Regardless of the industry or sector you work in, it is useful to be aware of your fundamental working rights in the UK and some of the legislation that has been put into place to protect those rights.
The first thing to note is that these rights are dependent on your employment status. The three main status types are worker, employee, and self-employed.
As a worker, you will have a contract or arrangement to undertake work or provide services in return for money, or sometimes benefits in kind. This might be working under a freelance, casual, or a zero-hours contract.
Employees will have an employment contract with an employer to do regular work, typically with set hours.
If you’re self-employed, you run and manage your own business and are responsible for your own work, working hours, and relative successes and failures of your business.
Let’s look at these types of employment statuses and the associated rights in a little more detail.
A worker is halfway between being self-employed and being an employee. They will typically have a contract for an employer to provide work in return for financial gain. However, they are not obliged to accept the work. Workers have the same entitlement as employees to receive a written statement that sets out the terms and conditions of their employment.
Workers will receive several legal entitlements, such as the right to receive the National Minimum/Living Wage, Statutory Sick Pay, Maternity, Paternity, Adoption Pay, and Shared Parental Pay.
They are protected from unlawful deduction of wages, discrimination under the Equality Act 2010, and being treated less favourably if they work part-time.
Workers are also subject to the Working Time Regulations, which state that they do not need to work more than 48 hours in a week, are entitled to 5.6 weeks annual leave (equivalent to 28 days leave for those working five days a week), and are permitted 11 hours of rest between working days, as well as an uninterrupted 24 hours of rest once a week or 48 hours every fortnight.
However, while these entitlements are the same as those available to employees, workers are not entitled to statutory notice for dismissal, to make claims for unfair dismissal, statutory redundancy pay, and nor are they able to request flexible working.
An employee contracted by an employer for regular work will have the same rights as a worker in terms of wages (and therefore the various statutory pay available) and being protected from unlawful wage deductions, from being discriminated against, and from being treated less favourably if they work part-time.
Employees also have access to additional rights above those of a worker, for example, being able to make a statutory application for flexible working (after 26 weeks of employment).
Employees are also entitled to receive a minimum notice period from the employer for the termination of employment – but they must also provide adequate notice to the employer if they are leaving. Employees are also entitled to statutory redundancy pay after two years of continuous employment.
There is also protection provided against unfair dismissal, as employers must give a lawful reason for terminating an employment contract.
While this applies to those who have been continuously employed for two years or more, there are some unfair dismissal claims that can be brought from day one of employment, for instance, if the employee is a member of a trade union, or discrimination due to race, gender, religion, sexual orientation, or pregnancy.
Being self-employed means that you are your own employer, and as such, it means forfeiting many of the rights and entitlements awarded to workers and employees. As there’s no contract between employer and employee, it falls to the individual to work out their working hours, wages, and holiday entitlement.
Self-employed workers do not have the right to statutory sick pay, maternity, paternity, adoption pay or leave, redundancy pay, the right to receive the National Minimum Wage, paid leave, or the protections provided by the Working Time Regulations.
They are not protected from unlawful deductions from wages or unlawful dismissal, but this would be highly unlikely with the employer and employee being the same entity!
However, there are some rights that self-employed people are entitled to, as they’ll be entitled to some workers’ rights if they need to sign a contract of labour with an employer or client.
Self-employed workers are also entitled to a state pension, provided they have paid enough National Insurance contributions, to welfare support from the DWP if they become ill, and self-employed women may be entitled to Maternity Allowance.
If you are unsure about your legally entitled working rights and are looking for help and advice from an employment law specialist, talk to us today.
If you have a query or would like further information on your working rights, you can reach out to our team by filling in the contact form below. Alternatively, you can contact us on 023 9298 1000 for honest and impartial advice from a member of the team.
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