This article was originally published here by Manak Solicitors

Everyone has rights in the workplace. Employee rights are the moral or legal entitlement an employee has to have or do something, as pertaining to work to ensure fair treatment. However, these rights vary depending on your employment status, for example whether you are a worker or an employee.

  • A worker is someone who has a contract or arrangement to do work or services personally for a reward, which can be money or a benefit in kind.
  • An employee is someone who has an employment contract from their employer to do regular work.

All employees are workers, but not all workers are employees. An employee has all the rights a worker has, plus some extra rights and responsibilities.

You may have to be employed for a minimum, continuous period of time before you qualify for some employee rights. 

10 employee rights you should know?

1. You must receive a payslip

A payslip should be given on the day you get paid, or before. It must show a detailed breakdown of the pay you’re getting for the relevant time period, plus any deductions such as tax and National Insurance.

Your employer can decide whether they provide payslips on paper or online.

An employee payslip must include:

  • Total pay before and after deductions (the gross amount and net amount respectively)
  • Variable deductions, which are different depending on how much you are paid. Examples of variable deductions include tax, National Insurance, Student Loan repayments and pension contributions
  • Fixed deductions. These can also be explained in a separate statement, which must be sent out before the first payslip and updated every year

Your payslip may also include your tax code.

2. You must not be discriminated against

Discrimination occurs when someone is treated unfairly in the workplace because of characteristics protected under the Equality Act 2010.

These protected characteristics are:

  • Age
  • Disability
  • Gender reassignment
  • Marriage or civil partnership
  • Pregnancy or maternity
  • Race
  • Religion or belief
  • Sex
  • Sexual orientation

Discrimination can be direct or indirect.

  • Direct discrimination takes place when the unfair treatment is because of the protected characteristic. For example, if a pregnant woman was absent due to morning sickness and an employer used this when taking disciplinary action against their attendance record, this would be direct discrimination.
  • Indirect discrimination takes place when rules that apply to a group of employees or applicants are reasonable in theory, but less fair to a specific protected characteristic in practice. For example, if all employees are required to work one Saturday a month, this would be indirect discrimination against employees of the Jewish faith because Saturday is a religious day for them.

Sometimes discrimination is justified – this is known as objective justification. For example, if a surgeon’s eyesight has deteriorated to the point where they are unable to carry out operations, their workplace would be justified in changing the surgeon’s duties in order to protect patients.

If you think you are being discriminated against at work, you can:

You can then decide what action to take, and whether to seek legal advice.

3. Health and safety laws apply to your working environment

Under the Health and Safety at Work Act (1974), employers have a duty to provide a safe, healthy environment for their employees. This includes providing facilities such as toilets, wash basins and clean drinking water, keeping the workplace clean, ventilated and well lit, and maintaining any equipment used.

4. Statutory sick pay

Eligible employees can get Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) of £95.85 per week. You must:

  • Have done some work for your employer
  • Earn an average of at least £120 per week before tax
  • Been ill, self-isolating or shielding for at least four days in a row (including non-working days)

You can get SSP for up to 28 weeks. How many days you can get it depends on why you’re off work.

  • If you’re shielding from coronavirus, you can get SSP for the period specified in the letter advising you to shield.
  • If you’re self-isolating, you can get SSP for every day if you have to self-isolate, if you’re unable to work from home. You must self-isolate for a minimum of four days to qualify.
  • If you’re off sick for reasons unrelated to coronavirus, you can get SSP from the fourth day you’re off sick. The three days before this are known as “waiting days” – you can only be paid for them if you’ve already received SSP within the last eight weeks, and that included a three-day waiting period.

5. Statutory maternity and paternity rights

Maternity leave and pay

Leave

Employees have the right to take Statutory Maternity Leave, which is 52 weeks. 

  • The first 26 weeks is known as Ordinary Maternity Leave
  • The last 26 weeks is known as Additional Maternity Leave

You don’t have to take all 52 weeks. However, you must take two weeks’ leave after your baby is born, or four weeks if you’re employed by a factory.

All your employee rights are protected while you’re on maternity leave.

Pay

Statutory Maternity Pay (SMP) is paid for up to 39 weeks, in the same way as your wages. You receive 90% of your average weekly earnings before tax for the first six weeks. For the next 33 weeks, you receive either £151.20 or 90% of your average weekly earnings – whichever is lower.

