10 Employee Rights You Should Know

Employee rights in the workplace are an essential part of fair and legal treatment of the workforce. The Employment Rights Act came into force in 1996 and covers everything from protection of wages and zero hours workers to Sunday working and redundancy payments.

In our blog, we’re going to inform you of the 10 employee rights you need to know about, whether you’re an employee or an employer.

But first, let’s look at the types of employment and what rights they come with.

What are the types of employment status?

Employment status dictates the rights a person has when at work, and what responsibilities their employer has towards them. It is a legal status and therefore very important to know what classification you or your workforce fall under.

There are 3 main types of employment status:

  • Employee
  • Worker
  • Self-employed

These three are often not used correctly and the difference is not always known. Hopefully by the end of this article you will know the difference, what status you have, and the rights associated to that!

How to check my employment status

Employment status can be determined by multiple factors and these include:

  • the type of employment contract you have
  • the way you get paid
  • who is responsible for paying your tax
  • your rights and responsibilities and those of your employer

Check out this factsheet from the CIPD on employment status for more information.

Both employers and the people doing work for them need to know their rights and responsibilities, so it’s important to be sure of employment status. 

HMRC have developed the CEST (Check Employment Status for Tax) Portal in order to help achieve clarity on employment status, for the purpose of paying the correct taxes.  This is part of the Off-Payroll Working rules / IR35 and whilst these are specifically concerned with the payment of tax, determining an individual’s employment status is a key part of this process.

What are employee rights?

Employee rights cover all the things you are entitled to if you have employee status. You’re classed as an employee if you:

  • have an employment contract from your employer, formed when you accept the job
  • tend to be provided regular work by your employer
  • are employed to do the work personally
  • must do the work

We will delve into employee rights further down the blog, but as a brief overview, these rights include (but are not limited to):

  • written terms (a ‘written statement of employment particulars’) outlining your job rights and responsibilities, as a minimum
  • Find out more about Statement of Employment Particulars here
  • sick, holiday and parental leave pay
  • being able to claim redundancy and unfair dismissal after 2 years’ service

What are worker rights?

If your employment is on a more casual basis, you could be classed as a worker. This would usually include:

  • Having a ‘contract for services’ (to do work or provide a service for a payment or reward), which can be verbal or written
  • Being employed to do the work personally
  • Having very little obligation to receive or do work (for example, a zero-hours contract where you’re offered work on an ‘as and when’ basis) but should do work you’ve agreed to

As a worker, you have employment rights including:

  • Written terms outlining your job rights and responsibilities
  • National Minimum Wage
  • Paid holiday
  • Payslips
  • Protection against unlawful discrimination
  • Protection for ‘whistleblowing’
  • Not being treated unfairly if you work part time

Today we’re focusing on employee rights from both an employee and employer perspective. If, as an employer, you are looking to ensure your company is compliant, check out our HR Assure package.

HR Assure protects your company from reputational and financial risk and ensures you comply with your legal responsibilities as an employer. View HR Assure for HR Compliance here

So, let’s now look at the 10 employee rights you should know:

1.You must not be discriminated against

The law effectively protects individuals from discrimination and inequality under the Equality Act. This is if the reason for the discrimination or inequality is because of a protected characteristic, of which there are nine:

  1. Sex
  2. Sexual Orientation
  3. Gender Reassignment
  4. Race
  5. Age
  6. Disability
  7. Religion/Belief
  8. Marriage/Civil Partnership
  9. Pregnancy/Maternity

To find out more about discrimination in the workplace, check out our other blogs on the topic:


2. You must receive a payslip

Whether it’s printed or electronic, all employees must be provided with a payslip either on or before payday. Payslips are proof of earnings, tax paid and any pension contribution and must show:

  • Total pay before (gross) and after (net) deductions
  • Variable deductions, which are different depending on how much you are paid. Examples include tax, National Insurance, Student Loan repayments and pension contributions
  • Fixed deductions such as repayment of a season ticket loan. This can be doing either on the payslip or in a separate written statement that needs to be updated every year

3. Health and safety laws apply to your working environment

The Health and Safety at Work Act (1974) sets out the general duties which employers have towards employees, among other things.

It states that an employer has a duty to provide a safe, healthy environment for their employees.

Examples of this kind of working environment include the provision of facilities such as toilets, wash basins and clean drinking water. Also, the responsibility of keeping the workplace clean, ventilated and well lit, and maintaining any equipment used.

4. You are entitled to annual leave

All employees are entitled to 5.6 weeks’ paid holiday a year – this is known as annual leave or statutory leave entitlement. An employer can include bank holidays as part of this entitlement, so usually a contract might dictate “20 paid days annual leave plus 8 paid bank holidays.”

Leave can be calculated depending on how many days a week an employee works. If they are part time, it can be pro-rated down. For example, if a person works 3 days a week, it would be 3 x 5.6 so they would be entitled to 16.8 days leave a year.

