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10 things to know about employment law and your rights at work

Employment law and your rights at work

You don't have to have a solicitor's level of knowledge when it comes to employment law, but it's important to know your basic rights.

Who do employment laws apply to?

In the eyes of the law, you are a worker if you have a contract to do work for a reward (usually money). Your contract doesn't have to be written, it can be verbal. You can't be working as a contractor or through your own limited company.

Minimum wage

The national minimum wage in the UK depends on your age. If you're 25 and over, you must be paid £8.72 per hour. If you are paid less, your employer is acting illegally.

25 and over21 - 2418 - 20Under 18Apprentice
£8.72£8.20£6.45£4.55£4.15

To check whether you're receiving the minimum wage, you can use the government's minimum wage calculator.

Unlawful deductions

If you are underpaid your wages without good reason, it's illegal and you are protected by the Employment Rights Act.

Paid holiday

If you work full-time (5 days a week), you are entitled to 28 days of paid leave a year. If you work part-time you are still entitled to paid leave. You can use the government's holiday calculator to see how much paid holiday you have a right to.

Rest breaks

If you're over 18, you must get 3 types of breaks at work: rest breaks, daily rest and weekly rest.

You have the right to one uninterrupted break of 20 minutes if you work more than 6 hours a day. (Usually tea or lunch).

You also have the right to at least 11 hours rest between work days and either 24 hours break each week or 48 hours each fortnight.

Anything less than this is a breach of employment law.

Working hours

By law, your employer can't force you to work more than 48 hours a week. You can opt-out of this limit, but you have to agree to do that.

Discrimination

It is against the law for your employer or any colleague to discriminate against you because of your age, gender, disability, race, religion or sexual orientation.

The Equality Act protects your rights and you can take legal action against your employer if they breach these rights.

Whistleblowing

If you report wrongdoing at work then you are a whistleblower and your rights are protected by employment law.

You should not be treated any differently by your employer and if they treat you unfairly, including firing you, it may be illegal.

Part-time work

By choosing to work part-time, employment law states that you must not be treated less favourably. If your employer treats you differently because you are part time, you may have a claim against them.

This applies whether you begin a role part-time or change from full-time to part-time.

Sick pay

In the UK, employers must pay you statutory sick pay if you are too sick to work. You are eligible for £95.85 per week for up to 28 weeks.

Sick pay is paid by your employer. They can pay you more (if its in your contract) but they can't pay less or refuse to pay.

Maternity and paternity pay

If you or your partner are having a baby, you have rights under the employment laws. Your employer must give you maternity leave and maternity pay of 90% of your average weekly wage for the first 6 weeks and then the lower of £151.20 or 90% of average weekly pay for the next 33 weeks.

What to do if your rights are breached?

  1. Start with your employer's formal grievance procedure. If you believe your employer has broken employment law, let them know. Speak to a mananger, member of HR or upper management. After following the employer's process, if you have been treated unfairly and the problem has not been resolved you can then take the matter further.

  2. Act fast. There may be a time limit on bring able to bring a complaint to an employment tribunal.

  3. Get professional advice as soon as possible. You can get advice from a trade union representative, from a citizens advice service, or from a specialist employment law solicitor.

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