Employment law is deep and complex, and not often understood well by the general employed population of the UK. With unemployment relatively low but inflation and hardship high, the future is unique for businesses and employees alike – and it may be more important than ever to understand the base requirements the law has of employers concerning employees.
Wage and Time
When workers rights are discussed, there are some essential rights which the vast majority of people initially think about – and which fall under the brackets of wages and time. For one, every contracted employee in the UK is entitled to the National Minimum Wage, which operates at a sliding scale dependent on age. For workers above the age of 23, the National Minimum Wage becomes a National Living Wage.
Workers are also entitled to a minimum of 5.6 weeks’ worth of paid holiday each year from their employers. This is commonly known as ‘annual leave’ and amounts to 28 days of paid holiday including bank holidays. This figure is pro-rated alongside pay, so part-time workers are eligible for a fraction of annual leave proportional to their working hours.
Duty of Care
On a more fundamental level, employers have a duty of care to their employees, whenever employees are on business premises or on time. Duty of care is a common-law provision that also covers the doctor-patient relationship, defining an agreement where one party is responsible for the safety and overall well-being of another in certain circumstances.
In the workplace, this translates to employers being responsible for workplace health and safety, and the prevention of incidents that bring unnecessary harm to members of staff. Employers are bound by UK health and safety law to administer this through a number of means, including but not limited to:
- The carrying-out of risk assessments to ascertain workplace risks and identify solutions
- The provision of personal protective equipment to staff free of charge
- Adequate training in the use of equipment, and the wearing of PPE
In the event that an accident occurs in the workplace, as a direct result of the employer’s failure to maintain proper workplace health and safety, injured employees may have grounds to claim compensation through civil legal action.
Equality, Equity and Discrimination
Duty of care also extends to the preservation of employee mental health, and protection from other societal ills in the form of discrimination and inequality. But these issues are large enough to be addressed separately. Discrimination laws exist that require employers not to treat staff differently on account of protected characteristics such as gender, age, disability or race.
Recent changes to the law have also empowered employees to make ‘statutory applications’ to their superiors, to request changes that may account for difficulties encountered due to personal reasons. This is most often used in order to request flexible working.