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Employee Rights

Employee Rights in United Kingdom

General Employee Rights in United Kingdom

Employment agreement

Every employee in the UK has the right to a comprehensive written employment contract, which covers a lot of the subjects that are included in British employment law. The agreement must be provided before work commences and must consist of the terms and conditions of the employment, as well as work hours, duties, benefits, wages, pension schemes, sick pay, absence and holiday pay, leave, notice period, training, disciplinary and grievance procedures. 

Employers can include other items in the contract, which are essential and relevant to their business, such as confidentiality provisions and restrictions.  

Flexible working

All employees in the UK can request flexible working if they have worked for the same employer for at least 26 weeks. Flexible working includes job sharing, working from home, part-time, flex time and compressed hours, staggered hours and annualised hours. 

After the request has been made, employers have three months to review it. In that time, they can assess the advantages and disadvantages of the employee working flexibly, have ongoing discussions and offer an appeal process. An employer can refuse the request if they have a good business reason to do so.

Health & Safety

Employees in the UK have the right to a safe workplace, and it falls to their employers to take care of their health and safety while at work. Employers have to provide and maintain a safe place of work, a secure system of work, and safe-to-use equipment.

Employers are liable for negligent acts of their employees during their employment. They could also be responsible for specific occupational ailments if they are considered to have been aware of potential risks.

To ensure all of the above, the employer should:

  • Provide a safe working environment that has adequate facilities and arrangements for welfare at work
  • Provide and maintain systems that are safe to use and do not pose any risks to employees' health.
  • Provide the necessary information, instruction, training and supervision to employees about their health and safety at work.
  • If employing more than five employees, the employer must have a health and safety policy statement and must make arrangements for carrying out the policy. 

Further to this, employees are legally entitled to request an eye test if they feel the need for glasses and should be reimbursed for any costs incurred.

Employers carry the same responsibility to employees who work remotely as they do to office-based workers. They have to make sure that remote employees have an adequate workspace with proper lighting levels, ventilation, room temperature, noise levels. The workstation should include a table, chair, laptop and a free, clean, safe space that meets the Safety & Health Regulations. Employers need to make sure employees' setup includes:

  • Screens that are raised to meet the eye level and are positioned where lighting won't cause reflections or glare on the screen 
  • Chairs that are adjusted so arms are at the right angle and the lower back is well supported 
  • A separate keyboard and mouse are provided to employees and separated from the laptop so the worker can position them correctly and comfortably. 

While ergonomic consultations are not currently statutory, great UK employers provide this as a benefit to employees. 

Employers should mandate that their employees take short breaks during the day to avoid prolonged static postures. They should advise them to stretch and change their position regularly to help reduce tiredness and prevent pains in the body. Alongside those, employers should ensure adequate contact and communication with remote employees. 

All of the above should be laid out in a work-from-home policy, which is accessible to everyone.

Employee Protections in United Kingdom

Protection from discrimination

Employees in the UK are protected from workplace discrimination by the Equality Act 2010, which extends to dismissal, employment conditions, remuneration, career advancement and recruitment. This means that employers cannot fail to hire someone, select them for redundancy or pay them less than another employee based on gender, age or religion. 

The Equality Act prohibits discrimination, harassment and victimisation based on age, disability, gender reassignment, marriage & civil partnership, pregnancy & maternity, race, religion & belief, sex and sexual orientation. Types of discrimination include direct or indirect harassment, victimisation and failure to make reasonable adjustments.

Whistleblower Protection

Whistleblowers in the UK who decide to disclose certain information are protected by the Public Interest Disclosure Act 1998 (PIDA). It gives them the right not to be penalised or dismissed because they made that disclosure, granted that they have a reasonable belief that the disclosure was made in the public interest.

A worker who is penalised in such circumstances can bring a compensation claim regardless of the length of service. If an Employment Tribunal finds that an employee was dismissed because they made a protected disclosure, the dismissal will be deemed unfair. The employer will need to compensate the worker.

Protection Against Dismissal

Employees who have been continuously employed by an employer for two years or more have a right not to be unfairly dismissed. According to UK employment law, there are five statutory reasons for dismissal:

  • conduct
  • capability
  • redundancy
  • breach of a statutory restriction
  • some other substantial reason

Upon dismissal, the employer will have to prove that one of them applies and that they acted reasonably and legally in treating the reason as sufficient to justify dismissal of the employee.

