Statutory Employment Rights
The following applies to employees only, but it is definitely a benefit to a prospective employer to be aware of the rights of the employee.
As an employee, there are a number of laws to protect rights. These cover everything from minimum wage to how many hours employees can work per week. A few of the most common rights which you may come across are:
1. National minimum wage – This sets a minimum hourly rate which must be paid to all employees over compulsory school age. The amount varies depending on the age of the worker but the current National Minimum wage for those over 21 years of age is £6.19 per hour (as at April 2013). This applies whether you are paid by the hour or on an annual salary.
2. Working Time Regulations – Since 1998 most employees are restricted from working more than 48 hours in an average week. If an employee wishes to work more than 48 hours a week then they can choose to ‘opt out’ of having their hours limited by these regulations. Some jobs such as the armed forces, police and emergency services are exempt from this restriction.
3. Discrimination –An employee has the right not to be treated less favourably by their employer due to an aspect of their character. This can include age, race, religion or sex and the law applies even if the employer is not openly discriminating against them, but is instead doing so indirectly. This could arise where a decision or policy which is not intended to treat anyone less favourably, in practice has the effect of disadvantaging a group of people with a particular characteristic.
4. Right to a sex equality clause (equal pay for equal work) – In the past it was not unusual for employers to openly give different rates of pay to men and women performing the same job. Although it is much less common today, a significant gender pay gap still exists. To overcome this, where a woman’s employment contract contains terms which are less favourable than that of a man doing the same job, the law implies the more favourable terms into her contract.
5. Statutory sick pay – This is paid to qualifying employees who have been absent from work for four or more consecutive days. Employees are entitled to up to 28 weeks SSP in any period of incapacity for work. This could be one long period or it could be broken up by the employee returning to work for less than 56 days before being absent again. The weekly amount of SSP is currently £85.85 per week but this will rise to £86.70 per week on 6th April 2013.
6. Statutory Maternity and Paternity pay – Whilst an employee is on ordinary maternity leave, not only is she entitled to maternity pay but she also has a right to the benefit of all the other terms and conditions of employment as if she had she not been absent. The first 6 weeks of maternity pay are at the rate of 90% of the employee’s normal weekly earnings. The next 33 weeks are set at the lower of the normal weekly earnings or the prescribed rate of £136.78 per week (from April 2013).
Paternity pay works in a similar way but is only payable for two weeks and the employee will receive the lower of the prescribed rate, £136.78 per (from April 2013) or 90% of his normal weekly earnings. The employee must also satisfy conditions with regard to his relationship with the newborn child and the child’s mother; or the adopted child and the person with whom the child is placed for adoption.
About the author: Helen Paull is a newly qualified solicitor at Lindleys specialising in company/commercial and commercial property matters.