Employment Law: Rights and Responsibilities of the Employees – Part 2

Continuing with our focus on employment law, this section will deal with employees and their rights and responsibilities.

The Contract - The rights and responsibilities of employees are governed under the Employment Rights Act 1996 and commonly endorsed by way of an employment contract (“Contract”).  This Contract will vary depending on the job title and duties or level of seniority of each employee.  For instance a lorry driver would not have the same Contract as someone working in a senior management role such as a director.  The Contract would set out the duties of the employee what they can and cannot do, where they will work, pay, holidays and also in senior roles what level of confidential information they can handle and what they can and cannot discuss out of work.  The Contract is therefore an important document and forms an integral part of any employment.  

National Minimum Wage - By law, every employee aged 21 years and over is entitled to receive a national minimum wage which as at October 2013 is £6.31 per hour for an adult.  This also includes agency workers, part-time workers, home workers, foreign workers, irrespective of experience.  Those under 21 years receive a lower rate depending on their age. for 16-17 year olds this is currently set at £3.72 per hour.  There is no National Minimum Wage requirement for children aged under 16 years. 

If you find that your employer has not paid the minimum wage, you should raise this issue with him first and ask for your payment records. You have the right to make copies of these records. If the employer does not pay the arrears owed to the employee, the HMRC might send him a letter outlining the arrears that need to be paid and a penalty for breaching the law. The employee can also go to the Employment Tribunal and bring a case against the employer.

Working Time Regulations – There are rules regarding how many hours an employee can work.  Those aged 18 year and over cannot be forced to work more than 48 hours per week unless they agree.  This rule does not apply to drivers, self-employed and business owners. Employees aged between 16 and 18 years must not work more than 8 hours a day or 40 hours per week. 

Children younger than 13 years old are not allowed to work, unless they are employed in the acting or modelling business. 13 and 14 year olds have the right to undertake only part-time work which is between 7am and 7pm and is not longer than 2 hours during the week and 5 hours during the weekend. The position is the same for 15 and 16 years old, however, they are allowed to undertake up to 7 hours any time of the week. 

Right to be treated fairly at work – Every employee, regardless of age, sex, race, ethnicity has the right to be treated equally and fairly at work.  This means they cannot be victimised, bullied, harassed, discriminated against or unfairly prejudiced.  If anyone believes they have been subject to any of the above, they are within their rights to file a complaint with their manager or senior member of staff.  Where the complaint has not been dealt with by the company we can help bring a claim against the employer.  If an employee has been dismissed unfairly or wrongly, or made to resign then we can take legal action against the employer.  Most employers will ensure they have safe practices in place and will want to know if there has been any abuse of their procedures.  In any case, employees rights are protected by law.

Health and Safety Equipment – Every employer is obliged to provide the workers with health and safety equipment that is adequate in the present circumstances unless the risk has been controlled by the employer by other means which are equally or more effective. No charges can be made for the protective equipment which the employees use only at work. Self-employed have to provide their own protective equipment.  Failure to provide safety equipment may result in civil claim against the employer in cases of accidents caused by lack of protection.

Holiday Leave and Pay – Almost every employee is entitled to receive around 5.6 weeks paid annual leave per year. The leave that each employee receives is calculated on the basis of their working days. Therefore, full time employees are entitled to longer annual leave compared to part time employees. It should be remembered that employers are entitled to include the bank holidays in the annual leave. 

If an employee believes that they have received less annual leave than their actual entitlement, they should raise this issue with their employer. If the issue is not resolved, we can use mediation or arbitration as an alternative to resolve the problem. If this fails, we can take further legal action through the employment tribunal.

Sick leave and pay - The employees are entitled to sick leave and must produce a sick note from a doctor if they are off sick for more than 7 days in a row, including the non-working days. The doctors’ note will help the employer understand why the employee is off and whether any changes need to be made at work to accommodate their medical needs.  If the employee has been off to sick leave for less than 7 days, the employer may ask them to fill in a self certification form when they return. This form confirms that the employee has been absent because of illness. 

Maternity Leave – Employees who are expecting child are entitled to take maternity leave provided they have paid 26 weeks of national insurance contributions.  The employee should let the employer know she is pregnant by the 15th week before the baby is due and give the exact date if known when the baby is expected.  The employee must also inform the employer when she wishes to take maternity leave as that is when the maternity cover will begin.  This can start any time on or after the 11th week before the baby is due.  Most women employees have the right to take up to 52 weeks maternity leave. However, the employee is not obliged to take the whole leave and may decide to return earlier.

During the maternity leave most women employees qualify for the Statutory Maternity Pay, which is paid for up to 39 weeks. In the first 6 weeks you will receive 90% of your weekly income and in the next 33 weeks you will be paid £136.78 or 90% of your average weekly pay, depending on which sum is lower. Some employers offer company maternity schemes, which ensure that the maternity payments are higher. However, the employer cannot pay less than the statutory pay. If he does, discuss this issue with him and require explanation. If your employer has become insolvent and cannot pay your maternity cover contact the HMRC.

If you wish to discuss your employment rights or have an issue and need legal advice, please do not hesitate to contact us NR Legal Tel: 020 8509 1681.