A quick guide to work and pay entitlements as an employee in the UK

Updated 7th June 2013

Although the legislation that is concerned with employee pay entitlements in the UK is reviewed regularly, as an employee it is important to have up-to-date knowledge of what the current regulations and to be aware of your rights at work. In this article you will find an overview of the key aspects related to pay entitlements and other basic rights.

Employee pay entitlements

The current legislation has set a minimum wage system that all employers must abide by. Minimum wage legislation was first introduced in the United Kingdom in 1998 by means of the National Minimum Wage Act. As of October 2012, the national minimum wage for workers in the UK is as follows:

-employees who are aged 21 and over are entitled to a rate of £6.19 per hour

-employees aged between 18 and 20 must be paid at least £4.98 per hour

-employees under 18 years old must be paid a minimum rate of £3.68 per hour

The above rates do not apply to apprentices, who must receive at least £2.65 per hour during their first year of apprenticeship. After the first year, apprentices are entitled to the standard minimum wage rate that applies to their age group.

The next minimum wage rate review is due on October 2013. It must be noted that the law also applies to home workers and agency or temporary workers, and that the rates are not influenced by whether an employee is hired on a full-time or part-time basis.

Sick pay

The law also stipulates that workers who are unable to work due to illness are entitled to statutory sick pay. The current rates are set at £85.85 per week, and the daily statutory sick pay rate is calculated on a pro-rata basis. The first three days that an employee is off work due to illness do not count towards sick pay, and there is a maximum amount of time during which an employee can receive sick pay, which is currently set at 28 weeks per year.

As of 6th April 2013, the legal statutory sick pay will rise to £86.70 per week.

Holiday pay entitlement

The current employment law also outlines employees’ entitlements in terms of holiday pay. Almost every worker is entitled to take paid holidays, except for self-employed workers and those who have not yet reached school leaving age. Workers are entitled to enjoy at least 5.6 weeks of paid holiday time every year, irrespective of their age. Holiday entitlement is calculated on a pro-rata basis for part-time employees, and the entitlement starts from your first day at work. It must be noted that holiday entitlements do not necessarily include bank holidays.

The rates for statutory sick pay are the same as the normal rates that you receive for each day of work, unless your contract specifies that holidays are paid at a higher rate. Also, employees are not normally allowed to carry over unused holiday days from one year to the next, unless their contract says otherwise. Employees must also be paid any outstanding holiday pay that is due when they leave they job, as part of their final pay check.

Break time entitlements

According to the Working Time Regulations, workers are entitled to a certain amount of breaks and rest periods. The entitlement varies depending on the employee’s age and on how long their shift is. Certain jobs are excluded from these regulations, such as emergency services, the police and armed forces, offshore and mobile workers, those employed in security or surveillance duties, and shift workers. Employees who are exempt from these entitlements must be compensated with an equivalent rest period.

Workers whose shift lasts 6 hours are entitled to an uninterrupted 20-minute break that must be taken during the shift, but not at the start or at the end of the working day. Workers who are under 18 must have a 30-minute break for every 4.5 hours of work. There must be an 11-hour rest period between working days for adult workers and a 12-hour rest for those under 18. Adult workers are also entitled to have a weekly rest period of 24 hours (48 hours for young workers).

The rules regarding maximum working hours mandate that no worker should work more than 48 hours per week, unless they voluntarily opt out of this limit in writing. Workers who are under 18 have a limit of 40 hours per week. The rules do not apply to certain professions (see the exceptions to break time entitlements).

Maternity pay

Female employees are entitled to be paid 90 per cent of their average weekly wages during the first six weeks of maternity leave. During the following thirty-three weeks, employees must receive £135.35 per week, unless their average weekly salary is lower than this amount. As of April 2013, this rate will increase by 1 per cent, and will continue to do so until 2016.

For further information on employment rights please go to Directgov

Further information on Employee Rights, Maternity Rights, Workplace Disputes, Equal Opportunities and
Office Relocation: Employee Rights.

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