By: Simon B
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Your Basic Rights at Work
Over the past couple of years, the law has given employees increased rights. Some rights, such as the right to not be discriminated against, you have from the minute you decide to apply for a job. Other rights, such as the right to be paid at least the minimum wage, begin as soon as you start a job. Then you acquire other rights the longer you work for the same employer, such as the right to claim unfair dismissal after a year or the right to a redundancy payment after two years. Many employers deny employees their rights – often because they don’t know the law or because they’re poor employers who think that they can get away with treating their staff badly. If you’re refused holiday you’re entitled to, paid less than the minimum wage or the amount stated in your contract, your boss changes the terms of your contract without your agreement, you’re dismissed unfairly without going through the correct procedures, or you’re refused any of the other rights outlined in this post, you may be able to claim compensation at an employment tribunal.
Being a Knowledgeable Employee
Employers sometimes try to get away without giving employees their rights. Sometimes employees miss out because they’re scared of speaking up in case they lose their jobs. Sometimes they miss out because they simply don’t know their rights in the first place. I can’t cover every aspect of employment law and your rights as an employee in detail, so I’m aiming to give you enough information to alert you to when you should ask for help. If you’re a member of a union, your union representative can help. However, many workplaces – especially small businesses – don’t recognise a union. If you don’t have a union to turn to, the CAB can help and will have leaflets on various aspects of employment rights. It also has a Web site you can visit at www.adviceguide.org.uk. You can find details of your nearest CAB in the phone book. You may also have a Law Centre in your area. Look in the phone book or contact The Law Centres Federation (020-7387-8570 or www.lawcentres.org.uk) for details. If you’re an employee (not self-employed), you’re employed full time or part time, and you’ve been employed for the relevant qualifying period, your employment rights include the following:
- You must be paid at least the National Minimum Wage.
- Your employer must not make any illegal deductions from your pay.
- You must receive an itemised payslip which breaks down your wage and any deductions. These can come either in paper format or by email.
- To work no more than the maximum weekly working hours (with breaks) To get equal pay for equal work To have at least four weeks paid holiday To be protected from discrimination To work in a safe and healthy environment
- To have a written Statement of Employment Particulars (within the first 8 weeks)
- To be paid statutory sick pay and statutory maternity, paternity, and adoption pay
- To have maternity, paternity, and adoption leave
- To take parental leave and time off for family emergencies
- To request flexible working arrangements To have protection from unfair dismissal (after one year)
- To receive written reasons for dismissal
- To receive redundancy pay (after two years)
These rights are covered by the law, but the law sets out the minimum that your employer is expected to do. Employers can do better than the law expects by giving you more rights in your contract. Employers can’t give you fewer rights than the law says. If they do, you can take a claim against them. If your employer does offer you greater rights through your contract, then those rights are what the law says the employer has to deliver. If your company doesn’t live up to the promises made, you can make a claim against it for breach of contract. In most cases, the law is fairly clear about your rights because they’re enshrined in legislation passed by Parliament. But some areas of employment law are governed by common law. Common law is the body of law that builds up as cases are heard in courts and tribunals. As judges and tribunal members make their decisions, the law changes and evolves. If you think you’ve been unfairly treated, the decision the tribunal or court makes will depend on the legislation and on the decisions that have been made in previous cases like yours.