Employee rights in the workplace

The financial climate this year has put increased pressure on employees and many feel insecure in their workplace. Read about employee rights in the workplace.

Employee rights in the workplace

By Julius Choudhury

Essentially, your rights as an employee will depend on your statutory rights and your contract of employment. Your contract of employment cannot give you fewer entitlements than those you have in statutory law, but it can provide you with greater ones. Of course, there are basic rights that every employee is entitled to, such as a safe and healthy workplace. From safety railings to hearing protection; the safety that is required depends on your industry. However, no corners should ever be cut.

Here are four key employee rights in the workplace.


National minimum wage

Most employees are entitled to receive, at least, the national minimum wage as remuneration for their work. However, not everyone performing a job-related task qualifies for this entitlement. Exceptions include those who are self-employed, volunteers, voluntary workers, and individuals undertaking work experience.

Knowing if you are a time worker or a salaried worker is crucial.


Dismissal rights

If you think that you have been unfairly dismissed, you might be able to bring a claim to an Employment Tribunal. There are different forms of dismissal claims, and it is not uncommon for them to overlap. Seeing that this can be quite confusing, you are likely to benefit from taking advice from a solicitor specialized in employment law.

Here are examples of instances where you might have a claim for unfair dismissal:

  • You may have been unfairly dismissed if your employer did not give you a valid reason for your dismissal.

  • If your employer’s behavior has forced you to resign, for example having committed a serious breach of your employment contract, you might have a case for constructive dismissal.

  • If your employer dismisses you but does not follow your contractual entitlements, for example not giving you the required period of notice, you may have a claim for wrongful termination (otherwise called wrongful dismissal).

Importantly, you must qualify as an employee to claim unfair dismissal, which requires you to have worked for a continuous period with your employer. At the moment, you are required to have been employed for a continuous period of one year. However, if you bring your claim after 6 April 2012, you must have been with your employer for two years.


Right to non-discrimination

Discrimination in the workplace can be either direct or indirect. Direct discrimination occurs when someone is negatively treated differently from others. An example of direct discrimination would be where an employee is denied a promotion because of their ethnicity.

Indirect discrimination at work occurs when everyone is treated the same, but the effect of the conduct hurts a certain type of worker. For instance, not allowing employees to take holidays for a month when a particular religious holiday falls.

Discrimination can also take the form of harassment, such as verbal abuse or unwanted physical contact.


Redundancy rights

Redundancy, a type of dismissal, occurs when an employee is asked to leave their job because the company or organization has decided that the employee’s work is no longer needed. This usually happens in the context of a company or organization restructuring to cut costs.

In order to claim redundancy pay entitlement, you must have been employed continuously in your job for no less than two years. Your redundancy pay will depend on the number of years in continuous employment in your current job and your age. It will also consider how long it will take before you are in employment again. There are statutory minimum payments but you may be able to negotiate a higher redundancy payment with your employer.

If you are facing redundancy, entitlement to redundancy pay is not automatic. Moreover, employees are entitled to a minimum notice of dismissal. The notice period is one week for every year in employment, with the maximum being 12 weeks’ notice for employees who have been in employment for 12 years or more.

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