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10 Employee Rights You Should Know

What are employee rights?

In the workplace, everyone has rights. Employee rights are the moral or legal rights that an employee has to have or do something in the workplace to ensure that they are treated fairly. These rights, however, differ depending on your employment statuses, such as whether you are an employee or a worker.

  • A worker is someone who has a contract or arrangement to do work or services personally for a reward, which can be money or a benefit in kind.
  • An employee is someone who has an employment contract from their employer to do regular work.

All employees are workers, but not all workers are employees. An employee has all the rights a worker has, plus some extra rights and responsibilities.

You may have to be employed for a minimum, continuous period of time before you qualify for some employee rights. 

10 employee rights you should know

1. You must receive a payslip

A payslip should be given on or before the day you are paid. It must include a detailed breakdown of your pay for the relevant time period, as well as any deductions such as tax and NI.

Your employer has the option of providing payslips on paper or electronically.

A paystub for an employee must include the following information:

total pay before and after deductions (the gross amount and net amount respectively)

Variable deductions, vary depending on the amount of money you earn. Tax, National Insurance, Student Loan Repayments, and Pension Contributions are all examples of variable deductions.

Deductions that are set in stone. These can also be explained in a separate statement that must be sent out before the first payslip is issued and updated annually.

Your tax code may be included on your pay stub.

2. You must not be discriminated against.

Discrimination occurs when someone is treated unfairly in the workplace because of characteristics protected under the Equality Act 2010.

These protected characteristics are:

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

Discrimination can be direct or indirect.

Direct discrimination occurs when an individual is treated unfairly because of a protected characteristic. For example, direct discrimination would occur if a pregnant woman was absent due to morning sickness and her employer used this as justification for disciplinary action against her attendance record.
Indirect discrimination occurs when rules that apply to a group of employees or applicants are reasonable in theory but less so in practice when it comes to a specific protected characteristic. If all employees are required to work one Saturday a month, for example, this would be indirect discrimination against Jewish employees because Saturday is a religious day for them.

Discrimination can be justified in some cases, which is known as objective justification. For example, if a surgeon’s eyesight has deteriorated to the point where they are unable to perform operations, the surgeon’s employer would be justified in modifying the surgeon’s responsibilities to protect patients.

If you believe you are being discriminated against at work, you have the following options:

  • Check to see if you are protected by the law.
  • Check to see if your employer is liable.
  • Determine the type of discrimination that applies to your situation (there may be more than one situation)
  • You can then decide what to do next, including whether or not to seek legal advice.

3. Health and safety laws apply to your working environment.

Employers are required by the Health and Safety at Work Act (1974) to provide a safe and healthy working environment for their employees. This includes providing toilets, washbasins, and clean drinking water, as well as keeping the workplace clean, ventilated, and well lit, as well as maintaining any equipment used.

4. Statutory sick pay

Eligible employees can get Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) of £95.85 per week. You must:

  • Have done some work for your employer
  • Earn an average of at least £120 per week before tax
  • Been ill, self-isolating or shielding for at least four days in a row (including non-working days)

You can get SSP for up to 28 weeks. How many days you can get it depends on why you’re off work.

  • If you’re shielding from coronavirus, you can get SSP for the period specified in the letter advising you to shield.
  • If you’re self-isolating, you can get SSP for every day if you have to self-isolate, if you’re unable to work from home. You must self-isolate for a minimum of four days to qualify.
  • If you’re off sick for reasons unrelated to coronavirus, you can get SSP from the fourth day you’re off sick. The three days before this are known as “waiting days” – you can only be paid for them if you’ve already received SSP within the last eight weeks, and that included a three-day waiting period

5. Statutory maternity and paternity rights

Maternity leave and pay

Leave

Employees have the right to take Statutory Maternity Leave, which is 52 weeks. 

  • The first 26 weeks is known as Ordinary Maternity Leave
  • The last 26 weeks is known as Additional Maternity Leave

You don’t have to take all 52 weeks. However, you must take two weeks’ leave after your baby is born, or four weeks if you’re employed by a factory.

All your employee rights are protected while you’re on maternity leave.

Pay

Statutory Maternity Pay (SMP) is paid for up to 39 weeks, in the same way as your wages. You receive 90% of your average weekly earnings before tax for the first six weeks. For the next 33 weeks, you receive either £151.20 or 90% of your average weekly earnings – whichever is lower.

