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Your basic rights at work

Regardless of work status (temporary or permanent, agency, full or part-time) or our contracts of employment, most of us have certain basic rights. These include:

  1. The right to be told in writing how much and when we are to be paid. The Minimum Wage for those over 22 years of age is set at £5.80, for 18-21 year olds it is £4.83 and for 16-17 year olds it is £3.57. For agency workers, wages must be paid on the agreed day, even if the hiring company has not paid the agency.
  2. The right to at least 28 days paid leave per year. Any employment contract should set out leave entitlements. If it doesn’t, then 28 days must be given (which can include public holidays). All workers, agency workers, homeworkers, trainees, so-called casuals and most freelancers are included in this. Holiday entitlement starts immediately, e.g. on day 1, we get 2 days leave, and, after 6 months, we get 14 days (for part time workers it is less, and it applies to jobs started since October 2001).
  3. The right to breaks of at least 20 minutes after each 6 hours of work. We are entitled to at least 11 hours’ rest in each 24 hours and a minimum of a day a week off. Rest breaks for under 18s are minimum 30 minutes every 4 1/2 hours.
  4. The right to refuse to work any more than 48 hours each week. We cannot be forced to work over 48 hours per week unless we have agreed to it in writing (note that this is averaged over any 17 week period, so we can be forced to do more in any one week).
  5. The right to sick pay when we are ill. We are entitled to statutory sick pay if we normally earn over £77 per week and we have been working for over 3 months (or are deemed to have been in continuous employment for 13 weeks).
  6. The right to maternity/paternity leave when we have children. From April 2003, most mothers are entitled to 26 weeks’ paid maternity leave and an additional 26 weeks’ unpaid leave. To get maternity pay, we must earn over £77 per week and have been working for over 6 months by the time the baby is 15 weeks from being due. For the first 6 weeks, this should be 90% of average earnings, then a flat rate of £100 for 20 weeks. If pay can’t be claimed, Maternity Allowance may be claimed from the DSS. Fathers/male partners get 2 weeks’ paid paternity leave (subject to the same qualifying conditions as for maternity). Read more on reproductive rights.
  7. The right to be free from harassment. We are all entitled to a workplace where there is no racial or sexual harassment, bullying, prejudice or discrimination. Agency and part-time workers have the same rights as full-time workers.
  8. The right to defend ourselves. We all have the right to protection from dismissal for asserting our statutory employment rights. We also have the right to join with our fellow workers and organise ourselves collectively, and to join a trade union.
  9. The right to refuse work that is unsafe or where training is not provided. We all have the right to refuse to work if we find ourselves in imminent danger. Also, laws governing agencies mean they should not send us to jobs for which we are not qualified, and they must ensure that proper training is provided.

The Working Time Regulations
The basic rights and protections that the Regulations provided are:

  • a limit of an average of 48 hours a week which a worker can be required to work (though workers can choose to work more if they want to).
  • a limit of an average of 8 hours work in 24 which nightworkers can be required to work.
  • a right for night workers to receive free health assessments.
  • a right to 11 hours rest a day.
  • a right to a day off each week.
  • a right to an in-work rest break if the working day is longer than 6 hours.
  • a right to 4 weeks paid leave per year.

Last updated October 2008 and correct to the best of our knowledge.

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