Basic rights at work | Redmans Solicitors

Your basic rights at work

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Your employment rights at work

This article lists some of the key rights at work that workers have – please note that this is not a comprehensive summary and that the areas of law described below are far more complex than set out here. You should seek specialist legal advice if you believe that your employment rights have been breached by your employer.

Your statutory rights at work

You have the following employment rights under UK statute:

  • The right to a written statement of terms and conditions within two months of the date that you start your employment
  • The right to receive statutory minimum notice of the termination of your employment (once you have been employed for at least one month)
  • The right to receive an itemised payslip
  • The right to be paid at least the national minimum wage (this right starts from the date that you commenced employment)
  • The right not to have deductions made from your pay without your express written consent (this right starts from the date that you commenced employment)
  • The right to receive paid holiday
  • The right to have a reasonable period of time off work for trade union duties and activities
  • The right to not be discriminated against (this right starts from the date that you commenced employment)
  • The right not to be harassed or victimized (this right starts from the date that you commenced employment)
  • The right to paid time off work to look for alternative employment if you’re made redundant (you normally have to have worked continuously for your employer for at least two years to qualify for this right)
  • The right to receive statutory redundancy pay (you normally have to have worked continuously for your employer for at least two years to qualify for this right)
  • The right to receive paid maternity leave (this right starts from the date that you commenced employment)
  • The right to receive paid paternity leave (this right starts from the date that you commenced employment)
  • The right to reasonable time off work for ante-natal care (this right starts from the date that you commenced employment)
  • The right to request flexible working
  • The right to carry on working until you are at least 65
  • The right to claim compensation if you have been unfairly dismissed (from 6 April 2012 to qualify for this right you normally have to have worked continuously for your employer for at least two years. If you commenced employment with your employer prior to 6 April 2012 then this period is reduced to one year’s continuous service)
  • The right to written reasons for your dismissal (this right starts from the date that you commenced employment)
  • The right not to be subjected to a detriment or dismissed because you have made a protected disclosure (more commonly known as “blowing the whistle”) (this right starts from the date that you commenced employment)
  • The right to receive the same terms and conditions as a full-time worker if you are a part-time worker (this right starts from the date that you commenced employment)
  • The right to receive the same terms and conditions as a permanent employee if you are a fixed-term worker (this right starts from the date that you commenced employment)
  • The right to work the maximum of a 48-hour working week under health and safety laws (this right starts from the date that you commenced employment)
  • The right to have daily and weekly rest breaks (this right starts from the date that you commenced employment)
  • The right to reasonable unpaid time off work to care for dependants in an emergency(this right starts from the date that you commenced employment)
  • The right to take unpaid parental leave for both men and women (if you have worked for your employer for one year or more)

As well as possessing statutory employment rights, you may also have other rights which are set out in your contract of employment.

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Written statement of terms and conditions

If you are an “employee” then you are entitled to receive, within two months of the start of your employment, a “written statement of particulars” of your employment. A “written statement of particulars” is not necessarily a contract of employment but a contract of employment will normally include the information required in the particulars.

This particulars must contain, among other things:

  • The name of your employer
  • The date on which your employment commenced
  • The rates of pay or methods of calculating your pay
  • The frequency with which you will be paid
  • Your hours of work
  • Terms relating to holidays
  • Your job title or a brief description of your work

If the terms of your employment are changed at any point then you should be informed in writing within one month of the change.

If no proper statement of your particulars of employment are supplied within two months then you can make an Employment Tribunal claim for determination of your particulars.

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Wages

You are entitled to be paid the national minimum wage and your employer must not discriminate against you in the payment of your wages because of any protected characteristic you possess (e.g. your age, race, sex or disability, among other things).

Your employer is under an obligation to provide you with a written statement which contains details of your wages (see above under “Written statement of terms and conditions”) and to also provide you with written itemised pay statements (normally payslips). Your employer is also only entitled to make deductions from your wages in certain restricted circumstances.

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Holidays and holiday pay

Your entitlement to holiday and holiday pay must be set out in your written statement of particulars (see above under “Written statement of terms and conditions”).

