All employees in the UK are protected by rights related to safe working environments, minimum pay allowances, contracts, discrimination, and work hours. Employment rights include receiving the National Minimum Wage, protection from unlawful wage deductions, the statutory minimum level of paid holiday and rest breaks, protection from unlawful discrimination and reporting of wrongdoing or whistleblowing, and not being treated less favourably if you are working part-time. Workers also have the right not to work more than 48 hours on average per week, unless they agree to work more than the maximum weekly working hours. Employees also have the right to statutory sick pay, time off for emergencies, flexible working, and statutory maternity, paternity, adoption and shared parental leave. They also have certain rights related to job security, including statutory redundancy pay, protection against unfair dismissal, and a minimum notice if employment is ending. Employers have a duty of care to their employees and are responsible for ensuring these rights.
When hiring a new employee, employers must provide an employment contract that outlines the employees responsibilities and duties. The contract must also set out the employee's conditions and rights. Terms of any employment contract remain valid until it is terminated or if it is amended, usually with agreement from both parties. Contract terms can be written, such as a written statement of employment, an offer letter, an employee handbook, or a collective agreement that is negotiated between employers and trade unions or staff associations. Terms can also be verbal or implied.
Leave and Time Off Work
There are many reasons why you might need time off work, including having a baby and being ill. Employers are required to ensure their employees receive entitlements for statutory leave and pay, such as when employees take maternity and paternity leave or holiday leave. You can also take time off to deal with an emergency involving a dependant, such as a spouse or partner, child or grandchild, parent, or anyone else that depends on you for their care. Normally, employment contracts and rights are protected while an employee is on leave.
Statutory sick pay provides £88.45 per week for up to 28 weeks for employees that are too ill to work. To be eligible, you must have been off work sick for at least four working days in a row. You also need to earn at least £122 per week before tax. Like other types of statutory leave, employers are responsible for paying statutory sick pay. Sick pay and other statutory leave is also subject to tax and National Insurance deductions.
Holiday Entitlement and Pay
Workers have the right to paid holiday leave and accrue holiday entitlement while on sick, maternity, paternity or adoption leave. Most workers are entitled for 5.6 weeks or 28 days of paid holiday each year. This is known as statutory leave entitlement or statutory annual leave. Employers can include bank holidays in the annual leave and they may also offer more than the legal minimum.
Maternity, Paternity, Parental and Adoption Leave
Statutory maternity leave provides new mothers with up to 52 weeks off work. Taking full maternity leave is not mandatory, although you must take two weeks' leave (four weeks if you work in a factory) after your baby is born. Statutory maternity pay covers up to 39 weeks. You receive 90% of your average pre-tax weekly earnings for the first six weeks and £139.58 or 90% of your average weekly earnings (whichever is lower) for the remaining time.
With statutory paternity leave, new fathers are entitled to one or two weeks of paid leave when their partner has a baby. You are also entitled to paternity leave when adopting a baby or having a baby with a surrogate. Paternity pay is 90% of your average weekly earnings or £139.58, whichever is less.
Shared parental leave is available for parents who are expecting or adopting a child. This type of leave allows you to take leave in block rather than all at once like maternity or paternity leave. Shared parental leave covers 52 weeks minus any weeks taken for maternity or adoption leave. Statutory shared parental pay is 90% of your average weekly earnings or £139.58, whichever is less.
New parents are eligible for statutory adoption leave if they adopt a child or have a child with a surrogate. Adoption leave is for up to 52 weeks, although only one person in a couple may take this type of leave. Anyone opting for adoption leave is also entitled to paid time off work to attend up to five adoption appointments. Statutory adoption pay covers up to 39 weeks. The first six weeks is 90% of your average weekly earnings, while the remaining time is 90% of £139.58 (whichever is lower).
A worker's employment rights are protected while they are on statutory maternity, paternity, shared parental or adoption leave. This includes the right to pay increases, accrue holiday and return to work.
Flexible working allows employers to adjust work conditions to suit the needs of their employees. Employees may be able to work from home or change start and finish times (also known as flexitime). They may also have the flexibility to work compressed hours where you work full-time hours over fewer work days. Job sharing is another type of flexible working where two employees do one job but split the hours.
Employees have the legal right to request flexible working, although employers are not legally required to approve requests if there is a good business reason. Flexible working is available for all employees, not just parents or carers that are looking after someone. Employers are required to handle requests in a reasonable manner by assessing the merits of the request, meeting with the employee to discuss the request, and offering an appeal process.