Employee rights: key facts for today’s employers

Every employee in the UK is entitled to certain rights through statute and an employer’s failure to grant them can have serious repercussions for their business. It’s therefore really important for every employer to understand the law and take steps mitigate the risks of employment disputes and tribunals.

In this article, we provide a list of the main statutory employee rights and a summary of the ones most affecting the day-to-day running of every business, regardless of its size.

Statutory rights

The main statutory rights of employees are:

• Not to be discriminated against on the grounds of disability, gender reassignment, marriage or civil partnership, pregnancy or maternity, race, sex, sexual orientation and/or religion or belief (England, Wales and Scotland) or religious belief or political opinion (Northern Ireland)
• To be paid the National Minimum Wage
• Entitlement to maternity, paternity and parental leave
• Not to be unfairly dismissed
• To be paid a redundancy payment (subject to certain conditions)
• To be given minimum notice when the contract of employment is terminated
• To be entitled to join a trade union
• To be given time off for ante-natal appointments

Key facts

Below we’ve listed alphabetically the key facts relating to some of the main statutory rights described above.

• Adoptive leave and pay

Adoptive leave and pay allows one member of an adoptive couple to take paid time off work when their new child starts to live with them.

• Discrimination

If you discriminate against your employee on the grounds of age, disability, gender reassignment, marriage or civil partnership, pregnancy or maternity, race, sex, sexual orientation and/or religion or belief (England, Wales and Scotland) or religious belief or political opinion (Northern Ireland), or trade union membership, you may be acting unlawfully.

• Employment tribunals

Employment tribunals enforce most statutory employment rights. They have jurisdiction to hear, for example, unfair dismissal and discrimination claims. Tribunals can also hear some breach of contract claims.

• Equal pay

Men and women are entitled to be treated no less favourably than a person of the other gender in the same employment, where they are employed on ‘like work’ with the other person. The position is the same where the work is rated as equivalent, or the work is of equal value to that of the comparator in the same employment.

• Flexible working

Employees who have worked for their employer for 26 continuous weeks (roughly 6 months) qualify for the right to request to work flexibly. An employer must consider a flexible working request seriously. Part-time workers must not be treated less favourably than full-time workers unless that treatment can be objectively justified.

• Grievances

Employment legislation requires employers to indicate in employees’ statements of terms and conditions to whom, and how they are to apply, if they have any grievances relating to their employment.

• Maternity leave

All pregnant women have a right not to be dismissed for any reason connected with pregnancy or their maternity leave period.

• Paternity leave

An employee is entitled to take up to two weeks’ paternity leave if the employee has or expects to have responsibilities for a baby’s upbringing and they otherwise meet the criteria to qualify for paternity leave.

• Pay and time off

An employer must ensure that all employees are provided with written pay statements. An employer may be required to give paid time off to employees in certain circumstances.

• Shared parental leave

Employees who meet certain requirements have a right to statutory shared parental leave and statutory shared parental pay. Shared parental leave is taken by dividing the mother’s maternity leave, or main adopter’s adoption leave, between them and their partner.

• Whistleblowing

The Public Interest Disclosure Act 1998 (or the Public Interest Disclosure (Northern Ireland) Order 1998) protects workers (not just employees) from being victimised or dismissed for making a disclosure (often in breach of contractual terms concerning confidentiality) in certain circumstances.

• Working time regulations

The Working Time Regulations provide rights for workers ensuring that they do not have to work excessive hours and have rights to paid breaks including holidays.

These are just some of the facts relating to employment law and we recommend that all employers, especially smaller organisations get specialist advice and guidance to ensure they are compliant with the law. A good starting point is Acas (Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service), but there are also some EAP providers that offer employment law advice for employers as an add-on to their programme.

For more information about our online legal document and advice services, please call us on 020 8731 2424.