Under UK law you are entitled to receive minimum paid annual leave of 5.6 weeks if you are a full-time worker. This equates to 28 days’ leave per annum, which is the maximum that you can receive as your statutory entitlement. However, if the amount of annual leave that you are entitled to is greater in your contract of employment (i.e. 29 days or more) then you are entitled to take that amount.

Leave must be taken in the leave year which it is due and cannot be paid “in lieu”, except upon the termination of your employment. You do not have a statutory right to “carry over” your holiday but you may be entitled to do so under your contract of employment. As usual, this is the first place you should look to determine whether you can do this.

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Sickness and sick pay

Your entitlement to sick pay should be set out in your written statement of particulars (see above under “Written statement of terms and conditions”). There are two ‘types’ of sick pay that you may be entitled to under your contract: statutory sick pay and/or contractual sick pay.

You are not automatically entitled to your full wages when you are off sick but you are entitled to receive statutory sick pay (“SSP”) for a period of up to 28 weeks’ sickness absence in any one year. However, you are only able to obtain statutory sick pay if you meet the following conditions:

  • You are an “employee”
  • You are not excluded from claiming SSP (e.g. you earn below the “lower earnings limit”)
  • You are incapable of doing your work for a relevant reason (i.e. you have a disease or body or mental disablement, or are certified as carrying an infectious disease)
  • You have been incapable of doing your work for at least four consecutive days (including days you do not normally work e.g. weekends)

SSP is paid at a flat weekly rate: £87.55 (as of the time of writing).

As well as having a statutory entitlement to sick pay, you may also have a contractual right to sick pay which is more advantageous than your statutory right. This right may either be “express” (i.e. in your contract) or “implied”.

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Maternity rights

You have certain rights if you are pregnant or on maternity leave. These are detailed elsewhere (please see below) but are briefly summarised here:

  • The right to take maternity leave
  • The right to receive maternity pay whilst on maternity leave
  • The right to return to the same job after the maternity leave finishes unless this is not reasonably practicable
  • The right not to be discriminated against because you are pregnant or on maternity leave
  • The right, if you are pregnant, for a risk assessment to be undertaken of your workplace and for you to be paid if you have to take any time off because your workplace is unsafe
  • The right to reasonable time off work for antenatal care

Please see the guides listed below for more information on your maternity and pregnancy rights:

  • Pregnancy and maternity discrimination – an explanation

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Paternity rights

There are two types of paternity leave: Ordinary Paternity Leave and Additional Paternity Leave.

You are entitled to take Ordinary Paternity leave in one of two situations:

Firstly, if you have responsibility for the child’s upbringing and are either the father of the child, or married to or the partner of the child’s mother. You must also have been continuously employed for at least 26 weeks with your employer, ending with the week immediately preceding the 14th week before the expected week of childbirth.

Secondly, if you are married to or the partner of the child’s adopter.

If you are entitled to take Ordinary Paternity Leave then you can claim statutory paternity pay at 90% of your weekly pay or £128.73, whatever is less.

You are also entitled to take Additional Paternity Leave in certain circumstances.

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Time off to care for dependants

You are entitled to take a reasonable period of paid time off work to care for dependants in any of the following circumstances:

  • To provide assistance if a dependant is injured or assaulted, falls ill or gives birth
  • If a dependant of yours has died
  • If there has been an unexpected disruption or termination of normal arrangements for the care of a dependant
  • If you have to make arrangements for a dependant who is ill or injured
  • To deal with an unexpected incident involving your child which occurs whilst your child is at an educational establishment

A dependant is one of the following:

  • Spouse
  • Civil partner
  • Child
  • Parent
  • Person who lives in your household (other than a tenant, lodger or employee)

In order to qualify for the right for time off to care for dependants, you must inform your employer as soon as reasonably practicable of the reason for your absence and how long you expect to be absent. How much time is “reasonable” to take off depends on the circumstances of the individual incident.

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Right to request flexible working

You have the right to request flexible working (e.g. working part-time, working flexi-time, working from home etc.) if you have worked for your employer for at least 26 weeks. However, although your employer must seriously consider any request and give a good business reason if they refuse a request, your employer doesn’t have to agree to this.

