Employer rights and responsibilities in the UK

10 January 2020

As a business owner you have legal commitments to your employees. But your staff must also respect your processes and procedures.

It’s your responsibility to make sure your business adheres to the regulations across your industry. That may range from specific health & safety laws through to employment law considerations.

We’ll take you through what you must keep in mind through this guide. But, remember, you can also call us on 0800 028 2420 for immediate assistance.

Employer rights in the workplace

Although the majority of employment laws govern how you must respect your staff’s privileges, you do have certain rights from your employees.

But what are the rights of an employer? Well, you have the right to expect from employees high-quality work based around their role, as well as adhering to the company policies you have in place.

One of the ways to establish what to expect from staff is with a contract of employment and company handbooks.

When your employee signs this, it’s a legally binding contract that determines what their duties are in and around your working environment.

They must complete these tasks to a satisfactory level. If they don’t, over time if their performance doesn’t improve you can dismiss them from their role.

For all employees, you also have the right to expect them to stick to your working week. Employees should arrive on time and not leave before their designated finish time.

All members of staff should also follow the various policies and procedures you have in place across your business. Here are some examples of employer rights:

  • Health & safety procedures (such as your fire emergency evacuation process).
  • Anti-theft policies.
  • Anti-fraudulence policies.
  • Anti-discrimination policies.

However, you can also focus on other policies. For example, you may wish to establish a mobile phone policy to limit procrastination.

 Another common workplace example is to request a stop to all office gossiping.

There are many common workplace problems such as this you may want to address. If you establish them in your contracts of employment or handbook, and the employee signs it, then you have the right to expect them to adhere to your regulations.

Another common issue regards employer rights to search employees. Staff may find this a contentious issue—an invasion of their privacy—but if you have an employee theft policy then it’s, under reasonable circumstances, possible.

In this, you can explain to staff you have the right to search lockers, bags, and vehicles in the event of an investigation due to theft.

Employee rights at work

There are a wide range of requirements to meet, many of which are due to current laws—such as the Equality Act 2010 and Employment Rights Act 1996.

The 1996 Act is one of the most inclusive pieces of employment law legislation. It covers the essentials you need to provide for your members of staff.

As soon as an employee starts working for you, they’re entitled to statutory rights. Even during the recruitment stage, it’s important to remember to treat each candidate fairly.

These rights relate to:

  • Health & safety practices.
  • Terms and conditions of employment.
  • Equal opportunities.

There are certain duties as a business you must provide to your staff. These include:

  • Payment of at least the National Minimum Wage (NMW).
  • An itemised payslip to all staff with a breakdown of deductions—such as for National Insurance.
  • A safe and clean working environment with appropriate first aid equipment.
  • Daily rest breaks of at least 20 minutes, if the individual works for more than six hours a day. 
  • Following a 48-hour average working week.
  • Offering annual leave with pay.
  • The correct notice period for a respective employee.
  • Offer the correct sick, redundancy, maternity, and paternity pay for eligible employees.

You should also look to assist any disabled employees, through reasonable adjustments, in and around the workplace. And that includes during recruitment.

Failing to do so can result in a discrimination claim at an employment tribunal.

This means it’s essential to understand the nine protected characteristics, as part of the Equality Act 2010. These are:

  1. Gender reassignment.
  2. Marriage and civil partnership.
  3. Pregnancy and maternity.
  4. Religion or belief.
  5. Sexual orientation.

It’s possible to discriminate directly or indirectly. So you should familiarise yourself with the above characteristics and focus on creating fair and consistent policies for all members of staff.

This’ll ensure you don’t breach employee rights and, instead, foster a positive working environment that promotes equality and productivity.

How Peninsula Business Services can help

Understanding the rights of employees, and where your business stands on a legal basis, is a complex task. It can also take your attention away from daily business running.

Employment laws ensure full-time and part-time employees have basic rights you need to respect. It’s the same for workers.

You can contact us and request a call back—we’ll talk you through the responsibilities you have to your workforce.

The rights of workers

It’s important to understand the difference between an employee and any workers you may have at your business. Here’s how they differ:

  • Employee status: An individual working for you under a contract of employment.
  • Worker status: Essentially halfway between an employee and someone who’s self-employed. They have fewer rights, but you still have to respect certain laws surrounding their employment status.

For eligible workers, you should also look to offer them the following statutory rights:

  • Entitlement to NMW.
  • Sick pay.
  • Redundancy pay.
  • Maternity leave entitlements.
  • Paternity leave entitlements.
  • Adoption leave rights.
  • Shared parental leave.

Other worker rights include protection from:

  • The unlawful deduction from wages.

Workers can also be self-employed. If they do this they receive no statutory employment rights, other than protection from discrimination law. 

The recruitment process

You should also be aware your recruitment strategy must factor in the rights of job candidates.

Don't discriminate against an individual who applies. Make sure you’re not breaching any British laws in any aspect of your hiring strategy.

For example, a common breach on job specifications is down to ageism. You may write on a job spec that a candidate must be of a specific age to apply—it is likely to breach the Equality Act 2010.

Similarly, when you’re in an interviewing phase you must look to treat all candidates fairly.

This includes disabled candidates, for whom you should make reasonable adjustments to ensure they can access your premises for an interview.

Employer’s health & safety requirements

The Health & Safety at Work Act 1974 is the legislation that protects employee and worker rights in the UK.

It’s essential that you follow guidelines to ensure your staff are safe in and around your working environment. If you fail to do so, serious accidents or even deaths may occur.

And that can result in unlimited fines from an employment tribunal—in severe cases, it can also lead to the closure of a business.

The occupational health & safety employer rights and responsibilities are varied. But they’re all essential. The most common examples include:

Some businesses fail to take the safety of employees seriously—this can lead to serious consequences.

Injuries at work can lead to drops in productivity while an employee recovers. So training on seemingly basic points is essential—such as how to correctly pick up items around work.

And while every business and industry has different risks to face, your employees still have the same rights—to work in as safe as an environment as possible.

Need more help?

Get in touch with us for assistance across any of your employment law, human resources, or health & safety needs: 0800 028 2420.

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