You qualify for SMP if you:

  • Earn at least £120 a week (on average)
  • Give your employer at least 28 days’ notice
  • Give your employer proof you’re pregnant (a doctor or midwife’s letter or your MATB1 certificate)
  • Have worked for your employer continuously for at least 26 weeks continuing into the qualifying week, which is the 15th week before the expected week of childbirth

SMP starts at the same time as your maternity leave.

Paternity leave and pay

Leave

Employees have the right to take paternity leave if their partner has a baby, providing they give the correct notice. You must have been continuously employed by the same employer for at least 26 weeks up to any day in the 15th week before the baby is due (known as the qualifying week).

You can choose to take one or two weeks. They must be taken in one go and your leave must end within 56 days of the birth.

All your employee rights are protected while you’re on paternity leave.

Pay

The statutory weekly rate of your paternity pay is either £151.20, or 90% of your average weekly earnings, depending on which is lower. This money will be paid in the same way as your wages.

You qualify for paternity pay if:

  • You are employed by your employer up to the date of the birth
  • You have been continuously employed by your employer for at least 26 weeks up to any day in the 15th week before the baby is due
  • You earn at least £120 per week before tax
  • You give your employer notice using the SC3 form, at least 15 weeks before the baby is due

6. You are allowed to request flexible working

Employees who have worked for the same company for at least 26 weeks have the right to request flexible working arrangements (known as making a statutory application). This application is only available once a year.

You must write to your employer to make the request and include the following information:

  • The date
  • A statement that this is a statutory request
  • Details of how you want to work flexibly
  • When you want to start
  • An explanation of how flexible working could affect the business and how this can be dealt with
  • A statement saying if and when you made a previous application for flexible working

Your employer must make a decision within three months. They must change the terms and conditions in your contract if they grant your request. If they refuse it, they must explain the business reasons behind their decision. You can complain to a tribunal if you have a case.

7. You are entitled to time off for annual leave

Employers must provide employees who work a five-day week at least 28 days of paid annual leave per year. This can include bank holidays.

You can accrue holiday entitlement during maternity, paternity, and adoption leave and while off sick

8. Minimum notice periods

A minimum notice period is the length of time your employer must give you before your employment ends, or that you give an employer before you leave their service. Both of these should be detailed in your contract.

There are statutory minimum notice periods:

  • One week’s notice must be given you have worked between one month and two years
  • You are entitled to one week for every year worked, up to a maximum of 12 weeks, if you have worked between two and 12 years

The minimum statutory notice periods apply even if your employment contract states a shorter length of time. If your contract gives a higher notice period, you have the right to receive a longer notice period.

9. Statutory redundancy pay

You have the right to receive statutory redundancy pay if you’ve been working for your employer for two or more years, with a length of service capped at 20 years. You’ll receive:

  • Half a week’s pay for each full year you were under 22
  • One week’s pay for each full year you were between the ages of 22 and 40
  • One-and-a-half week’s pay for each full year you were aged 41 or more

Weekly pay is calculated as the average you earned per week over the 12 weeks before the day you received your redundancy notice. You can calculate your redundancy pay on the government website.

10. Protection against unfair dismissal

Employers must give a lawful reason if they choose to terminate an employment contract. They must also give the agreed amount of notice in the contract (unless this is lower than the statutory minimum notice period), and follow a fair procedure throughout the process.

A fair dismissal occurs for one of the following reasons:

  1. Your conduct
  2. Your ability to do the job
  3. Redundancy
  4. You no longer meet a legal requirement necessary to carry out your job (for example, if you had to drive but lost your license)

You can also have your contract terminated for some other substantial reason outside of these four.

There are some cases where the dismissal would be considered unfair.

You must have been continuously employed by your employer for a minimum of two years in order to be legally protected against unfair dismissal. However, there are some instances of unfair dismissal where you’re protected from your first day.

These include:

  • Being a member of a trade union
  • Refusing to give up a statutory right, such as the right to a break or asking for flexible working hours
  • Whistleblowing (if you report wrongdoing you’ve seen at work)
  • Being dismissed because of a protected characteristic, such as race, religion, pregnancy or sexual orientation

Employers must pay former employees compensation if an employment tribunal decides their dismissal was unfair. This can be up to one year’s pay, capped at £86,444 (whichever is lower).

Make note of your rights as an employee and you will be able to identify when they are not being met. If you do need to seek legal advice, contact our dedicated team of employment lawyers.


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