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In the workplace, everyone is entitled to their rights. From higher up employees all the way down the management chain, employee rights are available to all. However, sometimes, it can be difficult to understand exactly what rights we have, especially when they haven’t been communicated effectively.

If you’ve been faced with a difficult situation in your job, you might be wondering what rights you have. To help you understand exactly where you stand, we have gathered a list of essential employment rights that you need to know.


What Are Employee Rights?

Employee rights are a basic set of moral and legal entitlements that an employee has in the workplace. This could vary from employment status to payslip demands, but essentially, the aim of employee rights is to prevent any wrongdoing while ensuring employees are adequately supported while doing their job.


The History of Employee Rights

Pinpointing the exact history of employee rights’ is tricky as there are multiple factors at play. Technically, employee rights date as far back as the Master and Slave Act 1823. This act was a direct response to uprising in slavery, making it illegal for a worker to be disobedient to their master, while simultaneously making strikes an aggravated breach of contract.

Ten years later, the Slavery Abolition Act 1833 made slavery illegal throughout the British Empire. This was a substantial blow to the proliferation of slavery and laid the foundations for subsequent changes to employment law. Several other acts have since been introduced, with the Employment Rights Act 1996 arranging everything in to an actionable set of legislation.


What Rights Do I Have?

If you’re unsure of what rights you have, here are the 10 most important rights of employees to keep in mind:


1. You Have Rights as a Job Applicant

What people don’t know is that even job applicants have the rights of an employee before they’re even employed. Although it may sound counterintuitive, these rights include the right to be free from discrimination based on age, gender, race, nationality, or religion during the hiring process. Unfortunately, factors such as these have been shown to hinder employment eligibility in the past, which is why employee rights have been extended to those outside the company.

For example, a prospective employer cannot ask a job applicant certain family-related questions during the hiring process to avoid unjust rejections.


2. You Should Receive a Contract of Employment

Despite a contract being a central part of employment, employers do not always give employees contracts of employment.

Whilst employers are not legally obligated to provide a contract, within two months of starting a position, an employee should receive a written statement clearly stating the basic details and the main terms and conditions of their employment.

These would include: job title, expected hours of work, monthly wages, paid holiday and sick leave entitlement, details of any applicable pension scheme, minimum notice period, disciplinary process and procedure for reporting a grievance.


3. You Must Receive Payslips and Deductions Should Be Clear

Employees must receive an itemised payslip that provides a detailed breakdown of their pay and any deductions. Employers cannot make illegal deductions from their employees’ wages. This transparency-enhancing benefit allows employees to see exactly where their wages are being added and subtracted for costs like tax, student loans, natural insurance, etc.


4. You Shouldn’t be Discriminated Against

Per point one, employees must not be discriminated against in the workplace. This applies to all forms of discrimination including age, disability, sex, race, sexual orientation and religious beliefs.

Discrimination can be direct or indirect, but neither type is allowed in the workplace. Direct discrimination takes place when unfair treatment happens because of a given characteristic, or specific reason.

Indirect discrimination happens when some employees are unjustifiably affected based on a characteristic that isn’t immediately apparent. For example, making your workforce work over a religious holiday may only affect a small subset of your employees, but there is indirect discrimination happening to those religious workers by making them work.


5. You’re Entitled to Rest Breaks and Reasonable Working Hours

Under health and safety laws, employees have a right to daily and weekly rest breaks. This includes getting a daily rest period of at least 20 minutes to eat or hydrate, if the working day exceeds 6 hours, and at least one full day-off every 7 days.

Employees cannot be forced to work more than an average of 48 hours a week, unless you agree to put in additional working hours and confirm this in writing.


6. You Should Be Protected Under Health and Safety Protocols

Despite some jobs being objectively safer than others, all employees are entitled to a safe working environment.

Health and safety laws also state that employers have a statutory duty to take care of the health and safety of their employees by providing: a clean environment to work in, first aid equipment, protective clothing, drinking water and washing facilities, and ensuring all machinery is safe.


7. You Are Entitled to Annual Leave and Time-Off

Employees have the right to a set amount of paid holiday each year. Full-time employees are entitled to at least 5.6 weeks paid leave per year, and part-time workers receive pro-rata entitlement.

Employees also have the right to take unpaid time off to undergo additional training, attend trade union activities or to look after dependents in an emergency. This time off is separate from things like statutory sick pay (SSP) and maternity rights.

To qualify for SSP, employees must fulfil the following criteria:

  • Have worked for an employer
  • Earn at least £120 a week prior to tax

Suffered illness, be self-isolating, or shielding four days in a row


8. You Are Entitled to Family leave

Parents are entitled to time-off for antenatal care and can take 52 weeks statutory maternity leave under statutory shared parental pay (ShPP) and shared parental leave (SPL). The rules of this apply to anyone having a baby, using a surrogate to have a baby, adopting a child, or fostering a child with the intention of adopting.

Under both schemes, you have the option of sharing a portion of your parental leave with your partner. For example, if a mother takes 22 weeks of Materinity Leave, they can share the remaining weeks of SPL and ShPP with their partner.

When adopting a child, one of the adoptive parents is entitled to 6 months paid leave and 6 months unpaid leave, and the other partner is entitled to paternity leave.

If an employee receives a dismissal notice while they are pregnant or on maternity leave, the notice must be accompanied by a written explanation of the reason.


9. You're Entitled to Income During Lay-Offs

An employer may put an employee on short-time working or lay-off if there is a downturn in the industry and they do not have any work. The employee will not get paid if they are laid-off, but they will receive part of their regular income if they are on a short-time working contract. In both instances, the employee may be entitled to a payment called ‘guarantee payment’ from the employer.


10. Your Rights Apply to Part-Time And Fixed-Term Workers

Fixed-term workers have the same contractual rights as permanent employees in similar roles. However, entitlements to holidays and similar rights for part-time workers may be calculated on a pro rata basis.

There are no specific number of hours that differentiates a part-time worker from a full-time worker. It would vary from one company to another.


Have Questions About Your Employee Rights?

If you would like to learn more about your employment rights or have a particular issue you would like guidance on, please get in touch with our employment law solicitors in Cardiff.

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