All workers are entitled to core employment rights. These include the minimum wage and holiday pay. Workers with an employee contract are called employees. They have extra rights.
If you don’t know whether you’re an employee or a worker, ask your manager or the organisation you work for. You can also get advice about workers’ rights from GOV.UK
As life begins to get back to normal, be aware of the laws in place to protect you. There are many new things to think about. But employers must still respect your rights.
Am I an employee?
Most people who work for businesses are classed as employees. You’re usually an employee if you:
- work regularly unless on agreed/ annual leave
- do a minimum number of hours each week
- have a line manager who is responsible for your workload
- are called an employee in your contract of employment or job offer letter.
Other signals you are an employee are that your employer:
- has redundancy procedures in place at work
- gives you the tools to do the job
- has a disciplinary and grievance procedure
- has a business pension scheme
- provides statutory sick pay and paid maternity/ paternity leave
- provides you with paid holiday.
You may be self-employed or a worker if one or more of these things don’t apply to you. You can always check with who you work for if you aren’t sure.
Your employment rights
As an employee, you are entitled to:
- statutory sick pay
- statutory maternity, paternity, adoption, and shared parental leave and pay
- minimum notice periods
- protection against unfair and constructive dismissal
- requests for flexible working
- statutory redundancy pay
- time off for emergencies.
You must work for an employer for a set amount of time before you can qualify for some rights. Your contract should explain. Ask your manager if you’re unsure.
Many people have worked from home during the pandemic.
Some have enjoyed working from home. It may have made childcare easier and cut travel time and costs
Many businesses benefited from homeworking, too.
But some people might prefer to be at their place of work. Some may want to do both.
Businesses should be talking to staff about how and when they plan to return to the office.
Talk to your manager if you’re worried about returning. Employees have a right to flexible working.
You might not get everything you want. Try to work things out to suit you and the business you work for. Working from home some or all the time might be right for you. Changing your hours, working more flexibly or splitting your day are options to think about.
Businesses should at least explore the options of flexible working with you.
The Covid vaccine
Many businesses are looking at staff returning to the office. They can encourage staff to have the jab. But they can’t demand that people have the Covid vaccine.
Caring for someone
Many of us will have to care for someone during our lifetimes. Around one in eight adults have a caring role at any one time.
The number of carers rose during the pandemic, as vulnerable and older people self- isolated.
If you need to take on or keep on with a caring role, talk to you employer. They may be able to offer you flexible working. Cutting down or changing your hours or working from home might help.
You might only need to care for someone briefly. You can ask about using holiday leave or unpaid leave to do so. Your employer might be able to offer you paid compassionate leave. Ask them about this.
If you provide care for 35 hours a week or more, you might qualify for carers’ allowance. You can claim even if you are in paid part-time work.
Carers’ allowance is £67.60 per week. Find out more from Carers UK.
You must tell your employer promptly if you can’t work due to ill health. Businesses normally have procedures in place for reporting sickness.
Businesses should also have procedures in place for payment of sick pay. This should be explained in your contract of employment.
Currently, you are entitled to £96.35 per week statutory sick pay if you’re too ill to go to work. This will be paid by your employer for up to 28 weeks.
You can’t get less than this amount. Your employer could choose to pay you more. Always check your contract.
To qualify for statutory sick pay, you must:
- earn an average of at least £120 per week
- be an employee
- have been ill or self-isolating for at least four consecutive days.
You are entitled to statutory sick pay from the fourth day you’re off ill and are entitled to it on the days you would normally be working.
If you have more than one job, you may be able to claim for each. You still pay tax and national insurance. Check if you can claim sick pay
There are different rules for people working in agriculture.
Sick pay for Covid
You can claim statutory sick pay if you’re self-isolating because you, someone you live with or someone in your bubble has symptoms or has tested positive for coronavirus.
You should get a test quickly if you’re self-isolating as a result of having been in contact with someone who has the virus. You can return to work if you get a negative result.
You can also claim sick pay if you have to isolate for more than four days before having surgery.
You may not qualify for sick pay if you’re well and able to work from home when self-isolating. Check with your employer.
Your rights when having a baby
maternity leave is for up to 52 weeks. Your employment rights are protected during this time. You still get pay rises and can build up holiday. And you have a right to return to work.
You do not have to take all your maternity leave. But you must take at least two weeks of it. This is four weeks if you work in a factory.
Statutory maternity pay is for up to 39 weeks.
You are entitled to:
- 90% of your average weekly wage (before tax) for the first six weeks
- £151.97 or 90% of your average weekly wage (whichever is lower) for the next 33 weeks.
You can claim maternity leave and pay if you’re an employee. It doesn’t matter how long you have worked for your employer or how many hours you work. But you can’t claim if you’re classed as a worker.
Check the details about maternity rights and learn how to claim.
Unfair and constructive dismissal
Employees are protected from unfair and constructive dismissal from their jobs. Your dismissal could be unfair if your employer doesn’t:
- have a good reason for dismissing you
- follow the company’s formal disciplinary or dismissal process.
Constructive dismissal happens when you’re forced to leave your job because of your employer’s conduct.
You must have serious reasons for leaving your job:
- They didn’t pay you
- They suddenly demoted you for no reason
- They forced you to accept unreasonable changes to how you work. For instance, they told you to work weekends and night shifts when your contract is only for day work, Monday to Friday
- You were the victim of unresolved harassment or bullying.
If you feel you have a claim for unfair or constructive dismissal, seek more information from Acas or get legal advice.
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