Employment contracts - know your rights

Employment law specialists ThomasMansfield guide us through the ins and outs of that increasingly rare thing – a full-time permanent employment contract

In an age where full-time freelancing, agency working, and self-employment are becoming the norm, the good old-fashioned employment contract – with all of the hard-won rights that accompany it – is becoming something of an endangered species. While the flexibility that alternative arrangements afford undoubtedly has some merit for both employers and employees, it can leave employees somewhat exposed in terms of their rights.

Here, we shall detail the statutory rights that come as standard with all full-time permanent adult employment contracts, whether they are detailed in the contract or not. It should be noted that the employment laws for freelancers, consultants, contractors, agency workers, children and young workers are different from adults in permanent employment – here, we shall deal only with permanent adult employment contracts.

First of all, an employment contract cannot take away rights that you have by law. For example, if your employment contract says that you are only entitled to two weeks’ paid holiday per year, you will still be entitled to 28 days’ holiday as is required by law.  However, if it gives you greater rights, such as six weeks paid holiday, then the contract applies. Some rights only apply after you have been employed for a certain length of time, and we shall point these out as they occur.

If you feel that your employer has breached the terms of your employment contract, you would be well advised to seek professional legal assistance. Thomas Mansfield are employment lawyers who specialize in problems of this nature, and have won recognition from the industry in the form of a Law Society Excellence Award, which they received in 2009.

As a full-time adult employee, you have the right to:

  • A written statement of the terms of employment within two months of starting work
  • An itemised pay slip
  • Be paid at least the national minimum wage.
  • A paid holiday of at least 28 days per year.
  • Have time off for trade union duties and activities, although this does not have to be paid.
  • Be accompanied by a trade union representative to disciplinary or grievance hearings.
  • Paid time off to look for work if being made redundant (only applies after two years)
  • Paid maternity or paternity leave, and paid time off for ante-natal care.
  • Ask for flexible working to care for children or adult dependents
  • Reasonable time off to care for dependents in an emergency
  • Paid adoption leave
  • Work a maximum 48-hour week, with weekly and daily rest breaks. There are special rules for night workers.
  • Carry on working until you are at least 65
  • Notice of dismissal (after one month)
  • Written reasons for your dismissal (after one year if you started before 6th April 2012 or two years after that date – or immediately if you are a woman who is pregnant or on maternity leave)
  • Claim compensation for unfair dismissal (after one year if you started before 6th April 2012 or two years after that date)
  • Redundancy pay if made redundant (usually after two years)

In addition, you have the right not to:

  • Have illegal deductions made from pay.
  • Be discriminated against.
  • Be dismissed or suffer detriment in the event that you blow the whistle on company malpractice.

It should be noted that there are some full-time workers to which some of these rights do not apply. These include members of the armed forces and the police, merchant seamen and share fishermen, trainee doctors, and some workers in the transport industry. For full details of the exclusions, and the rules for workers who do not have a full-time, permanent contract, visit the Citizens Advice Bureau website.

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