When you get a job, you’ll discover that you have certain rights as an employee. Some of them are statutory rights, which means that they are created by Parliament and all employers must adhere to them. While there are some exceptions to this rule, the vast majority of working people are able to enjoy the benefits of these statutory rights. The other rights that you have as an employee are as a result of your contract. These could vary from one employer to the next, but they are agreed before you start work and when you sign the contract for a particular company.

Employee Rights

Here are some of the statutory rights which apply to employees. These rights do not always apply to those who are employed by an agency, although those under an agency would still have the right to receive the National Minimum Wage and not be discriminated against. Self-employed people are also unable to receive many of these benefits, and members of the armed forces and police service do not have some of these rights.

National Minimum Wage

This is probably one of the most well-known rights which is given to employees. In the UK, the National Minimum Wage ensures that everybody is paid a fair wage. Although it varies according to age, all employers must pay their employees the minimum amount as stated by Parliament, otherwise they face legal action.

Apprentices are entitled to an hourly wage of £3.40, while those under 18 who are in work (not an apprenticeship) will receive at least £4 per hour. Those between 18 and 20 years old will receive £5.55 per hour, and 21-24 year-olds must be paid at least £6.95. Those aged 25 and over will get a minimum hourly rate of £7.20. In many companies, all employees are paid £7.20 per hour regardless of their age, but this varies depending on who you work for. You should always be told how much you will be getting paid before you start a new job.

Holiday pay and time off

People who work full-time (40 hours per week) are entitled to 28 days of holiday per year. This means they can take days off and still get paid as though they were working. In many jobs, you will need to book the time off and wait for your request to be approved. Most companies won’t let their employees take time off at certain times of the year, such as the weeks leading up to Christmas.

If you work part-time, you won’t be entitled to the full 28 days of holiday pay per year, but you will still be able to get some holiday pay. Those who work 1 day per week are allowed 5.4 days of holiday pay per year, while those who work 2 days per week can have 11.2 days off per year. This increases to 16.8 days per year for those working 3 days a week, and 22.4 days per year for employees who work 4 days per week.

Employees also have the right to take time off to participate in trade union activities. Legally, an employee cannot be fired for taking part in industrial action, and could sue if this happens.

Maternity leave and paternity leave must also be given to employees, and they should be paid for this too. If you work for an agency or you are on a zero-hours contract, you won’t be entitled to paid maternity/paternity leave.

You are also allowed to take time off to look after dependants in the case of an emergency, however, this would be unpaid. You can also take time off to look after dependants even if there is not an emergency, but this only comes into effect when you have been working for an employer for one year. Again, you would not be paid for the time you took off work, but the employer wouldn’t be able to dismiss you from your position for doing so.

Discrimination

There are many rights at work with regards to discrimination in the work place. From the moment you apply for a job, employers are not allowed to discriminate on the grounds of gender, race, age, disability, sexual orientation and religion. Discrimination can occur in many different ways, such as not being invited to office parties, not being promoted because of gender or skin colour or simply being treated in a worse manner. If you feel like you are being discriminated in the work place, you should talk to your boss about it.

Working age

People are allowed to start working from the age of 16, providing they don’t work more than 8 hours per day and have a minimum of 12 hours’ rest between working days.

Employees also have the right to stay in work until they are 65 years old.

Working hours

Under Health and Safety laws, employees cannot work more than 48 hours per week. However, a waiver can be signed by the employee stating that they are happy to work more than 48 hours per week. If this happens, they can work as many hours as they wish, and will not necessarily be paid overtime for any extra hours worked.

An exception to this rule applies to trainee doctors, who cannot work more than 58 hours per week. This means that trainee doctors cannot refuse to work more than 48 hours per week, up to a maximum of 58 hours.

'Whistle-blowing' rights

Many employees have been fired as a result of ‘blowing the whistle’ at work – whether it’s on the company or another employee. This results in unfair dismissal, giving the employee a case to take to court and sue the company for. If you notice malpractice while you’re at work, you should feel able to bring up the matter without risking termination of your employment.

Things you can report include health and safety issues, criminal offences, attempts to cover up any malpractice, failure to comply with the law and damages to the environment.