As a legal specialist working at citrus HR, my role is to keep all our materials and templates up-to-date and to give our customers regular updates on developments in employment law and how they affect their business. Employment law is constantly evolving, and it can be difficult for business owners to keep up-to-date with – so here are six key employment rights that employers need to know about!
The right to a written contract
As an employer you’ll know that your employees have a right to a written contract, but recent changes mean that both employees and casual workers without employee status must have a written contract before they start work for you. And those written contracts now need to include accurate details on pay, working hours, benefits and details of any training that is necessary for the job or available to the worker.
Failing to give employees and workers written contracts could cost you between 2 and 4 weeks’ pay if a claim goes to an employment tribunal, but the real importance is in making clear the worker’s entitlements and your expectations, which reduces the risk of disputes arising.
Our HR experts can help you to create employment and worker contracts that meet your needs, so that you have contracts at the ready for any new starter.
The right to paid holidays
Every full-time worker is entitled to 5.6 weeks’ holiday per year under the Working Time Regulations, including 8 bank holidays – that much is straightforward. Employers can also choose to give more holiday than this if they want, but that’s not all there is to know about holidays. Calculating holiday pay can be a bit of a specialist subject, because while it’s straightforward for those on regular hours and a regular salary, it can be quite complex for those on irregular hours. Also, any additional pay, such as bonuses, commission and shift allowances usually needs to be included in holiday pay.
The rules are even more complex for people who only work for certain parts of the year, such as term-time only staff at schools. They’re entitled to 5.6 weeks’ holiday even though they might only work three quarters of the year.
Fortunately, citrus HR’s software calculates holiday entitlement and pay, even for staff with complex working arrangements, and gives all staff a clear view of their entitlement, how it’s calculated and the amount of holiday they have left at any time.
The right to be paid a minimum wage
All workers, whether permanent or casual, must be paid at least the appropriate minimum wage for each hour they work. The top rate, which applies to those aged 23 and over, is called the “National Living Wage”. There are different minimum wage rates for younger age bands and a special rate for apprentices in the first year of their apprenticeship – but things aren’t simple here, either. Employers with staff who are “on-call”; who travel between different work locations; or who sleep-in as part of their duties should tread carefully, as “working time” for which the NMW must be paid can include hours when no work is being done.
Also, beware of unpaid additional time, such as washing-up, setting-up and closing-down time, as this time is likely to count towards “working time” for which the NMW must be paid.
If you make deductions from pay for breakages, shortages and uniforms, take care, as these might take pay below NMW levels.
Getting it wrong could mean an investigation by HMRC; having to pay backpay at current rates; being “named and shamed” in a government announcement, and possibly criminal fines.
The right not to be unfairly dismissed
Every employee who has been working for an employer for at least two years has the right not to be unfairly dismissed. Getting it wrong could lead to having to pay compensation – the current statutory maximum compensation being over £100,000.
“Fairness” means following a proper procedure, and the ACAS Code, including holding meetings and giving the right of appeal, as well as having a legally justifiable reason for dismissal.
But in some cases employees don’t need to have two years’ service to claim unfair dismissal and their dismissal might be “automatically unfair”. These include those who are dismissed because of pregnancy, childbirth or taking family-related leave; for a health and safety reason; and for whistleblowing. In addition, employees with less than two years’ service might be able to claim unlawful discrimination.
The right to equality
As an employer it’s important to be aware of employment rights in relation to equality. Everyone who works, whether under an employment contract or some other arrangement, has the right not to face unlawful discrimination because of any of 9 “protected characteristics”.. The “protected characteristics” are:
- Gender Reassignment
- Marriage or civil partnership
- Pregnancy and maternity
- Religion or Belief
- Sexual orientation
These rights apply from the very start of an individuals’ relationship with an employer, including during recruitment and even at the point the job was advertised.
The rights are constantly evolving, with the courts and tribunals getting to grips recently with issues such as where one person’s religion or belief conflicts with other people’s beliefs, or even with job requirements. Compensation for breaching equality laws is potentially unlimited.
Most employers know that people with family responsibilities have a range of rights. Mothers have the right to take up to a year’s maternity leave and fathers have the right to two weeks’ paternity leave. If they wish, both parents can share most of the equivalent of maternity leave as shared parental leave. There are also rights to unpaid time off for dependents and the right to apply for flexible working is no longer restricted to those with care responsibilities. It’s worth knowing that there are further developments on the way. Additional redundancy protection for those who are pregnant or have recently given birth is being extended to apply from the date the employer is notified of the pregnancy until 18 months after the birth.
Several new Acts of Parliament are set to come into force during the next year or so, adding to the suite of family-friendly rights. These include:
- Making flexible working a “day one” right (it currently applies after 26 weeks);
- Carers Leave – the right to one week’s unpaid leave to arrange care for a dependent;
- Neonatal care leave and pay – a “day one” right to up to 12 weeks’ leave if a baby requires neonatal care.
- Miscarriage Leave – possible paid bereavement leave for those who have experienced a miscarriage.
So there’s never a dull moment in the shifting landscape of HR and employment law!
At citrus HR, it’s our job to ensure all our customers know about these legal developments and what they need to do; we automatically update our Employee Handbook with any new policies and procedures or amendments to existing ones, ensuring you’re always up-to-date.
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