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Your rights as an employee

Congratulations, you’ve survived the endless struggle against exams and deadlines, and you’ve secured your first proper job – where real life begins...

As you’re entering the workforce, it’s important to understand how your written or oral employment contract establishes the rights and responsibilities for both yourself and your employer – even if you’re only going to work part-time. Equally, employers in the UK must abide by employment legislation when employing staff.

In this blog, we’ll be looking at some of the key issues you should be familiar with in terms your rights as an employee, how they’re affected by your employment status, and what to do if/when there’s been a breach.

Basic Rights

It’s important to remember that, even as an entry-level graduate, you’re entitled to certain basic rights from the beginning of your employment.

As a graduate employee, you may feel as though you’re pressured to limit the number of instances where you should ‘enforce your rights’ in order to impress, but a healthy working relationship must be built on trust and a two-way process in which you can confidently stand up for yourself – providing that you know and understand your rights.

All employees are entitled to certain basic rights, including the right to an employment contract within two months of starting work, the right to be paid the national minimum wage, the right to a pay slip, as well as access to these in-work benefits:

  • Workplace pension
  • Paid holiday
  • Statutory sick pay
  • Statutory maternity, paternity, and adoption leave
  • Statutory redundancy pay
  • Protection against unfair dismissal

All of which, plus any other additional rights, should be laid out in your employment contract, which you should most definitely read before signing! If you’re unsure of your rights, the first thing you should do is to take it up with your employer for clarification – then an employment law specialist if necessary.

The National Minimum/Living Wage

The National Minimum/Living Wage is the minimum pay per hour almost all workers and some interns are entitled to, regardless of the size of the company they work for.

The exact amount you’re entitled to depends on whether you’re an apprentice and your age; you’re entitled to the National Living Wage if you’re aged 25 or over, otherwise you can expect to be earning the National Minimum Wage.

Here’s the chart of minimum hourly rate of pay, which is reviewed and changed in April every year:

  • £3.70 per hour for apprentices.
  • £4.20 per hour for school leavers up to the age of 17.
  • £5.90 per hour for ages 18 to 20.
  • £7.38 per hour for ages 21 to 24.
  • £7.83 per hour for ages 25 and over.

Employers can’t avoid paying the minimum wage by falsely claiming that it doesn’t apply to your role or that you’re a volunteer.

Health and Safety Rights

All employees are entitled to work in environments where their safety and wellbeing are properly controlled.

In fact, the Health and Safety (First-Aid) Regulations 1981 require employers to provide adequate and appropriate equipment, facilities, and personnel to ensure that their employees receive immediate attention should they be injured or become ill at work – but what does ‘adequate and appropriate’ mean?

This depends on the circumstances in your particular workplace: it can range from whether trained first-aiders are needed to how many defibrillators should be available. That’s why employers should carry out an assessment of health and safety needs – by consulting their employees or their representatives, and health and safety specialists – to determine what to provide.

In addition, your employer also has the duty to provide…

  • Training to do your job safely
  • Protection for you at work (if necessary)
  • Health checks if there is a danger of ill health because of your work
  • Regular health checks if you work regular night shifts

… for free.

Discrimination and Harassment

Every employee, regardless of the duration of their employment or their role, has the right not to be discriminated against or harassed for their…

  • Age
  • Gender
  • Sexual orientation
  • Disability
  • Pregnancy
  • Race
  • Religion

Your right to not be bullied, harassed, or discriminated against in the workplace starts on day one, so it’s important that you know what discrimination looks like.

This applies to everyone in the company, so if you or someone you know at work is experiencing unfair treatment, you should take action at the earliest opportunity. These claims are time-sensitive, hence why you must seek advice as soon as possible – ideally within three months of the first instance of any indecent behaviour.

Enforcing Your Employment Rights

If you think your rights have been infringed in any way, make sure that you consider informing the authority; it may be sufficient to speak to your line manager in some instances, but sometimes you may need external advice.