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Right to request time off for training

You have the right to request time off work for training but your employer does not have to agree to this request. Equally, your employer does not have to pay you for this time off if you do make such a request.

You have the right to request time off for training if:

  • You are defined as an “employee”
  • You have had continuous employment with your employer of at least 26 weeks; and
  • The organisation that you work for has 250 or more employees

You do not possess this right if you already qualify for paid time off work to study or train (e.g. if you are 16-18).

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Trade unions

An employee has the right to join a trade union, and should not be refused a job, dismissed, harassed or selected for redundancy because they are a member of or wish to join a trade union.

An employee also has the right not to join a trade union if they wish, and should not be refused a job, dismissed, harassed or selected for redundancy because they refused to join.

A member of a trade union has the right to take part in trade union activities, for example, recruiting members, collecting subscriptions and attending meetings

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Discrimination

You are protected from discrimination at work because of a protected characteristic (your age, disability, sex, race, gender orientation, sexual orientation, pregnancy or maternity, religious or philosophical belief, or your marital status). There are various types of discrimination:

  • Direct discrimination (s.13 Equality Act 2010)
  • Indirect discrimination s.19 Equality Act 2010)
  • Failure to make reasonable adjustments for your disability (s.20 Equality Act 2010)
  • Discrimination arising from disability (s.15 Equality Act 2010)

If you believe that you have been discriminated against in the course of your employment then you can make an Employment Tribunal claim and may be able to claim compensation.

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Harassment

You are protected from being harassed at work because of a protected characteristic (your age, disability, sex, race, gender orientation, sexual orientation, pregnancy or maternity, religious or philosophical belief, or your marital status). There are three types of harassment that could occur at work:

  • Harassment – unwanted conduct which has the purpose or effect of humiliating you or creating an offensive environment at work etc. (s.26(1) Equality Act 2010)
  • Sexual harassment – unwanted sexual conduct which has the purpose or effect of humiliating you or creating an offensive environment at work etc. (s.26(2) Equality Act 2010)
  • ‘Further’ harassment – where you are subjected to further unwanted conduct because you have previously rejected or submitted to harassment (s.26(3) Equality Act 2010)

You can read more about unlawful harassment at work under the Equality Act 2010 in the following guides:

  • Sexual harassment – an explanation

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Bullying at work

Your employer should protect you from being bullied at work. The Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (ACAS) has useful guidance on its website (www.acas.org.uk) as to what you should do if you’re being bullied at work and your employer’s obligations if you are being bullied. If you are being bullied at work then you may be able to bring claims for constructive dismissal, discrimination and/or harassment (if you are being bullied because of a protected characteristic that you or someone else possesses i.e. age, disability, race, sex etc.), or under the Protection from Harassment Act 1998. Again, you should seek expert legal advice if you are being bullied at work as it can be a particularly sensitive issue.

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Whistleblowing

Workers are protected against victimization in the workplace if they have disclosed certain categories of information, such as, for example, that a criminal offence has taken place or that the health and safety of any individual has been endangered (among other things). If a whistleblower has made such a disclosure then they must not be subjected to a detriment or dismissal because they have disclosed this information – if they are subjected to a detriment or dismissed then they have the right to make a claim to the Employment Tribunal. It is “automatically unfair” to dismiss a whistleblower because they have disclosed relevant information. However, an important requirement of the legal protection for whistleblowers is that any disclosure of information made is made in good faith.

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Making complaints

If you believe that you are being unfairly treated at work (for example, if you believe that you are being discriminated against or harassed), you should consider submitting a formal or informal grievance to your employer to complain about this treatment and to attempt to obtain some form of redress. The purpose of grievances is to give employees a way to raise issues with the management about their working environment or work relationships. Employees should normally first address the matter informally before bringing a formal grievance but, of course, the method employed in each situation depends upon the individual circumstance.

An employee has an implied contractual right to have a grievance dealt with promptly. If your employer fails to deal with your grievance promptly or fairly, or simply fails to address it altogether, then you may be able to make a claim for constructive dismissal or discrimination to the Employment Tribunal. However, you should seek expert legal advice before taking such a step.

The ACAS Code on Discipline and Grievances at Work can be found here.

