Knowing their rights will ensure they have an enjoyable working experience, provide clear working guidelines for all and allow you the peace of mind that you are conducting business safely and above board.

Try not to get too bogged down in the legality of employment law, but you must always be aware of the issues you could potentially face. A good employer will never put themselves or their employees in an uncertain position.

Know the basics well:

Minimum Wage

The national minimum wage in the UK has a few variations depending on your age.

–          For workers aged 21 or over = £6.31 per hour

–          Workers aged between 18 and 21 = £5.03 per hour

–          Workers aged between 16 and 18 = £3.68 per hour

Employees, no matter whether they are on a fixed term contract or are a permanent fixture, are entitled to the same rate of pay. For part-time workers, they should expect to receive pro-rata pay and holiday entitlement.

Working Hours

There are a few rules about the amount of time an employee can legally work. Unless they individually opt out in writing, employees do not have to work over an average of 48 hours per week over a period of 17 weeks.

Employees have the right to one full day off work every seven days as well as paid rest periods within working days. This amounts to 20 minutes if the working day is longer than 6 hours and a period of 11 consecutive rest hours out of every 24.

Holiday Entitlement

Every employee in the UK is entitled to 5.6 weeks of paid annual leave. This amounts to 28 days for those full time employees who work a 5 day week. Part time workers are also entitled to 5.6 weeks, but their given days of paid leave will vary depending on the number of hours they work each week.

Sickness Pay

You can of course choose to provide sick pay for your employees. This can work as a positive influence and create a harmonious environment for all, but there is also the risk involved if too many employees are sick and your finances and production are stretched.

If you choose not to provide sick pay yourself on all days of sickness there are statutory requirements laid out by the government. These say that your employees do not have to be paid for the first three days of sickness, but will receive pay after this period.

Maternity and Paternity Rights

Maternity Rights

In the UK there are legal rights to time off that both new mothers and fathers are entitled to. If a woman is pregnant she cannot lose her job via sacking or be put at risk of redundancy.

Legally she is entitled to take time off work to attend antenatal care and is also entitled to take up to 52 weeks’ statutory maternity leave. There are a few conditions relating to maternity pay that you should be aware of:

–          To qualify for statutory maternity pay (SMP), a woman must have been working for your company for 26 weeks by the end of the fifteenth week before the week her baby is due

–          For the first six weeks she will be entitled to 90% of her average weekly earnings

–          After this she will be entitled to the standard weekly rate of £136.78, unless 90% of the average is lower than this amount

–          Those employees who do not qualify for SMP could still qualify for maternity allowance. Employers are able to recover 92% of their payments direct from HMRC

–          After giving birth a woman cannot return to the workplace for at least two weeks. For those working in a factory setting this extends to four weeks

Paternity Rights

For men there are different entitlements upon the birth of a child.

–          Entitled to one or two weeks’ paid leave at or around the period the baby is due, or when the baby is born

–          Pay will be £136.78 or 90% of their average weekly earnings if lower than that amount

–          If the mother of the child has returned to the workplace with at least two weeks of their paid maternity leave remaining, the father is entitled to up to 26 weeks’ leave to care for their new child

Other Issues Relating to Parents in the Workplace

There is a slight difference in terms of adopting a child. One of the adoptive parents is entitled to take six months’ paid leave and six months’ unpaid leave. Either individual can take paternity leave if one is in a full time working situation.

If you hire staff who have children you have to ‘consider seriously’ requests for flexible working conditions if they have children under the age of 17 or have a disabled child under the age of 18.

Workplace Pensions

All employers are now legally required to ‘auto-enrol’ eligible employees in to a workplace pension. You are also required to contribute towards this. Unless the employee specifically opts out you will have to provide them with access to this contributory pension, making contributions of 1%, rising to 3% by October 2018.


Your workplace must have ‘reasonable adjustments’ in order to make it possible for qualified people with disabilities to work with you.

You should also ensure that all aspects of your workplace follow health and safety guidelines. Your employees are entitled to feel safe in their working environment and that they have sufficient privacy on site if needed.

Employer/Employee Relationship

A level of trust and understanding between you and your staff is vital to ensure that you have a harmonious workplace. This will lead to a greater chance of productivity and a team that sticks together in tough and happy times.

Do not break the trust you build with employees. Never take part in office gossip or disclose personal information; try and remain the utmost professional and be a boss that your staff respect and would have no qualms about coming to you should they have any issues.

Stay Aware and Keep Staff Happy

The majority of employment rights are common sense with the rest providing you with the facts and figures you require to keep your company on the right side of the law and to keep your employees with a smile on their face.

Business start-up packages can advise you on all aspects of employment law that you need to be aware of when setting up a new company and dealing with employees for the first time. Take the time to learn more and keep your business heading in the right direction.

You can also join our Google+ Community “Startup in Britain” which is packed with help, resources and articles to get you started. Use it to get tips, advice and start building your network!

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