Your Rights at Work
Generations of workers over the years have fought hard for the basic workers’ rights to which we’re all legally entitled today. Here is a brief outline of some of these rights – the minimum standard of treatment that we should all be given at work.
Don’t rely on your employer to know about, or to give you, your rights. These laws are broken in all kinds of workplaces every day. It’s up to us to know and to stand up for our rights.
The legal minimum hourly wage from 1st October 2012 is:
- 16-17 year olds: £3.68
- 18 – 20 year olds: £4.98
- Over 21: £6.19
- Apprentice rate: £2.65
You have the right to take breaks – you’re entitled to at least one day off per week, and a 20 minutes rest if the working day is more than 6 hours.
You have the right to work a maximum of 48 hours per week. If you want to work more than 48 hours, you and your employer must agree to it in writing first.
You have the right to take 5.6 weeks paid holiday per year. This means that if you work 5 days per week, you are entitled to 5 x 5.6 = 28 days of paid holiday per year.
You have the right to statutory sick pay when you are ill. To qualify you must be earning at least an average of £97 per week. Statutory sick pay is paid at a fixed rate of £79.15 per week.
You are entitled to a contract – a written statement of the terms and conditions of your employment, including your job title, wages, hours, holiday entitlement, sick pay, notice, and grievance, dismissal and disciplinary procedures. Your employer must give you this within two months of you starting work.
Your employer has a duty to take care of all workers health and safety, provide protective and first aid equipment, and ensure all machinery is safe. There are specific duties which cover issues like acceptable noise levels and temperatures, cleanliness, ventilation, and drinking water. If your conditions are hazardous, you have the right to refuse work.
You have the right to paid ante-natal, maternity, paternity or adoption leave as applicable, and to return to your old job afterwards. Your employer must inform you of any relevant issues, such as promotion opportunities, which may arise while you are on leave.
It is illegal for your employer to discriminate, directly or indirectly, between workers on the basis of sex, race, disability, sexual orientation, age, religion or belief, or gender identity.
You have the right to work in an environment which is free from bullying and harassment: nobody should ever be intimidated, hurt, degraded, or humiliated for any reason at work. Employers have duty to protect all workers from bullying and harassment.
You have the right to speak out about any malpractice or wrongdoing you may witness at work – ‘blowing the whistle.’ This might include any violation of your statutory rights as outlined here. The law protects workers against being dismissed, selected for redundancy or victimised for whistle-blowing.
You, and all your fellow workers, have the right to join a trade union. It’s easy for employers to intimidate or dismiss one person who tries, alone, to stand up for workers’ rights. Having the backing of an effective union can help protect the rights we already have, and rally for better conditions in the future. All the progress we’ve seen in employment law over the past century or so is thanks to strong unionists, workers who organised themselves and were committed to making things better for the majority, not just the bosses.