Employees Rights’ – Where to find them
Employees rights’ in the workplace arise from any relevant employment contract and statutory rights (the laws made by parliament). Whilst employment law is a complex and tricky area it is fair to say that the most commonly relied upon laws are contained within a handful of statutes (written laws). Perhaps ten statutes hold the key to understanding employees rights in the UK.
It is worth noting that statutory rights represent a basic level of employees rights and as such will take precedence over any written contract. In other words, an employer must offer employees rights at least equivalent to those set out in law.
Miss T. works for a manufacturing business, her contract of employment states that she may take two weeks holiday per year. The law, however, entitles her to 5.6 weeks annual leave. She may take the statutory minimum of 5.6 weeks leave regardless of what she may have signed in her contract.
If an employment contract offers rights which go beyond the statutory (legal) minimum, such as extra paid leave, then employees may cheerfully benefit from those more advantageous conditions.
Employees Rights’ – The Recruitment and Selection Process
Even before starting work employees are protected by employment legislation and employees rights. Candidates are protected from suffering discrimination in the recruitment and selection process by the Equality Act 2010. Employers are prohibited from asking questions or requiring candidates to undertake assessments which could be considered discriminatory. The Equality Act 2010 defines the following as protected characteristics (characteristics which are protected from discrimination):
- Marriage or Civil Partnership
- Sexual Orientation
- Race; ethnicity; nationality and national origin
Mrs S is interviewed for a position as a Sales Manager in a communications company. When she is rejected from the position she is told by the employer that although she was the best candidate the company cannot risk taking her on because she has just got married and they think she is very likely to leave or take maternity leave to start a family. Mrs S would be entitled to make a discrimination claim to an employment tribunal.
Employees Rights’ – Contracts of Employments
In basic terms, an employee is entitled to a written statement setting out the most important details of the employment within two months of commencing employment.
Employee Rights’ – Pay
Perhaps the most crucial piece of legislation in connection with pay is the National Minimum Wage Regulations 1998. The minimum wage rates as from 1st October 2013 are set as follows.
|21 and over||£6.31|
|18 to 20||£5.03|
The Working Time Regulations provide such clarity on the issue of pay that it is unusual for an employee not to be paid correctly. An employee who is not receiving the minimum rate of pay should, as a starting point, make a complaint to his employer by submitting an official grievance. As a last resort an employee can enforce their employees rights by issuing a claim to an employment tribunal. they would be entitled to be paid at the correct rate and to any back pay that they were owed from the period when they have not been paid correctly.
Unlawful Deductions from Wages
Section 13 of the Employment Rights Act prohibits an employer from making unauthorised deductions from wages. There are very few circumstances in which an employer is permitted to make deductions from an employees salary. For example if an employee has been overpaid accidentally. A failure to pay money that is owed is also considered an unlawful deduction. For example, a Trade Union Representative is entitled to pay for duties in connection with union business and failure to pay would allow a case to be brought for unlawful deductions from wages.
The Equal Pay Act 1970 provides that people must not be paid less favourably on the grounds of their sex. In other words, a woman seeking to bring an equal pay claim must show that she is not receiving the same contractual remuneration for doing the same work. The difficulty frequently lies in proving that the work done by the claimant and his or her chosen comparator is the same. The work need not be identical, it could be described as like work, equivalent work and work of equal value in order to be considered the same for the purposes of the Equal Pay Act. For discrepancies in remuneration that are not contractual it is possible to bring a sex discrimination claim under the Equality Act 2010.
The Right to an Itemised Pay Statement
Employees must be given an itemised pay statement by virtue of section 8 Employment Rights Act 1996. This allows an employee to look at the tax and national insurance contributions that they have made and assess whether they have been paid accurately.
Employee Rights’ – Working Time, Holidays and Rest Breaks.
The Working Time Regulations 1998 provide that working hours must not exceed 48 hours in any 7 day period.
Employees who work for more than six hours at a time are entitled to a twenty minute rest break. Those under the age of 18 are entitled to a 30 minute rest break after they have worked for four and a half hours. Employees should be permitted to take the break away from their workstation. Employees should also have the opportunity of 11 hours rest in 24 hours.
Employees are entitled to 5.6 weeks leave a year. Many employers do not give additional leave for bank holidays and so employees may use some of this entitlement up on public holidays. It is also perfectly legitimate for employers to prevent their employees from taking leave at certain busy times of the year. For example, staff working in a hotel may be prevented from taking leave over the Christmas of Easter period if this is a particularly busy time for the business.
From a health and safety point of view, employers should take reasonable steps to ensure that their employees are not working excessive hours, getting adequate rest and taking their annual leave.
Time off for study or Training
Employees working for large businesses (those with greater than 250 employees) are entitled to request time off for training and study. They need to have been employed for at least 26 weeks and should make a written request. The written request should clearly state that it is a request made under section 63D of the Employment Rights Act 1996.
