Working in the UK means you are protected by a number of employment laws to prevent unfair treatment. There are also additional laws which are in place after a certain period of time at the business in question.

Familiarising yourself with these laws enables you to understand your employee rights and what you can expect from your employer. These laws include, but are not limited to:

  • Maximum working hours;
  • Maternity/paternity leave conditions;
  • Tax codes, thresholds and exemptions;
  • National insurance rates;
  • Discrimination and equal opportunities legislation;
  • Diversity;
  • Minimum wage, pay conditions.

To see a more detailed rundown of legal employment rights, visit the Department of Work and Pensions website.

For younger workers, special rules apply limiting those under the age of 18 to shorter hours.

The regulations do not apply to some sectors (although the number of these are decreasing). Specific categories of 'workers' are also excluded from some or all of the Regulations including those who work 'unmeasured' working time who are excluded from the 48 hour weekly working time limit.

Work Limits

Working regulations stipulate that the weekly working time should be restricted to 48 hours average over a 17-week reference period. Workers can voluntarily opt out of the 48 hour limit.

Rest Periods and Breaks

There is a right to have a minimum of a 20 minute break if working for more than 6 hours. This break should be taken within the 6 hour period and not at the beginning or the end. These breaks do not need to be paid unless agreed in the employment contract. Each worker is entitled to rest time of 11 hours between working days and one 24 hour break per each 7 day period.

Workers covered by these regulations are also entitled to 4 weeks’ paid annual leave. The worker has a right to this holiday from the first day of work. In addition, for those with children under the age of 17 or with disability, there is a right to apply for flexibility of work hours. Employers have an absolute duty to consider these applications seriously within their selection methods.

Flexible Working

Maternity Leave

The Government has also increased and extended maternity leave and pay and introduced rights to paid adoption and paternity leave. These rights, together with existing rights to parental leave and time off for dependants, provide parents with more opportunities than ever before to balance work and family life, whilst being compatible with, and beneficial to, business efficiency.

Eligibility criteria for Flexible Working Hours

The employee must:

  • Have 26 weeks' continuous service with the same employer.
  • Have the responsibility for the upbringing of a child under 17 or a disabled child under 18.
  • Be making the request in order to care for the child and make the application no later than two weeks before the child's 17th birthday or 18th birthday for a disabled child.
  • Have not made a request to work flexibly in the previous 12 months.

Within 28 days of receiving a request, the employer must arrange to meet with the employee. This provides the employer and the employee with the opportunity to explore the proposed work pattern in depth and to discuss how best it might be accommodated. It also provides an opportunity to consider other alternative working patterns should there be any problems accommodating the work pattern outlined in the employee's application. The employee can, if they want, bring with them a worker employed by the same employer as a companion.

Within 14 days after the date of the meeting, the employer must write to the employee to either agree to a new work pattern and a start date; or to provide clear reasons why flexible working request was rejected.

Examples of Flexible Work:

  • Flexi-time
  • Part-time
  • Term-time
  • Annualised hours

Implied Contract Provisions

Contrary to what some employers and employees may believe, the express terms of a contract of employment are not the be all and end all of the contract.

Terms that have been implied into the contract under the common law add to the contract to create further obligation for both parties. Some terms may be implied to reflect the presumed, but unexpressed, intention of the parties - in other words they plug the gaps left by the expressed terms.

Employee Implied Terms Include:

  • Duty to serve.
  • Duty to obey reasonable and lawful orders
  • Duty of confidentiality.

Employer Implied Terms Include:

  • Duty to pay wages.
  • Duty to provide a reasonable amount of work
  • Duty of health, safety and welfare
  • Duty to provide a safe working environment.
  • Duty not to terminate a sick employee's contract of employment on the grounds of sickness.

The mutual duty of trust and confidence - each party to a contract of employment should not, without reasonable and proper cause, conduct itself in a manner likely to destroy or seriously damage the relationship of confidence and trust between employer and employee.