Understanding your rights at work

To help ensure that people are treated fairly by their employer, all workers have a number of rights under the law. Our guide to these rights will help you ensure you are treated fairly.

25th April 2018

Employment rights are designed to balance the expectations of the job with the fair treatment of the worker doing it.

Your exact employment rights will vary depending on the kind of job you do, the arrangement you have with your employer and many other variables. Your rights at work come from both your statutory rights and your employment contract.

Your rights at work come from both your statutory rights and your employment contract.

Statutory rights

Statutory rights are essentially legal rights which nearly all workers are entitled to. While there are some exceptions, as a worker you are generally entitled to these rights, and, in most cases, you will have the following statutory rights as soon as you begin work:

  • You must be paid at least the National Living Minimum Wage.
  • Your employer must not make illegal deductions from your pay.
  • You must receive an itemised payslip which breaks down your wage and any deductions.
  • You should receive a written statement explaining the main terms and conditions of your job within two months of starting.
  • You have the right to a certain amount of paid holiday each year, as well as being able to take paid time off for antenatal care, maternity, paternity and adoption leave – see our blogpost on maternity leave for more information.
  • You have the right to take unpaid time off to attend trade union activities, or for study or training if you are aged 16-17, as well as the right to a reasonable amount of unpaid leave to look after dependents in an emergency – see our section on time off work for more information.
  • Under health and safety laws, you must be granted daily and weekly rest breaks, and you cannot ordinarily be forced to work more than 48 hours a week – see our health and safety post for further details.
  • You must not be discriminated against in the workplace – see our discrimination blogpost for further details.
  • You should not be dismissed or treated unfairly at work if you become a ‘whistleblower’ (someone who exposes suspected wrongdoing in their workplace).
  • If you have been working for an employer for at least a month, they must give you notice if you are to be dismissed – see our post about work coming to an end for more details.
  • If you are dismissed while pregnant or on maternity leave, you are entitled to receive a written explanation of the reason from your employer.
  • If you are attending a disciplinary or grievance hearing, you have the right to be accompanied by a trade union representative.
  • If you are a part-time worker, you should have the same contractual rights as a full-time worker in a similar role (though entitlement to holiday and similar rights will be calculated on a pro rata basis).
  • If you are a fixed-term employee, you should have the same contractual rights as a permanent employee in a similar role. This includes; right to statutory sick pay when sick; right to pension; right to adequate redress of any grievance and the right to be paid the same as someone of the opposite sex doing the same job.

After six months (26 weeks) of working for an employer, you have the right to submit a request for flexible working.

After a year of working for an employer, you will usually gain the right to take unpaid parental leave.

After two years of working for an employer, you gain these additional rights:

  • You can take paid time off to look for work if you are being made redundant.
  • You can claim redundancy pay if you are being made redundant.
  • If you are dismissed by your employer you have the right to receive a written explanation of the reason.
  • You can claim compensation if you are unfairly dismissed.

Contractual rights

You may have some rights at your job that are set out in your contract or the terms and conditions of your employment, rather than being required by law. However, once these have been agreed upon, your employer must abide by them – if they do not, they could be held liable for breach of contract.

once the terms and conditions of your employment have been agreed upon, your employer must abide by them

Pay rights

Perhaps some of the most important rights at work are those relating to the payment you receive for the job you do. These rights cover issues such as how much and how often you are paid, how you should receive your wage, and other such vital issues.

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