Employment law: your rights and options
Employment law helps protect individuals from bad working conditions and mistreatment at work. Most of us spend a big portion of our lives at work. So it’s important to have an awareness of our rights under employment law.
Here are some of the main rights of employees (there are differences for other workers, like freelancers or agency workers):
Minimum wage – You must be paid the minimum wage even if you agree otherwise. The minimum is currently £6.19 for over 21s and £4.98 for those aged 18-20.
Working Time Regulations 1999 – These state that you must not be forced to work more than 48 hours a week (on average) and must have rest breaks at set periods. You can opt out of the regulations but this must be entirely voluntarily.
Annual holidays – If you work full time you have the right to at least 28 days paid leave per year (this includes bank holidays).
Parents – Mothers are entitled to 52 weeks maternity leave. New fathers can take one or two weeks leave plus the mother’s unused allowance (up to an additional 26 weeks). You might be entitled to statutory maternity or paternity pay. As a parent, if you request flexible working your employer must consider this fairly, according to a set process.
Dismissal – Employers must follow a fair process before terminating your employment and must have a valid reason (although in most cases you need to have been employed for a specified period before this is so). Your employer cannot force you to resign by acting unreasonably.
Equality – Your employer must not discriminate against you based on certain protected characteristics like your race, age, gender, sexuality, disability or religion (with some exceptions where discrimination is justified on business grounds). They must protect you from being harassed due to a protected characteristic (eg. colleagues repeatedly making jokes about your disability).
Making a complaint
If you have a problem you need to make an internal complaint first. This is so even if you think it will be futile or make the problem worse. If you take your employer to court it might weaken your case if you have not tried to resolve things internally.
Firstly, make an informal complaint. This is normally to your manager or HR Department, and generally it’s best to speak to a neutral person. If this does not work you’ll need to initiate a formal grievance procedure. Your employer should be able to tell you what their process is or it might be in your employment contract, company handbook or HR manual.
Getting a third party involved
If you can’t resolve your problem internally, you might need to ask for assistance from a third party. This could be a trade union (if you belong to one). Otherwise, you could contact ACAS (the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service). ACAS is a public body that assists in resolving workplace disputes.
Finally, it’s always helpful to consult a qualified employment solicitor and you should certainly do this if you intend to take legal action.
This blog was written by our guest, Contact Law.