Personal information protection

Although the EU GDPR itself no longer applies to UK residents’ personal data, UK organisations must still comply with its requirements after this point. That is because the DPA 2018 already enacts the EU GDPR’s requirements in UK law. DPPEC (Data Protection, Privacy and Electronic Communications (Amendments etc) (EU Exit)) Regulations 2019 amends the DPA 2018 and merges it with the requirements of the EU GDPR to form a data protection regime that works in a UK context after Brexit alongside the DPA 2018.

This new regime is known as "the UK GDPR".

There is very little material difference between the EU GDPR and the UK GDPR, so organisations that process personal data should continue to comply with the EU GDPR’s requirements. Employers must comply with the following principles when handling the personal data of employees:

  • Use personal data reasonably, lawfully and in a transparent manner
  • Process the data only for specific, explicit and legitimate purposes
  • Obtain data for lawful purposes and refrain from using it in a way, which is incompatible with those purposes
  • Ensure it is accurate, relevant, and up to date
  • Ensure it is not kept for longer than necessary
  • Ensure it is kept secure.

If a personal data breach occurs, the employer must inform the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) within 72 hours. If the risk for the wellbeing of the employee is high, they must also notify the individual concerned. Employees may lodge complaints to the ICO if they have concerns about an organisation's information rights practices.

Under GDPR legislation, employees have the right to:

  • Receive information about the collection and processing of their data
  • Access the personal data, and supplementary information held about them 
  • Have their data corrected if there are mistakes or inaccuracies
  • Have their personal data erased 
  • Restrict the handling or use of their data if they consider it is unlawful or the information is inaccurate
  • Challenge the use of their personal data for direct marketing, scientific or historical research.

Required Employee Benefits in United Kingdom

Pension

All employers in the UK have to provide a workplace pension scheme to employees, which comes on top of the state pension. While the employers cannot opt-out from providing it, employees can decide whether they want to join it or not. The only cases where an employer doesn't need to enrol employees in a pension scheme are:

  • the employee is already enrolled in a programme that meets the automatic enrollment rules arranged by the employer 
  • the employee opted out of the pension set by the employer more than 12 months before the staging date
  • the employee is from another EU member state and is in an EU cross-border pension scheme.

After the employee has been enrolled into the workplace pension scheme, the employer must notify the employee about the date it commenced, the type of pension, which the provider is, and how to leave the scheme if they decide to do so. Also, the employer should inform the employee how much they are contributing to the pension, how much the employee needs to participate, and how tax relief applies to them.

Since April 2019, employers' minimum contribution is 3%, employees' is 4%, and government tax relief is 1% for a total minimum contribution of 8%. 

As employees change jobs, they can join a different workplace pension scheme, carry on making contributions to their old existing plan, or combine the old and new pension schemes.

Employers have to automatically re-enrol an employee in the scheme every three years if they have previously left it. To do this, employers need to send a written statement to the employee informing them of that. After an employee has been re-enrolled, they can leave again.

Redundancy payment

Any employee who has been continuously employed for over two years has a right to receive a Statutory Redundancy Payment (SRP). They also have the right to receive a written statement setting out the amount of redundancy payment and how it was calculated. Redundancy pay is equal to:

  • half of a week's income for every full year that the employee was employed when 22 years of age or younger 
  • one week's pay for each full year that the employee was between 22 and 41 years of age
  • one and a half week's income for each full year that the employee was 41 and older. 

The length of employment can be a maximum of 20 years, while the weekly pay is capped at £525. As for the maximum amount of statutory redundancy pay, it cannot be more than £15,750.

To learn about all statutory benefits, as well as how leading employers top that, download our UK benefits benchmark infographic.

Job Security in United Kingdom

Union

All employees in the UK have legal rights when it comes to labour unions. They can join or decline to join a union, leave or remain with the union, belong to the union they choose and belong to more than one union. The employer is not allowed to offer the employee a benefit for leaving the union, mistreat an employee if they don't leave a union, force an employee to join or leave one union over another. If employees believe that they're being mistreated because of the workers union membership, they can bring the issue to an Employment Tribunal.

This page was last updated on 
09 March, 2022,
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