Employee Rights and Responsibilities UK

29 July 2020

UK workers and employees are afforded some of the most secure working rights in the world. These rights are predominantly contained in statutory laws passed by the UK government, which lay out the minimum rights for all UK employees.

A written or oral employment contract can determine the rights and responsibilities of the employee and the employer. Employees’ rights are affected by their employment status. Employees and workers benefit from a multitude of rights given to them by Parliament, known as statutory rights. Moreover, employers can provide more magnanimous contractual rights to employers and workers at their discretion. Providing anything less than statutory entitlement is illegal and employees can submit a claim to an employment tribunal for compensation if their employer breaches this.

The rights of an individual at work are dependent on their employment status. Their rights will vary depending on whether they are an employee, worker, or self-employed.

It is important to distinguish the difference between employee status and worker status.

An employee is a person who works under the terms of a contract of employment either in writing or orally. To receive employee status they must do the work personally and the employer is obliged to provide the work and the employee is obliged to accept it. The employer will also have control over the way the employee carries out the work.

Worker status was created to protect individuals who are neither self-employed nor an employee. They’re entitled to less statutory rights than employees, but they’re still entitled to some key rights such as protection from discrimination, protection against the illegal reduction of wages, right to the minimum wage and self-employed working status.

In September 2013, the ‘employee shareholder’ category was also introduced which allows individuals to benefit from all the same rights as employees. However, what differentiates them from employees is that they give up their right to claim unfair dismissal and redundancy pay and receive shares in their employer’s company instead. It is worth noting that employee shareholders are still entitled to claim unfair dismissal if their dismissal is connected with discrimination, health and safety, or is considered unfair.

According to research by the Office of National Statistics (ONS), only 30% of UK employees ever worked from home during 2019. Yet the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has highlighted how people work. (1) The UK government introduced measures to contain the virus by recommending employees work from home where possible. Many employees have seen the positive impact that working from home has had on their productivity and time spent with family, not to mention savings on commuting and food.

Terms and Conditions of Employment

Since 6th April 2020 employees and workers are entitled to a written statement that delineates the main terms and conditions of their employment before they start work and at the latest on the first day of their employment. The Employment Acts of 1996 sets out the information that must be stated in the contract. These details include pay rates, place of employment, pay date, holiday entitlement, working hours, information on the probationary period, and specified days to work.

Employees who commenced their employment before 6th April 2020 are entitled to a written statement of their terms and conditions within two months of commencing employment.

Payment Rights

There are a whole host of regulations and laws surrounding payment, aimed at protecting employees and workers from unscrupulous employers.

Minimum Wage

Employees and workers are entitled to the hourly national minimum wage or national living wage, which is set by Parliament and reviewed yearly by the Low Pay Commission. As of April 2020, the rates are:

25 and over – £8.72 per hour

21-24 – £8.20 per hour

18-20 £6.45 per hour

Under 18 – £4.55 per hour

However, workers who live with their employer and aren’t charged for food and accommodation don’t meet the criteria for the national minimum wage.

Calculating whether an employee is being paid the hourly national minimum wage can be difficult. Nevertheless, employees who suspect that they or their colleagues aren’t being paid the national minimum wage can report their employer to HMRC to investigate the matter.

Payslips

Under Section 8 of the Employment Rights Act, 1996 employees are entitled to a payslip each time they receive payment. The payslip will include gross pay, deductions from national insurance, tax, and pension contributions. But workers are not afforded this right.

Protection Against Unlawful Deduction

It is unlawful for an employer to not pay the employee for hours worked, for holiday pay, or paying the wrong rate of pay or below minimum wage. Deductions from pay are only permitted if they are required by law, allowed under the contract, an agreement has been signed that authorises the deduction, an employer has overpaid their employee, an employee did not work due to a strike, if the employer believes the employee may have stolen from them or if an employer provides accommodation, they are permitted to pay less than minimum wage.

Statutory and Redundancy Pay

If an employee who has worked for two years or more is made redundant, they can receive a statutory redundancy payment. The amount they receive is calculated based on their length of service, age, and a week’s pay. The statutory cap on redundancy pay increases annually in April.

Pension Scheme

Employees and workers who fall into the category of ‘jobholder’ must be enrolled into a workplace pension by their employer.

Employers are not permitted to encourage employees to opt-out, but if employees wish to they can. They will be auto-enrolled every three years.

Take A Break

The Working Time Regulations provide all workers with the right to paid holidays regardless of the hours they work.

Employees and workers are entitled to a minimum of four weeks paid leave plus eight days of bank holidays (28 days). Part-time workers are also entitled to a pro-rata amount of leave.

Full-time employees with a fixed salary are entitled to a full week’s pay for each week of leave they take. The same is true of part-time employees with a fixed salary too.

Staff who work shifts either part-time or full-time with set contracted hours will be paid by the average number of weekly fixed hours they completed in the past 12 weeks using their average hourly rate.

