Workers' Rights

An overview of UK employment rights

Workers' Rights

The employment rights of workers in the UK are very well protected. In fact, they are better protected than the rights of the majority of other workers around the world. Rights are included in statutory laws, passed by the UK parliament. These effectively set out the minimum rights for all UK employees.

The importance of employee rights cannot be overstated. As with any rights, they are only good if they are known. All employees are advised to make themselves aware of their basic rights to protect themselves from unscrupulous employers.

The basics

All employees are entitled to a ‘written statement of employment particulars’ within two months of starting work. This document sets out basic information such as the name of the employer, job title, salary, payment schedule, working hours, and holiday entitlement.

The written statement must also include other details such as the notice period to quit the job, pension arrangements and what you should do if you have a grievance. The statement need not detail disciplinary procedures, or provisions for sick pay, but if it doesn’t then it must tell you where you can find this information.

Full time employees in the UK have the right to a minimum of 28 days paid holiday, as well as statutory sick pay. They have the right to be paid the National Minimum Wage and to receive a pay slip every time they are paid, as well as the right to not have any illegal deductions taken from their pay.

Employees are entitled to work in a safe and healthy environment, free from occupational hazards including physical dangers and also psychological threats such as harassment or bullying. Most employees in the UK are entitled to regular breaks during the working day, and are the working week is limited to a maximum of 48 hours.

Special circumstances

Unforeseen events happen from time to time. UK workers have protection from dismissal for a wide range of circumstances. The most important is pregnancy. As well as being protected from dismissal for being pregnant, women are entitled by law to time off for antenatal care. Both fathers and mothers are entitled to paid time off after the birth of their child for paternity and maternity leave respectively. Workers who have dependent children or adults also have the right to request flexible working hours to help them fulfill their caring responsibilities.

Unfair dismissal and discrimination

All UK workers have the right against discrimination in the workplace from the first day they start a job. Discrimination is illegal when it is based on a ‘protected characteristic,’ such as age, gender, sexual orientation, ethnicity, religious belief or disability status.

The right to claim compensation for unfair dismissal is only granted to those who come under one of the following categories:

  • You have worked for your employer for more than a year, and you started your job before April 6th 2012
  • You have worked for your employer for more than two years if you started your job after this date.

A two year time period also applies to anyone wishing to claim redundancy pay from their employer after being made redundant.

Certain categories of employees are not granted full employment rights in the UK. These include members of the police and armed forces, although they are covered by discrimination law. Trainee doctors have no right to holiday pay, and have a maximum working week of 58 hours, if they are working full time.

To enforce your employment rights you should take independent legal advice from the Citizens Advice Bureau, or speak to your local employment law solicitor.

To receive employment advice about your work rights, visit Contact Law .

This article was submitted by Nick Branch. Nick received his LLB in 2004 from UWE, before working as director of two property-related businesses. Nick’s expertise covers a range of legal areas such as employment, commercial and EU/international law. 

Further reading

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