After gaining employment, you will then need to know what you are entitled to as an employee, everything you need to know from holiday entitlement to discrimination.

Your basic employment rights include:

  • The right to a written statement of employment particulars.
  • The right to be paid the National Minimum Wage.
  • Protection from the unlawful deductions from wages.
  • The right to paid holiday.
  • Limits on your working hours.
  • The right to join a trade union.

As soon as you have been offered a job and have accepted it, a contract between you and your employer must be completed. Normally you are given your contract before or when you start work, it does not have to be in writing. Even if you haven’t been given a written document you still have a contract of employment.

After eight weeks in employment, you are entitled to a written statement of your terms and employment, which must include:

  • names of employee and employer
  • address of employer and workplace
  • your start date
  • your rate of pay and details of how you will be paid
  • your hours of work
  • your holidays and holiday pay
  • arrangements for sick pay and pension
  • details of the firm’s disciplinary procedure (for firms with 20 or more employees) and how complaints are dealt with
  • where it is not permanent, the period for which employment is expected to continue and the amount of notice that you or your employer must give you if your contract is to be ended.

Employers have a legal duty of care to their employees.

Under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974, every employer has a duty to ensure that, so far as is reasonably practicable, the health, safety and welfare of employees are protected. This means that equipment that you use must not be dangerous or defective and that the people you work with must work safely and responsibly. If you work for a firm with five or more employees, your boss must give you details of Health and Safety arrangement in writing. You also have a common law duty of care as an employee. This means you must take care not to cause or have accidents.

If you are injured at work report the matter to your supervisor straight away and if you have one, your trade union. Unless the injury is very small, see a doctor. Make a note of what happened and when in the accident book. Check to see whether you are entitled to any welfare benefits and get legal advice from either your trade union or a solicitor. You may be entitled to compensation for your injuries. You may also be able to claim Industrial Injuries Disablement Benefit.

The Working Time Regulation gives all employees over 16 the right to at least four weeks paid holiday a year. This right applies from your first day of employment. You are entitled to these holiday rights whether you work full time or part time, on a temporary or casual basis, or through an employment agency. You may be asked to “accrue” your holiday which means that during your first year the entitlement is spread out over the months so that you gain a number of days per month. Your employer can legally expect you to work bank holidays without the offer of additional pay or time off in lieu.

If you are absent from work on sick leave you may be entitled to pay from your employer. However, this depends on whether as an employee, your contract of employment entitles you to pay during sickness absence. Otherwise, you may be entitled to Statutory Sick Pay (SSP). This is paid up to a maximum of 28 weeks to all employees who are incapable of work and who satisfy the conditions of payment. If you are sick for four days or more in a row (including Sundays and bank holidays) your employer can claim SSP for you. You don’t have to claim SSP yourself, just follow the rules your employer has for notifying sickness.

All women who are pregnant whilst working are entitled to maternity leave. This is 26 weeks and entitlement begins as soon as you start work. A further 26 weeks may be possible depending on the length of time with the current employer. After returning from maternity leave women have the right to go back to exactly the same job.

When women go back to work after maternity leave they also have the right to return to exactly the same job unless the employer can demonstrate that it is not reasonably practicable to have kept that job open. In this case, women are entitled to a suitable alternative job on very similar terms and conditions.

Maternity allowance

Maternity allowance is maternity benefits for women who have changed jobs during pregnancy and or are self-employed or have periods of low earnings or unemployment during their pregnancy.

Paternity leave is a right for partners of the child’s mother to take up to two weeks leave, following the birth of a baby.

If you are adopting a baby, adoption leave and pay is available when the baby starts living with you. When a couple adopts a baby paternity leave and pay may also be available.

It is against the law to discriminate against someone because of their gender, marital status, gender reassignment, pregnancy, sexual orientation, disability, race, colour, ethnic background, nationality, religion or belief, or age. This applies to all employees whether they work full or part-time. Discrimination can be either:

  • Direct discrimination which occurs when an employee receives less favourable treatment blatantly on the grounds of his/her gender, race, disability etc.
  • Indirect discrimination which is more complex and applies where a requirement or condition is imposed which is apparently not discriminatory but which, in practice, is more difficult for one group to fulfil.

Is offensive, bullying, threatening or otherwise inappropriate behaviour by a colleague. Sexual harassment refers to inappropriate behaviour such as rude remarks, leering etc. Victimization occurs when an employee is treated less favourably because they have made a complaint about discrimination. All forms of discrimination covered by law are included in:

  • Equal Pay Act 1970.
  • Sex Discrimination Act 1975.
  • Race Relations Act 1976 (Amendments 2000/2003).
  • Disability Discrimination Act 1995.
  • Protection from Harassment Act 1997.
  • Sex Discrimination (Gender reassignment) Regulations 1999.
  • Employment Equality (Sexual Orientation) Regulations 2003.
  • Employment Equality (Religion and Belief) Regulations 2003.
  • Employment Equality (Age) Regulations 2006.

Trade unions are voluntary organisations. They were originally set up by workers in different industries to protect employee rights and improve conditions of employment. Unions can:

  • Negotiate pay rates and paid holidays.
  • Give advice and guidance.
  • Represent members at an employment tribunal.
  • Help enforce your legal rights and act on your behalf.

There are 5 reasons which are seen as reasonable grounds for dismissal.

  • Conduct - where you have breached one or more of the terms of your employment e.g. theft or dishonesty.
  • Capability - where you are not able to do your job to the required standard e.g. despite sufficient training you cannot gain a required qualification for the job.
  • Redundancy - where there is not enough work for the number of staff employed.
  • A statutory restriction - where continuing to employ you would mean breaking the law, e.g. where a driver has lost his licence.
  • A substantial reason - where there is a significant barrier to you continuing to work if other possibilities have been explored, e.g. where there is an irresolvable dispute between colleagues.


If an employee has at least 12 month service and believes that the dismissal is unfair they may complain to an employment tribunal. A complaint can be made by someone with less than 12 months service if the reason can be considered automatically unfair e.g. being let go for pregnancy.

  • Unfair dismissal - is where the dismissal breaches the terms of employment.
  • Constructive dismissal - is where the actions of your employer makes it impossible for you to continue to work there; such as changing your working conditions or demoting you without reason.

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