Working Week

Employees and workers have the right to not work more than 48 hours a week on average, calculated over seventeen weeks. However, they may sign a clause in their contract providing permission to give up their right to work a maximum of 48 hours a week, but they may not be pressured into giving this up. Furthermore, employees and workers are entitled to 11 uninterrupted hours away from work during every 24 hours of work.

Employers are also required to ensure that night workers have the opportunity to take a free health assessment when commencing night work, which should continue frequently following that.

Rest Breaks

If a workday is longer than six hours employees are entitled to a rest break of 20 minutes. Workers under 18 are entitled to a 30-minute break after working 4.5 hours.

Rights to Time Off Work

Employees are afforded several rights to take time off work for a wide array of reasons, paid and unpaid. Sadly, workers don’t benefit from such rights.

The Perks of Flexible Work

Flexible working is defined as a manner of working that suits an employee’s needs, for instance having flexible start and finish times or working from home. As it stands employees with 26 weeks’ continuous service have the right to request flexible working. The employer is obliged to deal with the request in a reasonable manner and can only reject the request for one or more of eight specified business reasons. Handling the request reasonably includes considering the pros and cons of the application, discussing the request with the employee in a meeting, and offering an appeal process. If an employee believes their employer did not handle the request fairly, the employee can take them to an employment tribunal.

Social Security and Benefits Act, 1992

Employees have the right to statutory maternity pay, statutory paternity pay, or statutory adoption pay.

Adopted parents and parents have the right to different types of leave such as shared parental leave, ordinary maternity leave, additional maternity leave, and paternity leave.

Redundancy Rights

Under the Employment Rights Act, 1996 employees have the right not to be unfairly dismissed if they have served for two years or more. Workers aren’t afforded such rights.

Where dismissal is deemed automatically unfair, the employee doesn’t always have to have worked 2 years’ service. To discern whether a dismissal is unfair the employee must check whether the dismissal is ‘automatically unfair’. Reasons considered ‘automatically unfair’ include: being pregnant or on maternity leave, because an employee requested for their legal rights i.e to be paid minimum wage, sought action over a health and safety issue, worked in a shop or betting shop and refused to work on Sunday, took part in trade union action and whistleblowing.

If an employee or a worker believes they have been subjected to detriment they can claim compensation at a tribunal.

Notice Periods

If an employee is dismissed in person their notice period usually starts the day after they’re told unless their contract of employment states otherwise. But if an employer dismisses the employee by letter or email, their notice period starts the day after they’ve read it unless stated otherwise.

If an employer requests that the employee does not come into work for their notice period they’re still required to pay them during this period. The minimum notice an employer can give is called ‘statutory notice’. Employees who’ve worked less than a month, are an agency or casual worker, or are self-employed, aren’t entitled to statutory notice. Employees who’ve been with their employer from 1 month to two years are entitled to one week and employees who’ve been with their employer for two years or more are entitled to one week for each full year, up to a maximum of twelve years.

Employment Relations Act 1999

Employees have the right to be escorted at a disciplinary or tribunal hearing by a workplace companion or trade union representative. Although employees are not granted the rights to a companion at investigation hearings and they have no right to be accompanied by a lawyer.

Transfer of Undertakings (Protection of Employment) Regulations 2006 (TUPE)

If an employer sells its enterprise to a new employer, employees have protection under the Transfer of Undertakings (Protection of Employment) Regulations 2006. This protection applies to employees only, however, the definition of an employee under the regulation is wider and therefore many workers could fall under the protection of TUPE.

Working from Home

Working parents in the UK have had the right to request flexible working to accommodate childcare since 2003. This right was provided to all UK employees with at least 26 weeks of continuous service in 2014.

As mentioned earlier, employers are obliged to provide reasonable consideration to any flexible working request.

There are some employee rights to consider when permitting employees to work from home. Employers are still responsible for the health and safety of employees working from home by law.

Employees are entitled to the same pay if they are working their contracted hours. The terms and conditions of their employment still apply and employers must ensure that staff who work from home follow the law on working hours.

Employers also have a responsibility for the equipment and technology they provide employees to work from home, which means agreeing on the necessary equipment and providing support in setting it up.

Taking the time to become acquainted with employee rights can arm employees and workers with the correct information to protect against mistreatment and discrimination in the workplace. However, employers have a responsibility to follow the correct legislation to protect their employees’ rights to fair treatment. Employees and employers have responsibilities towards each other and having an awareness of them can ensure smoother working relations.

All requests by law, including any appeals, must be considered and decided on within a period of three months from first receipt, unless you agree to extend this period with the employee.

During the Coronavirus pandemic many people were asked to work from home, even when normally they would work in an office environment. It is not clear how things may change in the future due to the consequences of the Coronavirus, but for now there have been no permanent changes to the right to work from home or in flexible working in the UK.

If you are an employee or employer looking for help or advice on employment law, our team of employment law solicitors offer friendly and professional advice and are proactive in their approach. Click here for help and advice.

The contents of this article are intended for general information purposes only and shall not be deemed to be, or constitute legal advice. We cannot accept responsibility for any loss as a result of acts or omissions taken in respect of this article.

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