Statutory Rights vs Contractual Rights At Work

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Emilene LucasLegal Assessment Team Supervisor
Updated on 7th July 2024
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In the UK, employees have various protections under the law, known as statutory rights, as well as additional protections that may be agreed upon in their employment contract.

This is often a source of confusion for employees trying to understand their rights and how to enforce them.

This article will help you understand what these rights are, how they are different, why they matter, and how they affect your work life.

What are statutory rights at work?

Statutory rights are the basic rights and protections provided to employees by law in the UK.

These are:

Minimum wage

Every employee in the UK is entitled to receive at least the National Minimum Wages. As of April 2024, the rates are as follows:

  • £11.44 for workers aged 21 and over;

  • £8.60 for workers aged 18 to 20;

  • £6.40 for workers under 18;

  • £6.40 for apprentices.

Employees also have the right not to suffer unauthorised deductions from wages.

Employees are entitled to a minimum of 28 days of paid holiday per year, which can include bank holidays. This is calculated pro-rata for part-time workers.

For example, if you work 3 days a week, you would be entitled to 16.8 days of holiday per year.

Sick pay

Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) is available to employees who are too ill to work for more than 4 consecutive days. As of April 2024, the weekly rate for SSP is £116.75, and it can be paid for up to 28 weeks.

Maternity, Paternity, and Adoption Leave

Employees have the right to maternity leave and adoption leave for up to 52 weeks, with statutory maternity pay for up to 39 weeks.

Paternity leave is available for either 1 or 2 weeks following a specified date after the birth of the child.

Protection against unfair dismissal

After two years of continuous employment, employees are protected against unfair dismissal. This means that if you are dismissed, your employer must have a fair reason and follow a fair process. If not, you can take your case to an employment tribunal.

Flexible working requests

All employees have the legal right to request flexible working, such as part-time hours, job sharing, or remote working, from their first day in a job.

Employers must reasonably consider these requests and provide a valid business reason if they refuse.

Redundancy pay

If you are made redundant after at least two years of service, you are entitled to statutory redundancy pay. The amount depends on your age, length of service, and weekly pay, up to a maximum limit.

Working hours and rest breaks

The Working Time Regulations 1998 ensure that employees do not work more than 48 hours per week unless they choose to opt-out.

Employees are also entitled to rest breaks during the working day and rest periods between working days.

Equality and non-discrimination

The Equality Act 2010 protects employees from discrimination based on protected characteristics such as age, disability, gender reassignment, race, religion, sex, and sexual orientation.

Statutory rights matter because they create a baseline of fairness and safety in the workplace. They help ensure employees are treated with respect and dignity.

What are common law rights?

Common law rights are rights that have derived from judicial decisions over time, rather than from laws passed by Parliament.

These rights are developed through the legal principle of precedent, where the outcomes of past court cases influence the decisions in future cases.

Some key common law rights relating to employment include the right to:

  • Fair notice of termination

  • A safe working environment

  • Fair treatment

  • Receive wages

  • Rest periods and breaks

  • Privacy

  • Implied terms of trust and confidence.

This final right means that both the employer and the employee must not act in a way that is likely to destroy or seriously damage the relationship of trust and confidence between them. Breaching this term can lead to constructive dismissal claims.

What are contractual rights?

Contractual rights are specific rights and obligations agreed upon by an employer and an employee within their employment contract.

These rights are legally binding and tailored to the employment relationship. Terms can include:

  • Salary

  • Working hours

  • Job role and responsibilities

  • Holiday entitlement

  • Bonus schemes

  • Pension contributions

  • Health insurance

  • Company car or travel allowances

  • Employer-funder professional development opportunities.

What is the difference between statutory and contractual rights?

Statutory rights are non-negotiable minimum standards that apply to all employees universally, while contractual rights vary based on individual contracts and can be negotiated and personalised to the specific employment relationship.

Can contractual rights override statutory rights?

Statutory rights are minimum entitlements established by law that can't be waived or reduced by any employment contract. However, contractual rights can offer more favourable terms than those provided by statutory rights.

For example, while the law may provide for 28 days of annual leave, an employer can offer 35 days in the employment contract.

In any dispute between statutory and contractual rights, statutory rights will always take precedence.

How can I enforce my statutory rights?

Often, issues can be resolved through a conversation with your employer. Therefore, if you believe your statutory rights are being violated you should:

  1. Schedule a meeting with your manager or HR department;

  2. Clearly state your concerns and provide any relevant information;

  3. Reference the specific statutory rights you believe are being breached.

If discussing the issue informally doesn't resolve the problem, you can raise a formal grievance following your company's grievance procedure.

If the grievance process does not lead to a resolution, Acas offers early conciliation, or you may consider getting support from your trade union if you are a member.

As a last resort, you can file a claim with an employment tribunal.

Before doing so, consider getting legal advice. Employment lawyers can provide expert guidance on the best course of action.

For further advice and expert assistance, contact us today for a free case evaluation.

What happens if there is a dispute over contractual rights at work?

If there is a dispute over contractual rights at work, you should follow the same process as detailed above.

An employment contract is a legally binding agreement and if the dispute can't be solved through internal grievance processes or conciliation, you can submit a claim to the employment tribunal.

Do part-time workers have the same statutory rights as full-time workers?

Under the Part-time Workers (Prevention of Less Favourable Treatment) Regulations 2000, part-time workers must be treated no less favourably than comparable full-time workers.

For example, if a full-time worker is entitled to 28 days of paid annual leave (including public holidays), a part-time worker who works half the hours of a full-time worker would be entitled to 14 days of paid annual leave.

Are temporary and agency workers entitled to statutory rights?

Temporary workers, often hired directly by a company for a specific period, are entitled to the same basic statutory rights as permanent employees.

Agency workers placed with a company by an employment agency have specific rights under the Agency Worker Regulations 2010, including:

Day one rights

  • Equal access to facilities facilities such as canteens, childcare, and transport services as a permanent employee;

  • Information about job vacancies within the company.

Rights after 12 weeks in the same job

  • Equal pay to a permanent employee doing the same job;

  • Equal working conditions, including annual leave and working time;

  • Paid time off for ante-natal appointments.

Conclusion

Understanding the difference between statutory and contractual rights at work is super important to make sure you are treated fairly.

Key takeaways:

  • Statutory rights are minimum standards set by law that all employers must follow;

  • Contractual rights are specific terms agreed upon in your employment contract;

  • Statutory rights are non-negotiable and apply universally, while contractual rights can vary and offer more favourable terms than statutory rights;

  • If your statutory or contractual rights are violated, there are several steps you can take, from informal discussions to filing a claim with an employment tribunal.

If you need advice or assistance with any employment-related issues, Lawhive is here to help.

Contact us today for a free case evaluation. Our network of expert employment lawyers is ready to provide the fast, efficient guidance and support you need to protect your rights at work.

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