responsibilities with other workers
To apply for flexible working, you must have been employed by the same organisation for at least 26 weeks and submit your petition in writing, specifying the changes you would like your employer to make to your current working conditions and when you’d want them to take effect.
With some exceptions, all workers have the right to 5.6 weeks of paid holiday per year, consisting of five days per week plus eight more days (including the year’s bank holidays).
Part-time workers are also entitled to 5.6 weeks, though that could translate into fewer days according to their weekly working schedule. For example, if they work three days per week, those 5.6 weeks could amount to approximately 16 days.
Workers (including employees) are typically entitled to three types of breaks: Workplace rests, daily rests, and weekly rests, each with a statutory minimum length.
Workplace rests consist of one uninterrupted 20-minute rest break and a tea or lunch break (for those who are assigned six working hours per day). In the case of daily rests, workers have the right to an uninterrupted 11-hour rest between working days. Lastly, in terms of weekly rest breaks, they should get a continuous 24-hour time off each week or 48 hours off each fortnight.
Employers ought also to grant a sufficient number of breaks to compensate for the worker’s exposure to severe health and safety risks, such as increased vibration levels or repetitive motion (when working in production lines, for example).
Statutory Sick Pay
As an employee, you can qualify for Statutory Sick Pay if you get sick and can’t go to work. Your employer must pay you a minimum of £99.35 per week for up to 28 weeks of sickness.
To be eligible for SSP, you must earn an average of £123 a week and be ill for at least four days in a row. You should get paid for the whole period you were sick except for the first three days (unless the contract states otherwise).
Payment is made in the same manner as your regular wage (e.g., monthly, weekly, etc.)
Statutory Maternity, Paternity, and Adoption Pay and Leave
Women who are expecting can get 52 weeks of maternity leave, split between two periods of 26 weeks each – known as “Ordinary Maternity Leave” and “Additional Maternity Leave”, respectively. You can take this leave at most 11 weeks before the week of childbirth and are mandated to take two weeks off after birth (four if you’re a factory worker).
Paternity leave is for workers whose partners are having a baby via childbirth or surrogacy arrangement. You get 1-2 weeks of paid leave and the leave period starts either:
- At the date of birth; or
- An agreed date after birth or the expected week of childbirth.
If you are adopting a child, the conditions are similar to maternity leave, though you won’t be eligible if your partner already took their adoption leave. At most, you can get paternity leave instead.
The start date of your adoption leave hinges on whether you are applying for a UK adoption (up to 14 days before the adopted child arrives in the household) or an overseas adoption (when the child arrives in the UK or within 28 days of arrival date).
Employees have the right to get paid during these leaves, a right that is not given to other worker categories. This payment can vary and may not be precisely the same amount as your regular weekly or monthly payments.
Parental leave is time off for taking care of children. If you reach one year of service with the same employer, you can take up to four weeks per year for each child under 18 that you are responsible for. The maximum leave period is 18 weeks.
Unless the contract stipulates otherwise, your employer is not obliged to pay you every time you take parental leave.
Statutory Redundancy Pay
Redundancy is a term used to describe the situation by which you are dismissed from your job because the position is no longer required in light of economic or technological reasons. Employers who wish to reduce personnel due to workplace restructuring have to follow a fair selection procedure with measurable criteria and a scoring system whereby their priorities are set.
You are entitled to Statutory Redundancy Pay upon being made redundant, provided that you’ve been employed for two or more continuous years and you hold employee status.
You could lose your right to redundancy pay if:
- You turn down a reasonable offer for an alternative job without justification
- You wanted to leave beforehand
- You are fired for gross misconduct
The amount you receive depends on two main factors: Age and length of service. For each complete year of service, you get the following:
- Younger than 22 years of age: Half a week’s pay
- Ages from 22 to 40: One week’s pay
- Ages 41 or older: 1.5 week’s pay
Minimum Notice Period
Notice period refers to a “grace period” that both parties grant to each other whenever one of them decides to end the relationship without the other party’s fault.
