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Know Your Rights in the Workplace

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Employment law may feel like a subject reserved for lawyers, HR or Union members. In reality, you should equip yourself with the basic facts so you know what to look out for in the workplace.

Here are a few relevant laws you should familiarise yourself with.

Working Time

All employers feel the pressure if there’s a lack of staff or resources, but sometimes this can rest on your shoulders as an employee. You may be asked to work more hours, longer days or to take shorter breaks. You may feel obliged at first but go on to resent it.

Every employee is entitled to at least eleven hours rest in between shifts. You don’t have to work above forty-eight hours during one week unless you choose to. When working over a six-hour period, you’re entitled to a twenty-minute break.

If you work five days a week throughout the year, you’re due 28 days paid leave.

Sickness

All staff members are vulnerable to illness and it’s inevitable this will crop up from time to time. You don’t have to give proof of your sickness until a seven-day period has passed. At this point, you would need to consult a doctor. You must provide your employer with a doctor’s “fit note” (previously called a sick note) if you are off sick for more than 7 days in a row (including non-working days).

In most cases, your contract of employment will advise what your rights are to company sick pay, and over what period. There may be no entitlement to company sick pay, as this will be in your employer’s discretion.

You may be entitled to Statutory Sick Pay (“SSP”), regardless of what is in your contract of employment. This could be in addition to company sick pay if your employer has a sick pay policy.

The payment limit of SSP is generally, 28 weeks in a 3-year period.  The weekly statutory sick pay amount is presently £89.35 per week.  It is paid:

  • for the days an employee normally works – called ‘qualifying days’
  • in the same way as wages, for example on the normal payday, deducting tax and National insurance

The qualifications for SSP are that you must:

  • have 4 or more consecutive days of sickness (including Sundays and holidays) where you are incapable of carrying out work (so the first 3 “waiting days” do not qualify);
  • notify the absence to your employer within their set deadlines- or within 7 days if they do not have one;
  • supply evidence of incapacity, such as self-certificate or doctor’s certificate, known as a “fit note”;
  • earn at least £113.00 (before tax) per week.

Statutory sick pay is around £89.35 for up to 28 weeks, which your employer must provide. If they have their own sickness policy, they might pay you more but are unable to pay less.

Redundancy

Redundancy is an unfortunate fact of life and sometimesit can’t be helped. If the company you work for need to cut back on their workforce, you may be dismissed.

Employees you make redundant might be entitled to redundancy pay – this is called a ‘statutory redundancy payment’.

To be eligible, an individual must:

  • be an employee working under a contract of employment
  • have at least 2 years’ continuous service
  • have been dismissed, laid off or put on short-time working – those who opted for early retirement don’t qualify

Payment must be made when an employee is dismissed or soon after.

A redundant employee also has the right to a written statement setting out the amount of redundancy payment and how you worked it out.

Your rights differ based on your circumstances. Take a look at your contract and also check out government websites for specific information.

Basic employment law knowledge may help you in the future to identify problems or give you the back up you need if caught in a dispute.