Statutory employment rights in the UK

10 January 2020

As an employer, you will likely think of your employees' rights. Each of them has different rights based on their employment status.

You are responsible for knowing each of their employment statuses and corresponding rights and responsibilities.

If you don't know their rights, you could face hefty fines, a loss of reputation, and perhaps imprisonment.

In this guide, we'll go over what employee rights are, the difference between workers and employees, and the employment law in the UK.

What are employee rights?

These rights are the moral or legal entitlement that an employee has under the law in order to ensure fair treatment.

These basic rights vary depending on their employment status, such as whether they are a worker, an employee, or self-employed.

The difference between a worker and an employee

An employee is someone who has an employment contract with their employer to undertake regular work. A worker is someone who has a contract or arrangement to perform personal work or services in exchange for a financial or in-kind reward.

All employees are workers, but not all workers are employees. An employee has all of the rights and responsibilities of a worker, as well as certain additional rights and responsibilities.

Anyone who works has the following employment rights based on their employment status:

Employee rights

Every employee has an employment contract with their employer. It can be a written contract, verbal, or implied agreement that specifies the basic details related to their employment, such as:

  • Job title.
  • Employment conditions.
  • Details of any applicable pension scheme.
  • Minimum notice period.
  • Disciplinary process.

Employees and employers must stick to the employment contract until it ends or until the terms are changed.

The following are statutory rights of employees:

  • Written particulars of employment.
  • Getting paid the National Minimum Wage.
  • Itemised payslip that provides a detailed breakdown of their pay.
  • Right to opt out of 48 hours of work a week.
  • Right to make a request for flexible working
  • Paid holiday.
  • Sick pay
  • Maternity and paternity leave.
  • Adoption leave.

Employees may not always have the right to take bank holidays off work under statutory rights.

Statutory employment rights are designed to give employees legal protection and a foundation on which to take legal action if necessary.

Worker rights

Workers are entitled to the following rights at work:

  • Getting paid the National Minimum Wage.
  • Protection against unlawful deductions from wages.
  • The statutory minimum level of paid holiday.
  • The statutory minimum length of rest breaks.
  • To work no more than 48 hours on average per week or to opt-out of this right if they choose.
  • Protection against unlawful discrimination.
  • Protection for whistleblowers who report wrongdoing in the workplace.
  • Not to be treated less favourably if they work part-time.

They may also be entitled to Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) and other types of pay such as maternity, paternity, adoption, and Shared Parental Pay (SPP). However, they would have to meet the wider definition of a qualifying employee to be eligible for these payments.

A woman understanding worker rights.

Self-employed rights

A person is considered self-employed if they manage their own business and are accountable for its success or failure.

For self-employed people, there are some essential rights. The most important rights to be aware of are listed here:

  • Protection against unlawful discrimination.
  • Health and safety rights and responsibilities.
  • Rights and responsibilities mentioned in their contracts with clients.
  • Right to a state pension if they have paid the necessary national insurance contributions.
  • Right to receive welfare benefits if they qualify.

Part-time workers rights

A part time worker is usually someone who works less than 35 hours per week. There is no set number of hours that classes someone as full-time or part-time, but a full-time worker often works 35 hours or more per week.

According to the Part-time Workers (Prevention of Less Favourable Treatment) Regulations 2000, these workers shouldn't receive less favourable treatment than comparable full-time workers. They should get the same treatment for the following:

  • Pay rates.
  • Pension opportunities and benefits.
  • Training and career development.
  • Selection for promotion and transfer, or for redundancy.
  • Opportunities for career breaks.

Employment law in the UK

The Employment Rights Act 1996 outlines the rights of workers in the UK. Employment law governs the employer-employee relationship and specifies how they should interact in the workplace.

Understanding the employment law and employees' legal rights prevents your employees from being treated unfairly in the business. The law intends to promote workplace equity, increase efficiency, and adjust to demographic and societal change.

Failure to follow your employees' legal rights could cause unfair treatment and may result in an employer facing an employment tribunal.

The following are some of the most important employment rights that are given to employees in the UK:

National Minimum Wage

The National Minimum Wage was introduced in 1998 by the Labour government for workers and employees across the UK. The minimum hourly wage to which practically all workers are entitled is known as the National Minimum Wage.

If a worker is 23 and over, they are eligible for the National Living Wage, which is more than the minimum wage.

