Employment rights for employees

    Understanding your employment rights as an employee helps ensure you’re treated fairly and with respect in the workplace, protecting you from potential exploitation and helping you make informed decisions about your job.

    It’s also essential for navigating your world of work confidently and for ensuring that your employment is both rewarding and lawful.

    This guide takes you through a selection of the key employment rights for UK employees, including the tools, protections, and procedures designed to help you realise and protect these rights. Further sources of information are highlighted throughout.

    1. Your contract of employment

    When you start a new job, you should receive a written statement or contract of employment. This document is not just a formality; it’s the foundation of your employment relationship. It outlines your job role, salary, working hours, and other crucial details.

    Make sure to review it thoroughly and if anything seems amiss or unclear, don’t hesitate to ask your employer for clarification.

    This contract is your first line of defence and ensures both you and your employer are on the same page regarding your employment terms.

    2. Fair Wages

    You have the right to be paid at least the minimum wage, and your payslips should be detailed, allowing you to understand exactly how your pay is calculated.

    Whether you’re a full-time or part-time employee, you also have the right to an equal pay rate compared to your colleagues of the opposite sex who is doing the same job or work of equal value.

    If you find any discrepancies in your pay, they should be taken up in the first instance with your employer.

    If you can’t resolve the issue, you may be able to take a legal claim for equal pay to an employment tribunal. You may also have a valid claim for sex discrimination, if you can show that the pay discrepancy is attributable to your sex.

    3. Working Hours and Breaks

    The law is clear on working hours and breaks to ensure you’re not overworked (Working Time Regulations 1998). As a general rule:

    • You shouldn’t have to work more than 48 hours on average per week (unless you’re over 18 and choose to opt out).
    • You’re entitled to 11 consecutive hours of rest in any 24-hour period.
    • You’re also entitled to a 20-minute break if your work day exceeds six hours.

    Understanding these guidelines helps maintain your work-life balance and supports your wellbeing.

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    4. Annual Leave

    You are entitled to 5.6 weeks or 28 days of paid annual leave each year. This time off is crucial for your mental and physical health, allowing you to unwind and return to work refreshed.

    Some employers might offer more than the statutory minimum, so it’s worth checking your contract.

    Remember, your employer can control when you take your leave but can’t refuse to let you take it altogether.

    5. Maternity, paternity, and family rights

    As an employee, you have rights that support your family life, including maternity leave, paternity leave, adoption leave, and time off for dependents.

    These rights ensure that you can take the necessary time off for significant family events or emergencies without fear of losing your job.

    Be sure to notify your employer within the required time frames and understand the terms of these different types of leave to fully benefit from your rights.

    6. Health and Safety

    Your employer is responsible for ensuring a working environment that not only keeps you safe but also helps to protect you from contracting infectious diseases (like covid).

    Your employer’s responsibilities include the provision of proper health and safety training, safety equipment, and measures to prevent accidents and occupational illnesses.

    If you believe your workplace is unsafe, you have the right to raise concerns without fear of repercussions. Remember, your health and safety are paramount, and there are strict regulations in place to protect these rights.

    7. Privacy and Data Protection

    Your personal information should be kept confidential and secure by your employer at all times.

    The General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR) within the UK’s Data Protection Act (2018) gives you the right to access the personal information that your employer holds about you, by way of a Data Subject Access Request.

    If you have concerns about the way in which your data is being handled, address them in the first instance with your employer and/or contact the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) for guidance.

    8. Grievances and Disputes

    Problems and disagreements about work issues may sometimes arise between you and your employer. It’s important to know that, if the issue is significant, you have the right to make a formal complaint, or grievance, about it.

    Examples of issues that you might want to raise a grievance about might include such matters as working conditions, relationships with colleagues, or contractual disagreements.

    Your employer should have a formal grievance procedure and you should familiarise yourself with this so you can write good grievance letters, attend grievance meetings, lodge appeals against unsatisfactory grievance outcomes, and generally handle your grievance issues formally and effectively if and when they arise.

    9. Protection Against Discrimination

    Discrimination in the workplace is illegal, whether it’s based on age, disability, gender reassignment, marriage/civil partnership, pregnancy/maternity, race, religion/belief, sex or sexual orientation.

    You have the right to work in an environment free from discrimination, and the bullying and harassment that tends to be associated with it.

    If you face discrimination, you can raise the issue internally through your company’s grievance procedure or seek external support, potentially escalating the matter to an employment tribunal as a last resort.

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    10. Flexible Working

    As an employee, you have had the right to request flexible working for several years, proving you’ve been employed for at least 26 weeks by your employer.

    However, from April 2024, changes in the law mean you can ask for flexible working arrangements from the day you start work, without having to justify your request or suggest how it might affect your employer’s business. 

    You can also ask for flexible working twice a year, not just once as previously,  and your employer will need to reply to each request within two months instead of three.

    11. Termination of Employment

    Understanding the correct procedures for termination of your employment, whether it’s voluntary or involuntary on your part, is crucial.

    This includes resigning, notice periods, reasons for dismissal, and redundancy rights. If you feel you’ve been unfairly dismissed or made redundant without proper process, you may have the right to challenge the decision and/or seek compensation.

    12. Access to justice

    If your rights are violated and internal procedures don’t resolve the issue, you have the right to take your case to an employment tribunal.

    Support such as that provided by Acas is available to help you submit and progress your claim.

    Specialist employment lawyers (such as those at Monaco Solicitors – see below) can advise you on whether you have a legal case and also help you with drafting the legal aspects of your tribunal claim application, such as the details of your claim.

    Whatever you do, it’s really important to seek advice early, as there are strict time limits for making claims to a tribunal.

    Realise your employment rights

    Understanding your employment rights is not just about knowing what you’re entitled to; it’s also about turning your knowledge into practice, challenging unfair treatment, and seeking the best outcomes for your working and personal life.

    If you’re unsure about your employment law rights or how to address a related issue at work, contact Monaco Solicitors. We are the UK’s award-winning law firm whose expert lawyers specialise exclusively in employment law for employees.

    For a no-obligation consultation, get in touch with us today:

    • via this link
    • by phone 020 7717 5259
    • by email: communications@monacosolicitors.co.uk