Employment rights: the lowdown

Employment rights: the lowdown

By Nick Branch 21/01/13

Just landed a new job? There’s never been a better time to swot up on your employment rights and find out what to do if they’re being flouted, says Nick Branch…

Know your rights

Getting your head round the laws that protect you from discrimination, ensure you work in a safe environment and stop employers from exploiting you is important as making a good first impression in your new job. Some of your employment-law rights take effect from day one, whereas others are acquired over time. Knowing which is which matters, as they influence what can and cannot happen to you.

Day-one rights

Your basic employment rights include the right not to be discriminated against on the basis of your age, gender, sexual orientation, disability status, ethnic origin or if you are pregnant. In addition, you have the right to work in a safe environment, protected from hazards, as well as the right to earn the National Minimum Wage and to receive a pay slip when you’re paid. You also have the right to 28 days of paid holiday per year if you work full time, and a pro rata number of days if you work part time. (This allowance can include bank holidays if the employer chooses.)

If you become pregnant after starting your job, you’re entitled to paid time off for antenatal care. And if you’re unable to work due to sickness, you’re entitled to receive statutory sick pay, providing you’re paid at least the lower earnings limit for National Insurance (£107 per week for the 2012-13 financial year).

Rights acquired later on

Through the course of your employment you’ll acquire more and more employment rights. After two months in a job, you’re entitled to a written statement of employment particulars. This should detail who your employer is, where your work is based, the money you’ll be paid and the details of the job you’re being asked to perform.

After 26 weeks in the job, you’re entitled to ask for flexible working hours to care for a child under 17 or an adult who is dependent on you. You can also claim statutory maternity pay at this point, providing you still have at least 15 weeks until your baby is due and you earn the lower earnings limit for National Insurance.

If you started your job before 6 April 2012, then after one year you’ll have the right to claim compensation if you’re unfairly dismissed. Unfair dismissal is a dismissal either for an unfair reason, or without following a fair procedure. If you started after this date then you’ll have to work for two years to gain this employment right.

What if your rights are breached?

Many employers are sensitive to their staff and will lend an ear if you feel you have a grievance. Try talking to your line manager first, or if they’re part of the problem, look further up in the company for someone to talk to.

If you feel the matter isn’t something you want to bring up at work, seek external legal advice. The Citizens Advice Bureau offers free advice for young workers on employment law matters. You can also contact ACAS or call your local employment law solicitor for a consultation.


This article on employment advice was written by Nick Branch. Nick currently works for Contact Law, a company that helps match clients with solicitors. Nick’s current areas of expertise are employment law and EU law/International law. 

Image by Salim Virji, used under a CC BY-SA 2.0 licence.

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