Every employer needs to know what their employees and workers are entitled to. They also need to know the different types of employment status and how they may affect a worker's rights.
Get it wrong and you may find yourself facing an employment tribunal. This could lead to costly fines, reputational damages, and in some instances, business closure.
In this guide, we'll cover what employment rights are, what your staff are entitled to, and what rights you need to be aware of.
What are statutory employment rights?
Statutory rights are the basic rights that an employee or worker is legally entitled to. They form the basis of fair treatment in the workplace and can be in place from day one of employment.
Employees and workers are sometimes eligible for contractual rights. These are in addition to statutory rights and are at the discretion of their employer. Any additional rights that an employer chooses to give to their staff should be stated within their employment terms or contract.
What does the law say about employment rights?
The Employment Rights Act 1996 (ERA) dictates the rights of employees under UK law.
The act combines and updates previous legislation such as:
- The Contracts of Employment Act 1963.
- The Redundancy Payments Act 1965.
- The Employment Protection Act 1975.
The Employment Rights Act 1996 applies to employees across the whole of the UK, including Scotland and Northern Ireland.
The Employment Rights Act covers areas such as unfair dismissal, redundancy payments, protection of wages and other crucial rights that we will explore below.
How does employment status affect employee rights?
Employment status determines whether someone is an employee, worker, or self-employed.
While all employees are workers, not all workers are employees. This means that an employee has all the rights of a worker, as well as some additional benefits.
What statutory rights are employees entitled to?
An employee willhave an employment contract with their employer. This can be a written, verbal, or implied agreement to undertake regular and frequent work.
Day one employee rights
Your employment contract should contain the statutory rights that an employee is entitled to from day one of employment. These are laid out within the Employment Rights Act and include:
- Employment particulars, such as the conditions of the employee contract.
- Statutory sick pay.
- Paid annual leave.
- Adoption leave.
- Equal pay.
- Protection under TUPE.
- Weekly and daily rest periods.
Employees also have the right to not be discriminated against during the job selection process due to any protected characteristic.
Employee rights after a month
After one month of employment, employees begin to receive further legal rights. These include:
- The right to one week's notice of dismissal (employees may be entitled to a longer notice period depending on what is stated in their contract).
- Paid guarantee pay if you are laid off (this is when an employer implements layoffs due to a lack of work).
An employee’s statutory minimum notice increases with length of service. For example, after two years of service, an employee is entitled to two weeks’ notice. This increases by one week per year up to a maximum of 12 weeks after 12 years of service.
Employee rights after two years of service
After two years of service, an employee is entitled to further rights. These include:
- The right to claim unfair dismissal in an employment tribunal
- Statutory redundancy pay (the amount an employee is entitled to will depend on their age, pay and length of service)
- The right to request a written reason for dismissal
An employee is entitled to a written reasons for dismissal from day one if they are dismissed while on statutory maternity leave.
While employees must have two years of service before they can claim unfair dismissal, they receive protection against whistleblowing from day one.
A worker is classified as someone with a contract or arrangement to do work for a business. They are entitled to be paid the national minimum wage.
Unlike employees, workers do not receive further rights depending on the length of the contract. However, from their first day of work they should receive:
- National minimum wage.
- Protection against unlawful deduction from wages.
- Statutory paid holiday.
- Statutory rest breaks: Both weekly and daily breaks.
- Fair working hours: Under the Working Time Directive.
- Protection against discrimination.
- Protection for 'whistleblowers'.
Workers may receive some statutory employment rights. These include sick pay, maternity, paternity, adoption and shared parental pay.
However, there are some rights that workers do not receive. Workers are not entitled to:
- A minimum notice period.
- Protection against unfair dismissal.
- The right to request flexible working hours.
- Time off for
- Statutory redundancy pay.
Before they’re offered a job, an agency must provide workers with a key information document and terms of engagement. These should be given in writing and provide a detailed breakdown of their employment terms.
A key information document covers what an employee will be paid and what deductions will be applied. It must also include information about their expected rate of pay, who they will be paid by and any benefits that they are entitled to.
From day one, they should receive the right to use all shared facilities and services provided by a hirer. For example, the use of a canteen, workplace creche, or car parking facilities.
After 12 weeks of employment, agency workers qualify for the same rights as someone employed directly by a business. This is known as 'equal treatment'. Equal treatment rights include:
- The right to receive the same pay as a permanent colleague doing the same job.
- Automatic pension enrolment.
- Paid annual leave.
Someone is considered self-employed if they run their own business. This means that they can be hired by another company through contracting. However, as they are not paid through PAYE (pay as you earn), they do not have the same rights and responsibilities as an employee.
