Employment Law: Rights and Responsibilities of the Employees

As of 31st December 2013, the rules surrounding working restrictions for Bulgarians and Romanians will change. This means that nationals of those countries will not have to apply for a yellow or blue card in order to work in the UK. 

This will significantly increase their employment prospects and will allow them to apply for jobs which require higher qualification.

These changes are likely to impact those recently entering the UK, existing graduates on low paid jobs, students and those under 18 years old.  Existing graduates previously were unable to work in higher paid positions owing to this restriction but would now be able to apply.

Similarly, students will no longer have to apply for a yellow card during their studies or a blue card after they graduate. Children who live in the UK and are under 18 years old will automatically become eligible for a National Insurance number when they turn 16.  With regards to those entering the UK after 2014, they will be allowed to remain in the UK for three months after which they must be able to prove that they are students, employees, self-employed or self-sufficient.  

The topic about employees will be considered in three different parts. In this issue we will focus on the employment contract and the legal requirements for establishing employment relationship. The second part will discuss the rights and obligations of employees during their term of employment and the third part will give more details on the termination of the employment relationship.

UK Employment Contract
Under UK law, employment contracts set out the relationship between an employer and an employee. This document is legally binding and governs the terms on which the employee is given employment.  It sets out their duties, right and responsibilities. Nowadays all contracts must be written although the employer can offer immediate positions to employees.

The employment contract provides a degree of clarity and protection for the employer and employee as each knows their duties to each other.  Where there is a dispute it also can help determine which party is at fault and is an important document.  

Express Terms in Contract
In most cases this will include place of work, hours of work, title, salary and so forth but may also include specific clauses depending on the nature of work and seniority. For example a normal factory worker would have a simple contract to state his hours of work but a manager may have a confidentiality clause which restricts him from speaking publicly about the company’s sensitive data.

Implied Terms in Contract
The implied terms are legal requirements or custom practices that form part of the contract even though they were not negotiated or agreed by the employer and the employee. Such terms are for instance the right to the minimal national wage, right to holidays and sick pay, the obligation not to steal from the employer and to be eligible for the position. Non-compliance with these terms can lead to disciplinary, breach and even termination of employment.  In serious fraud matters this may also warrant further legal action.

Unfair Terms in Contract
Where an employer imposes an unfair term in the contract this would be subject to an exclusion test.  The term must be fair and reasonable under the circumstances whether or not it is included in the employment contract.

For example an employer can restrict a senior employee from working with his former clients and in a certain geographical area but provided this is reasonable. Someone based in central London cannot be excluded simply because the employer does not want to see him working in the same area.

Tax Considerations
Every employer and employee is liable to pay tax and the employer must pay the national insurance and income tax before paying the employee. These deductions are therefore made before the employee is paid.  An employer cannot simply refuse to pay the tax or national insurance.

By NR Legal Solicitors
Tel: 020 8509 1681