Employees Rights’ – Night-shift Workers
Working at night can put a great strain on a worker’s physical and mental well-being and as such employees rights’ are crucial for night-shift workers. Anybody who is required to work at night should first undergo a health assessment to ensure that they are fit to do so. They should also not be required to work shifts of longer than 8 hours duration in any 24 hour period. Particular care needs to be taken with pregnant night-shift workers due to recent concerns about the increased incidence of miscarriage. It is unlawful to dismiss a worker who refuses to work at night or to treat them sell favourably.
Mr C works as a supervisor in a factory, he has always worked during the day. When disciplinary problems occur during the night-shift the factory owner asks Mr C to work at night for the next 6 months to try and resolve the problems. Mr C refuses to work the night shift saying that he likes to be at home in the evenings with his family. When Mr C subsequently applies for a promotion he is turned down on the basis that he doesn’t put his work first and that he hasn’t shown the necessary commitment to the business by refusing to work night-shifts. Mr C may present a claim to an employment tribunal on the basis that he has suffered a detriment as a result of his refusal to work night-shifts.
Employees Rights’ – Part-time Workers
Part-time workers must not be treated less favourably than their full-time colleagues. They should be paid the same, offered the same opportunities for advancement and selected for redundancy on equal terms. Employers can justify treating part-time staff differently if they are doing so in order to meet a legitimate objective. such an objective may include a genuine business need.
Employees Rights’ – Sick pay
Section 88 of the Employment Rights Act covers Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) it requires employees to be paid a minimum level of pay if they find themselves unable to got to work through ill-health. At the current time the rate of SSP is £86.70 per week and is payable once an employee has been off sick for more than 4 consecutive days. SSP is paid for a maximum of 28 weeks and os only paid to those who already earn in excess of £109 per week before tax.
Employees Rights’ – Medical or Maternity Suspension
Employees who have been suspended on medical or maternity grounds must be kept on full pay until suitable alternative work can be found. They can be paid for up to 26 weeks and must not refuse any reasonable alternative work that is offered to them. they should be paid at their normal rate of pay.
Mr T works in a laboratory testing printing inks and chemicals. He develops a minor skin allergy to one of the chemicals that is tested within the laboratory but manages to continue working providing that he wears gloves. His allergy becomes more severe over time, causing severe dermatitis and eventually breathing difficulties. Clearly it is not possible for Mr T to continue to work in the laboratory and his employer must suspend him on medical grounds.
Employees Rights’ – Maternity Rights
There are four basic rights to which pregnant women and new mothers’ are entitled.
- Paid time off for antenatal care
- Maternity Leave
- Maternity Pay Benefits
- Not to be treated unfairly, dismissed or selected for redundancy as a consequence of being pregnant
All of these rights, except maternity pay, are available to mothers/expectant mothers regardless of how long they have worked for a business. There has been a great deal of legislation in recent years regarding maternity rights.
Employees Rights’ – Discrimination
The Equality Act 2010 prohibits discrimination on the grounds of certain ‘protected characteristics’. In other words, employers must not discriminate against employees belonging to certain groups. Gender; marital status or civil partnership; gender reassignment; race; disability; religion; sexual orientation and age are all covered by the Act. Workers must be prevented from suffering direct and indirect discrimination, harassment or victimisation. Employers must also take steps to prevent other employees from subjecting colleagues to discrimination of any kind.
Employees Rights’ – Family Friendly Legislation
The Employee Rights Act 1996 sets out some key rights for those with dependants. The main areas of interest are
This right applies to all employees who have a minimum of one year’s service and have parental responsibility. It allows parents to take a maximum of 18 weeks unpaid leave between the birth and fifth birthday of a child or fifth anniversary of adoption. The leave is available to parents irrespective of the reason for taking it and the employer is not entitled to enquire about the reason behind the request for leave.
Flexible Working Hours
Employees can make a statutory application to work flexibly if they have worked for the same employer for 26 weeks. Anyone who cares for a child or relative may make the application and an employer must not refuse permission unreasonably for an employee to work flexibly.
Time-off for dependants
Those with dependants (children, spouse or parents living in the same household) are entitled to take time off in order to take necessary action. This might, for example, mean taking a morning off to find replacement childcare if a nanny walks out or picking up a child who has been suspended from school.
Employees Rights’ – TUPE Regulations
The Transfer of Undertakings Protection of Employment Regulations 2006 operate when a business purchases another business. Generally speaking they prohibit an employer from making changes to the terms and conditions of employment when they take on new employees as a result of buying another business.
Employees Rights’ – Whistleblowing
The Public Interest Disclosure Act 1998 seeks to protect employees who make protected disclosures in the public interest. More commonly termed whistle blowers, employees who make disclosures of wrongdoing in the workplace are protected from being dismissed or treated less favourably as a result.
Employees Rights – Where to get help
If you are having difficulties with your employer or have been dismissed then please call the Do I Have A Case legal helpline on 0800 014 8727 for free no obligation legal advice.