In England and Wales, employees are protected by employment law. These rights exist to ensure that employees are treated fairly by their employers. They cover things such as pay, discrimination, health and safety, working hours, dismissal procedures, and the rights of new parents.
We provide a brief guide to employee rights in the UK.
Understanding Your Employee Rights
As an employee in England or Wales, some of your employment rights will be set out under the terms of your employment contract. Other rights can be found in various pieces of legislation and these are called your statutory employment rights.
Your employer must adhere to most of these statutory rights as a minimum, but they can choose to include additional terms of employment if they wish. For example, many employees will be offered payment that is more than the National Minimum Wage, and others may receive a holiday allowance that exceeds the required minimum.
An employment contract not only sets out your rights as an employee, but also what your employer expects from you during your employment. This can vary depending on the nature of your role, but it might include things such as the requirement for you to undertake occasional travel, for example.
You should read your employment contract carefully before signing it to determine what your rights are and what your employer expects from you.
Statutory Employment Rights
Most employees in England and Wales are entitled to statutory employment rights. These rights include:
- The National Minimum Wage
- Protection against unlawful deductions from wages
- Statutory minimum amount of paid holiday (5.6 weeks per year for full-time employees)
- Statutory minimum amount of rest breaks (a 20 minute break if working more than 6 hours and a minimum of 11 hours between shifts)
- Maximum of 48 working hours per week (unless they opt out of this)
- Protection against discrimination and unfair dismissal
- Protection as a whistleblower
- Statutory sick pay
- Statutory Redundancy Pay
- Statutory maternity, paternity, adoption and shared parental leave and pay
- Minimum notice period if employer is terminating employment (unless the dismissal is on the grounds of gross misconduct)
- Right to request flexible working
- Right to take unpaid time off to look after dependents in an emergency
While most employees are entitled to these statutory rights, some do require a minimum length of continuous employment before the employee becomes eligible (such as Statutory Redundancy Pay).
What to Do If Your Employee Rights Are Breached
If you believe that your employer has breached the terms of your employment contract, then it's important to speak to an Employment Solicitor.
You should try to have an informal discussion with your manager to raise your concerns. If this does not resolve the issue, then you should speak with a more senior manager or a HR representative.
If this does not resolve matters, the next step is to raise a formal grievance, following your employer's formal grievance procedure. If you require guidance with this process, speak to an Employment Solicitor who will be able to assist you.
If your dispute is still not resolved, you should begin the Early Conciliation process through ACAS (ACAS EC). This gives your employer the opportunity to settle the issue out of Court. The next stage after Early Conciliation is to lodge a claim with the Employment Tribunal for breach of contract.
Note that there are strict deadlines to adhere to when bringing a claim with the Employment Tribunal, which will usually be 3 months (less 1 day) from the date that the contract breach occurred. For this reason it's important not to delay if you believe you may have grounds to make a claim.