Employment Rights

The rights you have depend on what category of worker you fit it into. The main categories of employment are employed, worker, or self-employed. 



You are probably an employee if most of these apply to you:

  • - You work regularly unless you are on leave (e.g. Holiday, sick or maternity leave)
  • - You are required to do a minimum number of hours and expect to be paid for time worked
  • - A manager or supervisor is responsible for your workload, saying when a piece of work should be finished and how it should be done
  • - You cannot send someone else to do your work
  • - You have tax and national insurance contributions deducted from your wages
  • - You get paid holiday
  • - You are entitled to contractual or statutory sick, maternity or paternity pay
  • - You can join your company pension scheme
  • - Your contract sets out redundancy procedures
  • - You are provided with the materials, tools and equipment for your work
  • - Their contract, statement of terms and conditions or offer letter uses terms like ‘employer’ and ‘employee’



A worker is someone who does casual or irregular work, including zero hours contracts.  You are likely to be considered a ‘worker’ if most of these apply to you.

  • - You don’t have regular work, you work as and when required.
  • - Your contract with you uses terms like ‘casual’, ‘freelance’, ‘zero hours’, ‘as required’ or something similar
  • - You are under the supervision or control of a manager or director
  • - You cannot send someone else to do your work
  • - You have tax and national insurance contributions deducted from your wages
  • - You are provided materials, tools or equipment you need to do the work



If most of the statements below apply to you, it’s likely that you are self-employed because you:

  • - Put in bids or give quotes to get work
  • - Have specific pieces of work or projects to do but decide how to do the work
  • - Are not under direct supervision when working
  • - Can hire someone else to do the work
  • - Submit invoices for the work you have done
  • - Are responsible for paying your own national insurance and tax
  • - Do not get holiday or sick pay when you are not working
  • - Operate under a contract  that uses terms like ‘self-employed’, ‘consultant’, or an ‘independent contractor’


Why you need to know this?

Employees, workers and the self-employed have different rights under employment legislation.


Workers have a limited number of rights under employment law, which include:

  • - The right to the national minimum wage.
  • - Paid annual leave
  • Rest breaks
  • Maximum working week
  • - Nightshift limits and health assessments
  • - The right not to have unlawful deductions from wages
  • - The right not be discriminated against unlawfully
  • - The right to be accompanied at a grievance or disciplinary hearing, and
  • - Protection from whistleblowing

An employee has much more employment protection under legislation, which include all the rights a worker has, plus:

  • - Unfair dismissal rights
  • - Statutory redundancy payment
  • -Written reasons for dismissal
  • - Statutory maternity, paternity and adoption leave and pay
  • - Time off for dependents
  • - Right to request flexible working
  • - Parental leave
  • - Statement of written particulars of employment
  • - Itemised pay statement
  • Statutory sick pay
  • - Time off for public duties
  • - And many more…



Problems at work


Discrimination at work

If you’re treated unfairly at work and it’s because of who you are, it may be unlawful discrimination. If you’ve experienced unlawful discrimination, you may be able to do something about it.


People who mustn’t discriminate against you at work include:

  • - Employers
  • - Other employees or colleagues
  • - Employment agencies
  • - Someone an employment agency arranges for you to work for.


Why are you being treated unfairly?

It’s only unlawful discrimination if you’re treated unfairly because of:


  • - Age
  • - Disability
  • - Gender reassignment
  • - Marriage and civil partnership
  • - Pregnancy and maternity
  • - Race
  • - Religion or belief
  • - Sex
  • - Sexual orientation

It can also be discrimination if you are being discriminated against because you associate with someone with a protected characteristic.  For example, if you look after a disabled person.


The Equality Act calls these things protected characteristics.


What’s the unfair treatment?

Employers mustn’t discriminate against you at work - for example, in relation to your terms and conditions of employment or when they terminate your employment.  Employers also mustn’t discriminate against you when you apply for a job - for example, in the way they recruit you or by not offering you the job.


If you think you are being discriminated against at work (or in your studies) contact the Advice Place for help.


Bullying and Harassment at work

Bullying and harassment means any unwanted behaviour that makes someone feel intimidated, degraded, humiliated or offended. It is not necessarily always obvious or apparent to others, and may happen in the workplace without an employer's awareness.


Bullying or harassment can be between two individuals or it may involve groups of people. It might be obvious or it might be insidious. It may be persistent or an isolated incident. It can also occur in written communications, by phone or through email, not just face-to-face.


If you feel you are being bullied or harassed at work you don’t have to accept this, speak to an adviser at the Advice Place for help on tackling this.


Disputes at work

If you are having a problem at work, normally the first person to speak to is your manager. Sometimes it can be difficult to report problems at work, especially if your manager is part of the problem you are facing.  Try to talk to another member of senior staff if you can’t approach your manager directly.


If you are not happy with response of your employer then, if you are a worker or employee you can raise a grievance.  If you are a member of a trade union then you can talk over submitting your grievance with your union representative first.


The Advisory Concilliation and Arbritation Council (ACAS) offer guidance on how to do this here.  If you need support in submitting your grievance, arrange to speak to an advisor at Advice Place. 


If you have been through the grievance process and are still unhappy, in some cases you can take your employer to an employment tribunal.  You must do this within 3 months of the event you are complaining about happened. It is always best to seek advice before applying to a tribunal, especially as there can be some financial costs involved.


Useful links

The Advisory Concilliation and Arbritation Council (ACAS)

Citizens Advice – Employment Rights



Getting paid for work

If you think your pay is wrong or you haven’t been paid the first thing to do is to check your payslip to see how your pay has been calculated.


If you are an employee, you have a legal right to a payslip.  Even if you are a worker, you have a right to ask how your pay has been calculated.  If tax has been deducted from your earnings, see our section on Tax and National Insurance, you may be entitled to a refund.


Start by checking

  • - Whether you’ve been paid for the number of hours you’ve actually worked
  • - If you’ve been paid at the correct rate
  • - If you’ve been paid for overtime, commission or bonus
  • - Whether you’ve been paid any sick pay, holiday pay or maternity pay that you were expecting
  • - If your employer has deducted any money that you weren’t expecting


Speak to your employer if you think a mistake has been made. In larger firms, you may need to speak to the Human Resources or payroll department. If your employer has made a genuine mistake, ask them to pay you the money you’re owed straight away. You shouldn’t have to wait until your next pay day.


If you aren’t paid at all and you think the business you are working for has financial difficulties, contact the Advice Place for information on claiming what you are owed.


Further help








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