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Notice of dismissal

Employees have the right to receive a certain amount of statutory minimum notice of the termination of their contract of employment, although they may be entitled to receive a greater amount of notice if their contract of employment stipulates this. An employer must give at least the following amount of statutory minimum notice to their employees if they are terminating the contract of employment:

  • One week’s notice if the employee has been employed for more than one month but less than two years
  • One further week’s notice for every year of full continuous service after the first two years, up to a maximum of 12 weeks (for example, an employee with 17 years’ service would only be entitled to statutory notice of termination of 12 weeks)

If you wish to resign from your employment then there is a statutory requirement that you must provide at least one weeks’ notice (if you have worked for your employer for one month or more). However, you may be required to provide more notice if your contract of employment stipulates such – it is common for contracts of employment to stipulate that the employee must give the employer at least one month’s notice of termination.

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Dismissal from work

Your employer has an obligation under the Employment Rights Act 1996 to dismiss you fairly from your job, should certain conditions be met.

If you have been dismissed from your employment then, in order to make a claim for unfair dismissal, you must:

  • Have at least two years’ continuous employment (if you commenced employment on or after 6 April 2012) with your employer or an associated employer of theirs
  • Be an “employee” (i.e. have a contract of employment – this can be written or unwritten)

If you think that you have been unfairly dismissed from your employment then you must make a claim in the Employment Tribunal within three months less one day of the date of your dismissal (although the new ACAS Early Conciliation process complicates Employment Tribunal limitation date calculation). If you are successful with your claim for unfair dismissal then you may be awarded compensation for any loss of earnings that you have suffered.

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Redundancies and redundancy payments

You have the following redundancy-related rights:

  • The right to receive statutory redundancy pay (you normally have to have worked continuously for your employer for at least two years to qualify for this right)
  • The right to reasonable time off work to look for alternative employment (you normally have to have worked continuously for your employer for at least two years to qualify for this right)
  • The right not to be unfairly dismissed for the reason of redundancy (if you started work on or after 6 April 2012 then you normally have to have worked continuously for your employer for at least two years to qualify for this right)
  • The right to a certain period of collective consultation with your employer if 20 or more employees are being made redundant (the period of time for consultation differs depending upon how many employees are being made redundant)

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References

You do not have a positive right to receive a reference from your employer but any reference that your employer gives must not be negligent, defamatory or discriminatory. You may also have a right to receive a certain type of reference in certain circumstances (such as if, for example, you have signed a contract – such as a settlement agreement – with your employer or if a reference is required by a relevant regulatory body, such as the Financial Conduct Authority).

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Personnel records and requesting personal data

You have the right under the Data Protection Act 1998 to request to see certain data relating to you that your employer holds. If you wish to obtain personal data then you must make a written request and pay a fee of up to £10 – this is called a “subject access request”.

You are entitled to a description of any personal data held on you, its purposes, and the recipients to whom the data may be disclosed. The employer must show the data to you in an intelligible form and, provided it is possible, must give you a hard copy to keep. The employer must also give you information on the source of the data except where it identifies an individual that is not you.

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Monitoring at work

There is no absolute right not to be monitored at work, especially if you have been informed in advance that monitoring may take place. Employer should comply with the Data Protection Code, although the Code does not amount to law itself.

The Code states that workers have a legitimate expectation to a degree of privacy in the workplace. This therefore means that (among other things):

  • Private information monitoring is intrusive and should be avoided if possible
  • Any monitoring carried out should be for a clear purpose and justified, where possible, by an impact assessment
  • Workers should normally be made aware of the nature, extent and reasons for any monitoring
  • Continuous audio and video surveillance is particularly intrusive and can only be justified only in exceptional circumstances

The law on privacy is complicated and developing, and the above is only a brief summary of workers’ rights.

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Health and safety at work

Your employer has obligations to you under UK health and safety legislation. A brief summary of these are provided below:

  • Your employer has a duty to take reasonable care for the health and safety of its workers. A breach of this duty may entitle you to bring a legal claim against your employer (e.g. for personal injury)
  • Your employer should undertake risk assessments at work to evaluate the risks that their work practices pose to the health and safety of their workers

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Enforcing rights at work

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Obtaining advice on your employment rights at work

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