Maternity and Parental Leave

The Statutory Maternity Leave is 52 weeks and consists of the following:

  • Ordinary maternity leave: This is the first 26 weeks.
  • Additional maternity leave: This is the last 26 weeks.

The employee doesn’t have to take 52 weeks, but they must take two weeks’ leave after the baby is born. This is four weeks if they work in a factory. They may be entitled to take some of their leave as shared parental leave.

If you give your employee a dismissal notice while they are pregnant or on maternity leave, the notice must include a written explanation of the reason.

Also, all your employees are eligible for either a one-week or a two-week paid paternity leave depending on whether they meet the qualifying conditions.

The statutory weekly rate of their paternity pay is either £156.66, or 90% of their average weekly earnings, depending on which is lower. You should pay them this money in the same way as their wages.

A man writing down his paternity pay.

The Equality Act 2010

This act outlines that all workers are protected from workplace discrimination regardless of their employment status. The following are the protected characteristics stated in the act:

  • Gender reassignment.
  • Marriage or civil partnership.
  • Pregnancy and maternity.
  • Religion or belief.
  • Sex (gender).
  • Sexual orientation.

According to the act, workers and employees have the right to be treated fairly and to be free of discrimination and harassment in their daily and work lives.

For example, if someone is suitably qualified for a job and the employer is aware of their disability, they have a duty to make "reasonable adjustments" in the workplace.

This is to ensure that they have access to all facilities as non-disabled employees and are not significantly disadvantaged in their job.

It's worth noting that unfair dismissal is a different claim under provisions other than the Equality Act. Only an employee can file an unfair dismissal claim, not a worker.

Flexible working hours

By law, employees have the right to request to work flexibly if:

  • They've worked for the same employer for at least 26 weeks.
  • They haven't made any other requests for flexible working hours in the last 12 months.

If one of your eligible employees makes this request, you must review it fairly and make a decision within three months.

Statutory redundancy pay

If any of your employees have been working with you for two years or more, one of their statutory rights is the right to redundancy pay.

They'll get:

  • Half a week’s pay for each full year they were under 22.
  • One week’s pay for each full year they were 22 or older, but under 41.
  • One and half week’s pay for each full year they were 41 or older.

They can also take reasonable paid time off to look for another job, or to arrange training if they have qualifying service.

Minimum notice period

Minimum notice periods vary depending the employee's length of service. In most cases you must give them a notice period before their employment ends.

Statutory minimum notice periods are as follows:

  • One week’s notice if they are employed between one month and 2 years.
  • One week’s notice for each year if they are employed between 2 and 12 years.
  • 12 weeks’ notice if they are employed for 12 years or more.

In the employment contract, you may give your employees more than the statutory minimum, but you can't give them less.

Health & safety laws

Employers have a statutory duty by the health & safety laws to keep the workplace safe. They should provide employees with a work environment where risks to their health and safety are properly controlled.

Under health & safety laws, your employees have a right to daily and weekly rest breaks. This includes at least 24 consecutive hours off every seven days and a daily rest period of at least 20 minutes if working hours exceed six hours.

You must take care of your employees’ health & safety by providing a clean environment, first aid equipment, protective clothing, drinking water and washing facilities. You must also ensure that all machinery in the workplace is safe.

Employment rights for agency workers

Normally, an agency worker negotiates a contract for services between himself or herself and the agency.

In such cases, their employment status is more likely to be a worker rather than an employee. However, employment contracts may exist between agency workers and the end user on occasion.

If an agency worker can demonstrate that they are an employee, their employment status will be changed. They will then have access to the same statutory rights as any other form of employee.

Illegal deductions from wages

As an employer, you are only allowed to deduct money from an employee or worker's pay if it satisfies one of the following conditions:

  • It is required or authorised by the worker’s contract.
  • The worker has previously signified in writing their agreement or consent to it.

Any deduction from wages made in relation to your employees and workers that doesn’t meet one of these two legal requirements is regarded as illegal.

Get advice on employee rights from Peninsula

You will most likely consider your employees' rights as an employer. Depending on their employment status, they each have distinct rights.

You are responsible for understanding each of their job positions, as well as the associated rights and duties.

You'll face harsh consequences if you don't understand their rights. You could face significant fines and a loss of reputation.

Peninsula offers 24/7 HR advice on employee rights which is available 365 days a year. We take care of everything when you work with our HR experts.

Want to find out more? Contact us on 0800 051 3687

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