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Why it’s important to know your rights at work

It’s estimated that UK workers will spend an average of 3,515 full days at work over the course of their lifetime and, during this time, your Employer has a duty of care to look after your health, safety and wellbeing. For most of us, it’s not something we think about until the need arises. When you’re facing a change in circumstance or dealing with a challenging situation, knowing your rights at work can help inform decision making, and the in the worst-case scenario, provide a basic level of protection.

Whatever you’re dealing with, whether at work or in your personal life, your rights in the office during this time are covered by The Employments Rights Act 1996. This exists to make working life easier to navigate during tricky times - from a diagnosis of a long-term illness to bereavement – as well as times when you might want to focus on family, such as maternity or paternity leave. Of course, this isn’t the only employment law which exists, but it’s here that you’ll find information on key areas such as contracts of employment, time of work, parental rights, termination of employment, unfair dismissal and redundancy rights. As such, it’s this act which is often quoted during employment tribunals.

In order to find out your rights, start with your employment status. If you’re either an Employee or agency worker, you’ll have a contract with the place or agency you’re working with which sets out certain agreed obligations between you and your boss. This will include how much you’re paid, your hours of work, as well as holiday, sick and redundancy pay. If you’re self-employed, this becomes a little more complicated as, in general terms, employment legislation doesn’t apply. You don’t get holiday pay or sick pay, for example, but some people do sign contracts with clients outlining rights and responsibilities.

In addition to your contractual rights, you also have statutory rights. Wherever you work, you should be paid at least the National Minimum Wage, have access to paid holidays, maternity leave, pay in compensation for being redundant and protection against unfair dismissal. These are things that apply; when you’re on your probation period, if you’re on a fixed-term contract or a zero hours contract. Recently, it was found that five per cent of UK workers don’t receive paid holiday. Knowing your rights will help you to avoid a situation like this where you’re not receiving fair entitlement.

Another employment law to consider is the Equality Act 2010. Under this, it’s illegal to discriminate against Employees due to a whole host of factors, from age and disability to race, religion or sexual orientation. We’ve all seen the headlines, when mistakes made by companies hit the news. Just this year, an Employee at Police Scotland who requested flexible working so that she could look after her child successfully settled her case in a tribunal. As employment law continues to progress, new policies and laws are still being explored – for example, in response to a government consultation, legal protections for mothers returning to work have been extended by six months.

That said, many Candidates will want Employers to go well beyond these contractual and statutory duties. Knowing your rights will give you confidence in a tricky situation, but this is just the start. The best companies will offer a wide range of additional perks, including training and development, private health insurance and performance bonuses. As an Employer myself, I know that’s it’s vital to get this right in order to attract a talented team. We’re also committed to work with the very best of businesses, who take care of their Employees and have a fantastic offering for successful applicants.

Over the last 20 years, we have grown as a business to become one of the leading independent Recruitment agencies in Oxfordshire, and in 2018 we opened our first London office, to service Clients and Candidates in the capital.  

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Allen Associates

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