Find out more about annual leave here

5. You are allowed to request flexible working

If you have worked for the same employer for at least 26 weeks, you have the right to request flexible working. This might include flexible start and finish times or working from home. To make a statutory application, as it is known, you will need to write or email your employer and include in your application:

  • The date
  • A statement that this is a statutory request
  • Details of how the employee wants to work flexibly and when they want to start
  • An explanation of how they think flexible working might affect the business and how this could be dealt with, for example if they’re not at work on certain days
  • A statement saying if and when they’ve made a previous application

An employer must then deal with the request in a reasonable manner and respond within 3 months (or later, if agreed with the employee.) ‘Reasonable manner’ includes weighing up the pros and cons of the application and discussing the request with the employee further.

The employer may disagree, giving solid business reasons for their decision.

6. Redundancy Pay

If you have been working for your employer for 2 years or more, you will normally be entitled to statutory redundancy pay as an employee.

You’ll get:

  • Half a week’s pay for each full year you were under 22
  • One week’s pay for each full year you were 22 or older, but under 41
  • One and half week’s pay for each full year you were 41 or older

Taking this into consideration, the weekly pay refers to the average amount earned per week over the 12 weeks before the day you got your redundancy notice.

Note* Length of service is capped at 20 years

Note* All redundancy pay below £30,000 is not taxable

You can calculate your statutory redundancy pay here or continue reading all about redundancy pay here:

HR Projects: Redundancy

Managing Change: Redundancy

7. Statutory Sick Pay (SSP)

Since the start of the new 2021 tax year, SSP has risen from £95.85 to £96.35 per week and is paid for up to 28 weeks. In order to get SSP you must:

  • Have done some work for your employer
  • Earn an average of at least £120 per week before tax
  • If you cannot work because of COVID-19 (such as shielding, contracting COVID, bubbling with someone who has it etc) then you could get SSP for every day you’re off work
  • If your illness is not COVID-19 related, you can get SSP form the fourth consecutive day you’re off work sick – this includes weekends and non-working days

8. Statutory maternity and paternity rights

Paternity Rights

You might be eligible for 1- or 2-weeks’ paid Paternity Leave, Paternity Pay and/or Shared Parental Leave and Pay.

This applies to situations where your partner is having a baby, you are adopting a child or if you are using a surrogacy arrangement.

Whilst on paternity leave, your employment rights are protected including the right to a pay rise, to accrue holiday leave and to return to work.

Furthermore, you are entitled to take time off for 2 antenatal or adoption appointments.

All of the above will apply if you have been employed by your current employer for at least 26 weeks up to the qualifying week. The qualifying week is the 15th week before baby is due.

Leave must end within 56 days of birth or adoption and must be taken in one go.

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
  • 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
  • Earn at least £120 per week before tax
  • Give your employer notice using the SC3 form, at least 15 weeks before the baby is due

Maternity Rights

When you take time off to have a baby or adopt a child, you might be eligible for Statutory Maternity Leave, Statutory Maternity Pay, paid time off for antenatal care and extra help from the government. What you get paid will all depend on your individual circumstances.

Whilst on maternity leave, your employment rights are protected including the right to a pay rise, to accrue holiday leave and to return to work.

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.

Statutory Maternity Pay (SMP) is paid for up to 39 weeks, in the same way as your wages and starts at the same time as your maternity leave.

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

For maternity, paternity and shared parental leave, you can work out what you how much pay you can get on the Pay Leave for Parents Calculator

9. Minimum notice periods

You must give a minimum notice period before your employment ends and this time frame should be detailed in your contract. There is a scale of how much notice an employee needs to give depending on how much time they have worked for an employer:

  • at least one week’s notice if employed between one month and 2 years
  • one week’s notice for each year if employed between 2 and 12 years
  • 12 weeks’ notice if employed for 12 years or more

An employer can request more than this in a contract but they cannot give less.

As well as statutory redundancy pay, an employer should either:

  • pay you through your notice period
  • pay you in lieu of notice depending on your circumstances

Your notice pay is based on the average you earned per week over the 12 weeks before your notice period starts.

10. Protection against unfair dismissal

The tenth of the employee rights you need to know about is protection against unfair dismissal. In order to terminate a contract, employers need to give lawful reason to do so. The entire process must be fair, otherwise dismissal would be considered unfair which could lead to employment tribunals.

A fair dismissal occurs for one of the following reasons:

  • Your conduct
  • Your ability to do the job
  • Redundancy
  • 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

If a dismissal is unfair, an employee must have been working for the employer for a minimum of 2 years in order to be legally protected against unfair dismissal. A dismissal would be unfair if an employer does not:

  • Have a good reason for dismissing you
  • Follow the company’s formal disciplinary or dismissal process

Situations when your dismissal is likely to be unfair include if you:

  • asked for flexible working
  • refused to give up your working time rights – for example, to take rest breaks
  • resigned and gave the correct notice period
  • joined a trade union
  • took part in legal industrial action that lasted 12 weeks or less
  • needed time off for jury service
  • applied for maternity, paternity and adoption leave
  • were on any maternity, paternity and adoption leave you’re entitled to
  • tried to enforce your right to receive Working Tax Credits
  • exposed wrongdoing in the workplace (whistleblowing)
  • were forced to retire (known as ‘compulsory retirement’)

You can check if a dismissal is unfair or not here

To find out more about employee rights, or any HR topic, please get in touch for a chat:

[email protected]

0203 667 7720

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