By law, every employee is entitled to a certain set of basic rights and conditions at work. These basic rights are separate from any rights granted by an employment contract.
Whilst an employment contract can add to the employee’s rights at work, it cannot remove any statutory rights and any clause which seeks to do so is void. A large proportion of the CAB’s employment queries relate to the lack of provision of these basic rights. Most employers, large and small, manage to meet these statutory requirements but some unfortunately still do not. Certain categories of worker are not entitled to all of these rights, such as some freelance workers, but still have these rights with respect to health and safety at work, as well as maximum working hours and others. These rights do apply to part-time workers, however, in some cases only on a pro-rata basis, such as for paid leave.
Basic statutory rights can be divided into several categories. The first are those relating broadly to pay and conditions. Every employee has a right to receive a written copy of their main terms and conditions within two months of beginning employment, as well as an itemised pay statement every time they are paid. Regardless of the category of employee, they must be paid at least the National Minimum Wage (currently £5.93 an hour for those over 21) and cannot work more than 48 hours in any seven day period, including over-time, unless they agree, in writing, to do so. From the first day of employment, an employee is entitled to paid leave (at a rate of a twelfth of annual leave per month). To calculate an employee’s statutory paid leave, multiply the days they work each week by 5.6, though this is capped at a maximum of 28 days leave per year.
In recognition of the additional challenges that parenthood can bring to employees, there are statutory rights for parents and adoptive parents. No matter how long a female employee has been employed, she is entitled to 52 weeks of maternity leave (26 weeks ordinary maternity leave and 26 weeks additional maternity leave). If she has been continuously employed for 26 weeks by the 15th week before the expected week of birth, then she will be entitled to 39 weeks maternity pay (provided her income is above a certain weekly threshold). If a male employee has been continuously employed for the same time schedule, then he will be entitled to two weeks paid paternity leave for childbirth or adoption. If an employee has a child matched with them for adoption, provided they have worked 26 weeks for the employer, they are entitled to 52 weeks adoption leave (26 weeks ordinary and 26 weeks additional). An employee also has the right to request flexible working whilst their child is under 17 (or under 18 if disabled) or if (in certain cases) they have someone else who requires care. If an employee’s dependent is in an emergency situation, he or she has a right to reasonable unpaid time off work.
Employees also have statutory rights when faced with sickness or redundancy. An employee has the right to notice when being made redundant – so long as they have worked for the employer for at least a month, this must be at least a week, and with an extra week of notice required for each year of service (up to 12 weeks notice). There is also a right to statutory redundancy pay provided that the employee has worked for the employer for at least two years. If an employee is sufficiently unwell to work for at least four days and up to a maximum of 28 weeks, they may be entitled to statutory sick pay. This requires that the employee earns at least £102 a week.
Further information is available from your local CAB. Guidance on basic statutory rights can be found on www.nidirect.gov.uk if you are an employee or worker and www.nibusinessinfo.co.uk if you are an employer. The Labour Relations Agency runs seminars covering these basic and other employment rights, details of which can be found at www.lra.org.uk.
Adam Tinson is an Information and Policy Officer with Citizens Advice.