You qualify for SMP if you:

  • Earn at least £120 a week (on average)
  • Give your employer at least 28 days notice
  • Give your employer proof you’re pregnant (a doctor or midwife’s letter or your MATB1 certificate)
  • Have worked for your employer continuously for at least 26 weeks continuing into the qualifying week, which is the 15th week before the expected week of childbirth

SMP starts at the same time as your maternity leave.

Paternity leave and pay

Leave

Employees have the right to take paternity leave if their partner has a baby, providing they give the correct notice. You must have been continuously employed by the same employer for at least 26 weeks up to any day in the 15th week before the baby is due (known as the qualifying week).

You can choose to take one or two weeks. They must be taken in one go and your leave must end within 56 days of the birth.

All your employee rights are protected while you’re on paternity leave.

Pay

The statutory weekly rate of your paternity pay is either £151.20, or 90% of your average weekly earnings, depending on which is lower. This money will be paid in the same way as your wages.

You qualify for paternity pay if:

  • You are employed by your employer up to the date of the birth
  • You have been continuously employed by your employer for at least 26 weeks up to any day in the 15th week before the baby is due
  • You earn at least £120 per week before tax
  • You give your employer notice using the SC3 form, at least 15 weeks before the baby is due

6. You are allowed to request flexible working

Employees who have worked continuously for the same employer for at least 26 weeks have the right to request flexible working (known as making a statutory application). You can make this application once per year.

You must write to your employer to make the request and include the following information:

  • The date
  • A statement that this is a statutory request
  • Details of how you want to work flexibly
  • When you want to start
  • An explanation of how flexible working could affect the business and how this can be dealt with
  • A statement saying if and when you made a previous application for flexible working

Your employer must make a decision within three months. They must change the terms and conditions in your contract if they grant your request. If they refuse it, they must explain the business reasons behind their decision. You can complain to a tribunal if you have a case.

7. You are entitled to time off for annual leave

Employers must provide employees who work a five-day week at least 28 days of paid annual leave per year. This can include bank holidays.

You can accrue holiday entitlement during maternity, paternity and adoption leave and while off sick.

8. Minimum notice periods

A minimum notice period is the length of time your employer must give you before your employment ends, or that you give an employer before you leave their service. Both of these should be detailed in your contract.

There are statutory minimum notice periods:

  • One week’s notice must be given you you have worked between one month and two years
  • You are entitled to one week for every year worked, up to a maximum of 12 weeks, if you have worked between two and 12 years

The minimum statutory notice periods apply even if your employment contract states a shorter length of time. If your contract gives a higher notice period, you have the right to receive the longer notice period.

9. Statutory redundancy pay

You have the right to receive statutory redundancy pay if you’ve been working for your employer for two or more years, with length of service capped at 20 years. You’ll receive:

  • Half a week’s pay for each full year you were under 22
  • One week’s pay for each full year you were between the ages of 22 and 40
  • One-and-a-half week’s pay for each full year you were aged 41 or more

Weekly pay is calculated as the average you earned per week over the 12 weeks before the day you received your redundancy notice. You can calculate your redundancy pay on the government website.

10. Protection against unfair dismissal

Employers must give a lawful reason if they choose to terminate an employment contract. They must also give the agreed amount of notice in the contract (unless this is lower than the statutory minimum notice period), and follow a fair procedure throughout the process.

A fair dismissal occurs for one of the following reasons:

  1. Your conduct
  2. Your ability to do the job
  3. Redundancy
  4. You no longer meet a legal requirement necessary to carry out your job (for example, if you had to drive but lost your license)

You can also have your contract terminated for some other substantial reason outside of these four.

There are some cases where the dismissal would be considered unfair.

You must have been continuously employed by your employer for a minimum of two years in order to be legally protected against unfair dismissal. However, there are some instances of unfair dismissal where you’re protected from your first day.

These include:

  • Being a member of a trade union
  • Refusing to give up a statutory right, such as the right to a break or asking for flexible working hours
  • Whistleblowing (if you report wrongdoing you’ve seen at work)
  • Being dismissed because of a protected characteristic, such as race, religion, pregnancy or sexual orientation

Employers must pay former employees compensation if an employment tribunal decides their dismissal was unfair. This can be up to one year’s pay, capped at £86,444 (whichever is lower).