If you worked for the same employer for at least one month, you have the right to one week’s notice at the very least.
This period extends to one additional week’s notice per year of service once you reach two years of continuous employment, with 12 weeks being the maximum you may receive. The contract can specify more extended notice periods.
Payment Equal to or Above the National Minimum Wage
The National Minimum Wage (or national living wage) is the least amount of money you can receive for one working hour according to your age group and is set in conformity with the National Minimum Wage Act 1998.
These rates are reviewed on 1 April of each year. From April 2022 onwards, these are the approved rates:
- Apprentice and workers under 18: £4.81
- Ages 18 to 20: £6.83
- Ages 21 to 22: £9.18
- Ages 23 and older: £9.50
Time Off for Dependants (Compassionate Leave)
UK employment law recognises your right to take time off to deal with emergencies that involve a dependant. A dependant in this context can be:
- Your spouse
- Your partner
- Your child
- Your parent
- A family member who lives in your house
- A person who relies on you for help, such as a lonely elderly neighbour
These emergencies must concern issues that arise unexpectedly and that require your involvement. These are just some examples:
- Your dependant falls ill or gets assaulted or injured.
- Incidents at your dependant’s school
UK employment law safeguards employees and workers who act as whistleblowers. You become a whistleblower when you report specific misdeeds you have witnessed at work that could harm the public interest.
Your employer cannot treat you unfairly or dismiss you based on your whistleblower status. Likewise, if you were to negotiate a settlement agreement, you are not bound to accept “gagging clauses”.
Protection Against Discrimination, Victimisation, Bullying, and Harassment
Employers are prohibited from treating you poorly because of a “protected characteristic” you may have. The protected characteristics mentioned in the Equality Act 2010 are:
- Religion or belief
- Gender reassignment
- Sexual orientation
- Marriage or civil partnership
If you felt excluded (discriminated) by virtue of a measure, action, or policy on the part of your employer, you can make a discrimination claim in an employment tribunal. In like manner, if your manager or employer behaves violently against you as a consequence of a protected characteristic, you could file a harassment claim.
You’re additionally protected against any retaliation from your employer after you spoke against a discriminatory action on their end or supported a discriminated co-worker (victimisation).
On another note, agency workers must be treated equally to their full-time counterparts according to the Agency Workers Regulations 2010. Similarly, fair treatment should also be given to part-time workers.
The right to a healthy and safe working environment
Among the many employment laws in force nowadays, you’ll find health and safety laws. The Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 sets out general duties for employers to keep the working facilities free from hazards and in optimal conditions for employees.
Any failure to abide by these health and safety rules can lead to accidents or personal injuries, which could subsequently be claimable before a court.
How We Can Help
Employment law legislation in the UK is extensive and challenging to navigate through, resulting in employees often feeling defenceless and intimidated.
Our firm is thoroughly trained and equipped to assist employees of any category who need to uphold their rights. You can rely on experts with years of experience and up-to-date knowledge of UK law to walk you through some of the most intricate employment issues you may encounter.
If you want to learn more about the legal services we provide, don’t hesitate to get in contact with us by dialling 0333 305 9375. Our employment solicitors are more than ready to lend their support.
You could take many actions. For example:
- Raise a grievance to your employer or manager
- Try to arrange a conciliation or mediation process with your employer by bringing Acas (the Advisory, Conciliation, and Arbitration Service) or another impartial third party
- Make a claim at an employment tribunal
- Offer a settlement agreement
It’s always recommended to try to reach an amicable resolution with your employer before moving forward with a contentious judicial process.
You certainly can. Your employer is obliged to hand you a written statement containing the main contractual terms on your first day at work. You can raise a complaint to an employment tribunal if you don’t receive one within two months.
TUPE (Transfer of Undertakings) regulations protect employees in these circumstances, meaning that your old and new employers should do everything they can to maintain your current conditions. They would have to consult with you and other employees regarding a possible redundancy process or any change in the conditions and policies.