Despite this, they are entitled to:
- Protection under health & safety laws.
- The right to not be discriminated against.
- The rights set out in the contract between them and a client.
An individual may be self-employed for tax purposes but have a different employment status under UK law. Employers need to check a worker's status of employment to ensure that they are in line with relevant employment law.
Part-time workers rights
Part-time workers are protected from being treated less favourably than full-time staff. Full and part-time workers under the same employer should receive equal:
- Pay rates (Including sick pay, adoption, paternity and maternity leave and pay).
- Pension and benefits opportunities
- Holiday entitlement
- Training and career opportunities
- Promotion, transfer and redundancy treatment
Some benefits are applied 'pro-rata'. This means that they are in proportion to hours worked. For example, a part-time worker should receive 5.6 week’ annual leave pro-rata,
Part-time workers also don't have an automatic right to overtime pay. They may only receive it when they have worked more than the normal hours of a full-time worker.
The Equality Act is in place to prevent all workers from being treated unfairly by their employers. The act protects the following characteristics:
The act requires employers to treat all staff fairly and make reasonable adjustments when needed. For example, if a disabled worker requires adjustments to help aid their day-to-day responsibilities, the employer should consider any reasonable changes.
Only an employee can issue an unfair dismissal claim. However, anyone can raise a discrimination claim over a protected characteristic. This can result in an employer being taken to an employment tribunal. Here a judge or tribunal panel, will decide whether an employer has followed a fair procedure in line with the ACAS Code of Practice.
Eligible employees are entitled to time off following the birth of a baby. This could be classed as Maternity, Paternity or Parental leave.
Statutory maternity leave is 52 weeks long and is split into two 26-week periods. These are ordinary maternity leave and additional maternity leave. Employees are not required to take the full 52 weeks but they must take two weeks off following the birth. This is extended to four weeks if the employee works in a factory.
Paternity leave can be taken by a baby's mother's partner, the child's adopter, or the intended parent if they are having a child through surrogacy. Employees are eligible if they have worked for their employer for 26 weeks prior to the 15th week before the baby's due date. Employees can take either one or two weeks of paid leave but it must be taken within 56 days after the baby’s birth. The time must be taken consecutively and not as individual days.
Adoptive parents can qualify for 52 weeks of adoption leave no matter their length of service. They may also receive 39 weeks of statutory adoption pay.
Employees with children under the age of 18 with one year’s sercive are entitled to parental leave. To be eligible they must be names on the child’s birth or adoption certificate or have a parental responsibility.
Parental leave can be used in different ways. Some examples include:
- Straight after maternity, paternity or adoption leave (if correct notice is given).
- To spend more time with a child in their early years.
- To accompany a child during a hospital stay.
- Looking at new schools for a child
Flexible working hours
All employees have the right to request flexible working if they have 26 weeks of continuous service with the same employer. Employers can choose to deny this request if they have a substantial reason. However, they must review all requests fairly and decide within three months.
If the request is denied, then employees can resubmit their request to work flexibly. Only one request can be submitted every 12 months.
Illegal wage deductions
Under UK law, it is illegal for employers to make unauthorised deductions to an employee's wages. Late payment of wages is also considered an unlawful deduction. This right is extended to all workers and employees regardless of their length of service.
Self-employed individuals who have not received payment for services cannot take a business to a tribunal. However, they can bring a debt recovery claim to County Court and receive damages.
An employer can only lawfully deduct wages if:
- The deduction is required or required by law.
- There is a provision already in the worker's contract.
- The individual has given prior written consent.
There are some other exceptions to the protection that fall outside of an Employment Tribunal's jurisdiction. These include but are not limited to:
- Deductions made to reimburse an employer after an overpayment of wages.
- Payments made to a third-party pension scheme.
- Deductions made by an employer due to a worker taking part in a strike or other industrial action.
Health and safety laws
(HSWA) states that employers must protect the safety and welfare of all persons in the workplace. This means that they must provide a safe working environment for employees, workers, and self-employed contractors.
UK law requires employers to inform staff of any protective measures in place. This includes providing first aid equipment, protective clothing, and a safe working environment.
Employers are also responsible for ensuring that employees receive an adequate rest break during their shifts and working week. Employees should receive 24 consecutive hours off every seven days (or 48 hours a fortnight) and a daily rest period of at least 20 minutes if working more than six hours.
Get expert advice on employment rights from Peninsula
As an employer, you need to be aware of the rights of all your employees. Whether you have employees, agency staff, or night workers, you need to make sure that you know what they're entitled to.
If not, you could find yourself in tribunal facing costly legal and reputational damages. Peninsula's expert documentation team can help you create a watertight employment contract that protects you and your employee's rights.