Make note of your rights as an employee and you will be able to identify when they are not being met. If you do need to seek legal advice, contact our dedicated team of employment lawyers.

Your employee rights during COVID-19

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed working life for a lot of people. Whether you’re still going to work but with new precautions in place, on furlough, or working from home full-time, things are very different to the norm. It’s a difficult time, but there are laws, guidelines and financial support in place to help you.

Here’s what you need to know about your employee rights during COVID-19.

Going into work

Not everyone is able to work from home. It’s understandable that you might be nervous or scared of going to work, and travelling to work, during the pandemic. Employers must take action to ensure their employees are as safe as possible while working.

COVID-secure workplaces

Priority actions for your workplace will depend on which category it falls into. Some workplaces will be part of more than one category – for example, if there’s an office and also a warehouse. The categories are:

  1. Close contact services, such as hairdressers and barbers
  2. Construction and other outdoor work
  3. Factories, plants and warehouses
  4. Heritage locations
  5. Hotels and other guest accommodation
  6. Labs and research facilities
  7. Offices and contact centres
  8. Other people’s homes
  9. Performing arts
  10. Providers of grassroots sport and sport facilities
  11. Restaurants, pubs, bars and takeaway services
  12. Shops and branches
  13. Vehicles
  14. The visitor economy

Although there are differences in the approaches taken for each type of workplace, there are some steps that appear throughout the government’s guides.

  • Surfaces must be cleaned more often.
  • You must use hand sanitiser and wash your hands frequently.
  • You must wear a face covering, except in the case of exemption.
  • Everyone must comply with social distancing.
  • You may be asked to take part in NHS Test and Trace.
  • You should be turned away from your place of work if you arrive demonstrating symptoms of COVID-19.

During a national lockdown, you can only leave home for work purposes where it is unreasonable for you to do your job from home.

Being put on furlough

In 2020, the government introduced the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, whereby employees could be put on temporary leave (‘furlough’). It has been extended until 30th September 2021.

Furloughed employees can be on any type of employment contract: full-time, part-time, agency, flexible, or zero-hour.

Once you’ve been put on furlough, your employer applies for a grant to cover 80% of your usual salary for hours not worked, up to a maximum of £2,500 per month. They must have confirmed to you in writing that you have been furloughed, or reached an agreement with a trade union.

When they can apply depends on how long you have been working for them.

  • If you were employed on or before October 30 2020: Your employer can claim for periods ending on or before April 30 2021, if they submitted PAYE Real Time Information (RTI) to HMRC between March 20 2020 and October 30 2020.
  • If you were employed on March 2 2021: Your employer can claim for periods on or after May 1 2021, if they submitted PAYE RTI to HMRC between March 20 2020 and March 2 2021.

Equality and discrimination laws must be abided by when employers make decisions about the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme. 

Your employer is responsible for paying you the amount you are entitled to. You cannot undertake any work for them during the time you are on furlough.

The Self-Employment Income Support Scheme

Self-employed individuals cannot be put on furlough. However, you may be able to claim a grant through the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme (SEISS).

There have been three previous grants. The fourth one was announced at this year’s Budget. This grant will be 80% of three months’ average trading profits. You receive it in one payment, which is capped at £7,500.

To receive the SEISS grant, you must:

  • Be a self-employed individual or a member of a partnership
  • Have traded in the tax years 2019 to 2020 and 2020 to 2021
  • Be trading but impacted by reduced demand because of coronavirus, or have temporarily stopped trading because of coronavirus
  • Declare that you intend to continue trading
  • Declare that your profits will be significantly reduced because of coronavirus 

You will be able to claim from late April 2021 to May 31 2021 if you are eligible. HMRC will contact you with the date you can make your claim from.

What happens if you are employed but cannot work?

There are a number of instances where employees may not be able to work. The business you work for may be temporarily closed because of coronavirus, you may have caring responsibilities such as homeschooling children, or you may have to shield or self-isolate.

This can have a significant impact on your finances, which in turn can cause stress. However, there are a number of schemes and payments which you may be eligible for during this time.

Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme

Your employer may be able to put you on furlough. They will receive a grant which means you will get 80% of your usual pay.

