Employment rights: What you need to know to get on at work

Employment rights: What you need to know to get on at work


Ever wondered what your rights are at work? Our friends over at Contact Law have written us a lovely guest post giving you some insights so you'll always know where you stand!


All employees have a set of employment rights that protect them whilst at work. The basis of employment law rights are to be found in the laws of the European Union and Northern Ireland, but also in your contract of employment. Where the two conflict, your statutory rights take precedence.

Many of your employment rights start when you begin your job, and some are acquired later. For example, you have a legal right to earn the National Minimum Wage from the very first day of your employment, however your right to a written statement of terms of employment (essentially your employment contract) is within two months of your start date.

You have a range of other technical rights from day one of your employment, including the right to a pay slip, the right not to have illegal deductions made, and the right to paid holiday. You are entitled to 28-days paid holiday per year, your employer is not allowed to offer less than this, but may well choose to offer you more if they wish. You also have a right to be a member of a trade union and to unpaid time off for union duties and activities.

Some rights are only acquired after you have worked for your employer for one or two years. The exact qualifying period will depend on when you started your job, with a cut off date of 6th April 2012. If you started after this date, the qualifying period is two years, otherwise it is just one year. This includes the right to have a written reason for your dismissal (you always have this right if you are pregnant) and the right to claim compensation if you are dismissed unfairly.

You only acquire the right to redundancy pay after you have worked for your employer for two years, regardless of when you started.

Certain rights are protected by European law, such as the right not to be discriminated against. This right applies to all employees from day one of their employment. Discrimination is the unfair treatment of an employee based on a protected characteristic, such as their age gender, sexual orientation, ethnicity or religious belief.

It is worth noting that most of these employment rights apply to employees only, not to freelancers or agency workers. Although certain rights such as the right not to be discriminated against and the right to the National Minimum Wage apply to all workers.

You can only enforce your employment rights once you are clear on what they are. Getting up to date on which rights you qualify to receive is important for all employees. If you believe your employer is breaching your employment law rights, then you should seek legal advice from an experienced employment law solicitor or speak to Citizens Advice.

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