What are employee rights?

Employee rights are legal entitlement an employee has to have or do in the workplace to ensure fair treatment. However, these rights vary depending on the persons employment status, for example whether they are a worker or an employee.

A worker is someone who has a contract or arrangement to do work or services personally for a reward, which can be money or a benefit in kind.

An employee is someone who has an employment contract from their employer to do regular work.

The difference between an employee and a worker can be difficult to decide, legally speaking, but usually comes down to whether the person can pick and choose jobs or has to accept whatever the employer asks of them. Ask us if you’re unsure on someone’s position

Employees have to be employed for a minimum, continuous period of time before they qualify for most employee rights, except those relating to discrimination.

Let’s look at 5 employee rights your small business should know about.

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1.     You must not discriminate

Discrimination occurs when someone is treated unfairly in the workplace because of characteristics protected under the Equality Act 2010.

These protected characteristics are:

  • Age
  • Disability
  • Gender reassignment
  • Marriage or civil partnership
  • Pregnancy or maternity
  • Race
  • Religion or belief
  • Sex
  • Sexual orientation

Discrimination can be direct or indirect. Examples of these are as follows:

Direct discrimination occurs when the unfair treatment is because of the protected characteristic. For example, if a pregnant woman was absent due to pregnancy-related sickness, and an employer used this when taking disciplinary action against their attendance record, this would be direct discrimination.

Indirect discrimination occurs when rules that apply to a group of employees or applicants are reasonable in theory, but less fair to a specific protected characteristic in practice. For example, a policy which requires said all men are allowed to have their birthday off work (but not women or transgender people), would indirectly discriminate.

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If an employee thinks they are being discriminated against at work, then it is likely they will raise a grievance which will need to be fairly investigated and their complaint treated sensitively.

2.     You must allow employees to request flexible working

Employees who have worked continuously for the same employer for at least 26 weeks have the right to request flexible working (known as making a statutory application). They can only make a request once per year. The right to flexible working could be, for example, to work part time, different hours or working from home.

Care should be given when dealing with such requests not to discriminate but applying a standard one size fits all policy. Each request should be fairly considered.

3.     You have to allow time off for annual leave

Employers must provide employees who work a five-day week at least 28 days of paid annual leave per year. Sometimes this includes bank holidays, and is at the discretion of the employer. Employees can accrue holiday entitlement during maternity, paternity and adoption leave and while off sick, but there is no legal right to be paid for untaken holiday.

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4.     Employees have protection against unfair dismissal

Employees must have been continuously employed by their employer for a minimum of two years in order to be legally protected against unfair dismissal.

After two years, you must give a lawful reason if you choose to terminate an employment contract. An employer must also give the agreed amount of notice in the contract (unless this is lower than the statutory minimum notice period), and follow a fair procedure throughout the process.

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

Employers can also terminate a contract for ‘some other substantial reason’ outside of the aforementioned.

There are some cases where the dismissal would be considered unfair.

If you are looking to terminate someone’s employment and do need to seek legal advice, contact me as I have a wealth of experience in employment law and will advise on the best way to do it.

5.     You must give out payslips

A payslip must be provided on the day an employee gets paid, or before. It must show a detailed breakdown of the pay the person is getting for the relevant time period, plus any deductions such as tax, National Insurance, student loan repayments, and pension contributions.

Paper or online payslips can be given, depending on the employer’s preference.

Hiring a lawyer who is experienced in employment and business law will ensure the fastest and easiest resolution to your potential disputes. Get in touch today for a free friendly chat to see how I can help you.