You could be eligible for furlough if:

  • You have less or no work because of coronavirus
  • You have caring responsibilities because of coronavirus, and cannot work all or any of your usual hours as a result
  • You cannot work because you are shielding and it is not possible for you to work from home

New Style Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA)

You may be eligible for New Style Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA), a contribution-based benefit paid every fortnight. You must be under State Pension age, work less than 16 hours a week and have made enough National Insurance contributions over the last two to three years.

Your savings or income do not affect how much you can get.

You could get New Style JSA if:

  • You have less or no work because of coronavirus

New Style Employment and Support Allowance (ESA)

New Style ESA is available to those who have a disability or health condition which affects how much they can work.

You could receive New Style ESA if:

  • You cannot work because you are shielding, or your child is shielding and you have to look after them
  • You cannot work because you have coronavirus or are self-isolating, you cannot get SSP, you are under State Pension age and have made enough National Insurance contributions over the last two to three years

Universal Credit

You may be eligible for Universal Credit, a monthly payment to help with living costs. You or your partner must be under State Pension age and have less than £16,000 in savings.

You could receive Universal Credit if:

  • You have less or no work because of coronavirus
  • You have caring responsibilities because of coronavirus, and cannot work all or any of your usual hours as a result
  • You cannot work because you are shielding
  • You cannot work because you have coronavirus or are self-isolating

Pension Credit

You may be eligible for Pension Credit, which is a top-up of your weekly income and an extra payment for people who have saved money towards their retirement. You and your partner must have reached State Pension age, which is currently 66 years old for both men and women. 

You could receive Pension Credit if:

  • You have less or no work because of coronavirus and have reached State Pension age
  • You have caring responsibilities because of coronavirus, and cannot work all or any of your usual hours as a result
  • You cannot work because you are shielding
  • You cannot work because you have coronavirus or are self-isolating

Statutory Sick Pay (SSP)

SSP is money you receive if you are too ill to work. This is £95.85 per week, or more if your employer has a sick pay scheme (also known as an occupational scheme). Your employer can pay you SSP for up to 28 weeks.

You could receive SSP if:

  • You cannot work because you are shielding
  • You cannot work because you have coronavirus
  • You cannot work because you or someone in your household has coronavirus symptoms
  • You cannot work because you are self-isolating

You must follow your employer’s usual sickness reporting policy if you are self-isolating.

You do not need a self-isolation note from your doctor or NHS 111 unless you have to self-isolate for more than seven days. You can get the note for your employer from the NHS website.

One-off payments

There are one-off payment schemes available if you cannot work from home and have been told to self-isolate. These are different depending on which UK country you live in.

England

The Test and Trace Support Payment is £500. You must:

  • Have been told to self-isolate by NHS Test and Trace or the NHS COVID-19 app
  • Have a Test and Trace account ID
  • Be employed or self-employed
  • Not be able to work from home
  • Claim within 28 days of your first day of self-isolation

You can apply through your local council.

Northern Ireland

The Discretionary Support Self Isolation Grant is available to people if they or a member of their immediate family have COVID-19 or have been told to self-isolate. You must:

  • Have a crisis situation which places the safety of you or your immediate family at significant risk
  • Live in Northern Ireland, and the crisis situation must occur in Northern Ireland
  • Be over 18 years old, or at least 16 years old if you do not receive any parental support
  • Not receive annual income above the national living wage (£20,405 per year). This includes the income of your partner
  • Have been diagnosed with COVID-19 or told to self-isolate, or a member of your immediate family must have been diagnosed with COVID-19 or told to self-isolate

You can apply by contacting the Finance Support Service.

Scotland

The Self-Isolation Support Grant is £500. You must:

  • Be told to self-isolate by Test and Protect or the Incident Management Team
  • Be employed or self-employed
  • Be unable to work from home (and therefore lose income)
  • Be on low income or receiving one of the qualifying benefits

You can apply by contacting your local council. What is considered to be low income varies between councils.

Wales

You could get £500 through the Self Isolation Support Scheme. You must:

  • Have been formally told to self-isolate, or be caring for a child who must self-isolate
  • Be employed or self-employed
  • Be unable to work from home
  • Claim within 21 days of your first day of self-isolation

You can apply through your local authority.

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