Your rights at work will depend on:
o your statutory rights (see below), and
o your contract of employment (see below).
Your contract of employment cannot take away rights you have by law. So if, for example, you have a contract which states you are only entitled to two weeks’ paid holiday per year when, by law, all full-time employees are entitled to 28 days’ paid holiday per year, this part of your contract is void and does not apply. The right you have under law (to 28 days’ holiday in this case) applies instead.
If your contract gives you greater rights than you have under law, for example, your contract gives you six weeks’ paid holiday per year, then your contract applies.
There are special rules about the employment of children and young people.
Statutory rights are legal rights based on laws passed by parliament.
Nearly all workers, regardless of the number of hours per week they work, have certain legal rights. There are some workers who are not entitled to certain statutory rights (see below).
Sometimes an employee only gains a right when they have been employed by their employer for a certain length of time, and when this applies, the length of time before the employee gains the right is listed below. Unless you are in the group of workers who are excluded (see Workers not entitled to certain statutory rights), you will have the following statutory rights:
o the right to a written statement of terms of employment within two months of starting work
o the right to an itemised pay slip. This applies from the day the employee starts work.
o the right to be paid at least the national minimum wage. This applies from the day the employee starts work. The current rates (from 1 October 2011) are:
o £6.08 – the main rate for workers aged 21 and over
o £4.98 – the 18-20 rate
o £3.68 – the 16-17 rate for workers above school leaving age but under 18
o £2.60 – the apprentice rate, for apprentices under 19 or 19 or over and in the first year of their apprenticeship
o the right not to have illegal deductions made from pay. This applies from the day the employee starts work.
o the right to paid holiday. Full-time employees are entitled to at least 28 days a year. Part-time employees are entitled to a pro rata amount
o the right to time off for trade union duties and activities. This applies from the day the employee starts work. The time off does not necessarily have to be paid. Employees also have the right to be accompanied by a trade union representative to a disciplinary or grievance hearing. If an employee takes part in official industrial action and is dismissed as a result, this will be an automatically unfair dismissal
o the right to paid time off to look for work if being made redundant. This applies once the employee has worked for two years for that employer
o the right to time off for study or training for 16-17 year olds. This applies from the day the employee starts work
o the right to paid time off for ante natal care. This applies from the day the employee starts work
o the right to paid maternity or paternity leave
o the right to ask for flexible working to care for children or adult dependents
o the right to paid adoption leave
o the right to ask for flexible working
o the right to take unpaid parental leave for both men and women (if you have worked for the employer for one year) and the right to reasonable time off to look after dependants in an emergency (applies from the day the employee starts work)
o the right under health and safety law to work a maximum 48 hour working week. This applies from the day the employee starts work
o the right under health and safety law to weekly and daily rest breaks. This applies from the day the employee starts work. There are special rules for night workers
o the right not to be discriminated against. This applies from the day the employee starts work
o the right to carry on working until you are at least 65
o the right to notice of dismissal, provided you have worked for your employer for at least one calendar month
o the right to written reasons for dismissal from your employer, provided you have worked for your employer for one year. Women who are pregnant or on maternity leave are entitled to written reasons without having to have worked for any particular length of time
o the right to claim compensation if unfairly dismissed. In most cases you will have to have worked for one year to be able to claim unfair dismissal
o the right to claim redundancy pay if made redundant. In most cases you will have to have worked for two years to be able to claim redundancy pay
o the right not to suffer detriment or dismissal for ‘blowing the whistle’ on a matter of public concern (malpractice) at the workplace. This applies from the day the employee starts work
o the right of a part-time worker to the same contractual rights (pro-rata) as a comparable full-time worker
o the right of a fixed-term employee to the same contractual rights as a comparable permanent employee.
You may also have additional rights which may be set out in your contract of employment. In particular, a part-time worker’s contract should be checked.
Workers not entitled to certain statutory rights
Some workers are not entitled to some statutory rights. They are:
o anyone who is not an employee, for example, an agency or freelance worker. However, most workers are entitled to certain rights such as the national minimum wage, limits on working time and other health and safety rights, the right not to be discriminated against and paid holiday.
o employees who normally work outside the UK
o members of the police service. However, members of the police service are covered by discrimination law
o members of the armed forces. However, members of the armed forces are covered by discrimination law
o merchant seamen and share fishermen
o some workers in the transport industry are not entitled to paid holidays or limits on their working hours by law and have to rely on their contract
o trainee doctors are not entitled to paid holidays and have to rely on their employment contract. They are also limited to working a 58 hour week, rather than 48 hours.
Rights under the contract of employment
The contract of employment is the agreement made between the employer and the employee. This could be in the form of a written agreement or what has been agreed verbally between them.
In addition, the contract of employment will also include ‘custom and practice’ agreements. These are how things are usually done in the workplace, for example, if the employer always gives the employees a day’s holiday in August. Even though this is not mentioned in the written contract this will form part of the contract of employment as it is the usual practice.
If the written contract says one thing, but in practice all the employees have been doing something else with the employer’s knowledge and agreement, the ‘custom and practice’ would form the contract rather than the written statement.?A trade union may have negotiated an agreement with an employer about conditions at work. The negotiated agreement will often form part of a contract of employment, particularly if the conditions negotiated are more favourable than the previous ones.
Illegal contracts of employment
Some contracts of employment will be illegal if:
o the employee gets all or part of their wages as ‘cash in hand’; and
o tax and national insurance contributions are not paid; and
o the employee knows they are getting paid in this way to avoid paying national insurance and tax.
More information can be found at adviceguide.org.uk
Remember that these rights are only what is currently legal; they are not the limit of what is possible. Many will have been gained through campaigning workers or through their trade unions. The rights we get are only as good as the rights we demand. It’s up to you.