The Employment Rights Act 1996 contains the primary statutory rights of employees. Other key laws affecting employment include the Equal Pay Act 1970 and the Equality Act 2010.
Hours & Pay Regulations
The maximum workweek is 48 hours averaged over a period of 17 weeks. Certain sectors, such as transport, are exempt from the working hours restriction, as are employees who qualify as “autonomous decision makers” and are free to manage their own time. Employees may agree to “opt out” of the 48 hour maximum limit by giving written consent. Employers are required to keep certain records regarding working time.
Every employee in the U.K. with an employment contract longer than 26 weeks now has the statutory “right to request” flexible working arrangements. Employees can make one request in any 12month period, and employers must make a decision within three months of receiving a request and have a sound business reason for denying it. Sound reasons include inability to reorganize work among existing staff, detrimental impact on quality or performance and insufficiency of work during the periods the employee proposes to work.
Employers are not required to pay employees a premium for overtime work. The only requirement is that an employee’s average pay for total hours worked not fall below the national minimum wage.
Employees may work only eight hours per night shift and must be offered free health and safety checks. Night time for work purposes is between 11.00 pm and 6.00 am, but an employer and employee can agree on a different definition. Employees who only occasionally work at night would not be considered to be night workers.
Night workers should not work more than an average of eight hours in each 24-hour period – excluding overtime. Employees cannot opt out of this night working limit.
Under the Working Time Regulations, employees are entitled to:
- A rest break of 20 minutes for every six hours of continuous work;
- 11 hours of rest per 24 hour period; and
- 24 hours of continuous rest per week (or 48 consecutive hours every two weeks).
Certain days that are public holidays in England and Wales are not public holidays in Scotland and vice versa. In the UK, bank holidays do not have to be given as paid leave. Employers can choose to include bank holidays as part of a worker’s statutory annual leave.
When employees work on a national holiday, they have no statutory right to extra pay.
The following are national holidays in England and Wales, but employers are not legally bound to give these days off:
- New Year’s Day
- Good Friday
- Easter Monday
- Early May bank holiday (early May, precise date varies year to year)
- Spring bank holiday (late May, precise date varies year to year)
- Summer bank holiday (late August, precise date varies year to year)
- Christmas Day
- Boxing Day
Banking and Financial Dealings Act 1971, ch. 80; U.K. Bank Holidays.
The Employment Rights (Employment Particulars and Paid Annual Leave) (Amendment) Regulations 2018 (SI 2018/1378) increase the reference period used for determining a week’s pay when calculating holiday pay for workers with irregular hours from 12 weeks to 52 weeks.
This change is designed to even out the seasonal variation in pay for many casual workers. Alongside this change, the government has also clarified that the holiday pay reference period should include as many whole weeks of pay information as are available (if less than 52 weeks). This change will become effective from April 6, 2020.
Under the Working Time Regulations, fulltime employees are entitled to a minimum of 28 days of paid annual leave each year. Unless the employment contract states otherwise, the annual leave entitlement includes bank holidays. Vacation pay is usually based on the average pay over the 12 weeks prior to the vacation.
Payment cannot be substituted for days off except where the worker’s employment is terminated. Employees start to accrue annual leave from the start of their employment. During the first year of employment, annual leave accrues at the rate of one twelfth of a full year’s entitlement at the beginning of each month.
Employees entitled to 28 days’ leave per year can carry over up to eight unused days of annual leave into the next year. The general notice period for taking leave is at least twice as long as the amount of leave a worker wants to take (e.g. 2 days’ notice for 1 day’s leave). An employer can refuse a leave request but they must give as much notice as the amount of leave requested (e.g. 2 weeks’ notice if the leave requested was 2 weeks). Working Time Regulations 1998, No. 1833; Working Time (Amendment) Regulations 2001, No. 3256; Working Time (Amendment) Regulations 2007, No. 2079; Holiday Entitlement.
An employee who earns over 113 pounds a week and is incapable of working for more than four consecutive days is entitled to statutory sick pay of £92.05 per week from the fourth day of absence from work paid by the employer for up to 28 weeks. To be eligible, an employee must notify the employer of the absence and supply evidence of illness. The amount of SSP is set by statute and regularly revised. Employees do not receive SSP for the first three days of any sickness absence. SSP is paid by the employer and is not recoverable from the government. Employers cannot require employees to contribute towards sick leave payments. Employers are required to keep records of sick payments. Employer noncompliance with SSP obligations can be a criminal offense. A health and work assessment and advisory service is available to offer free occupational health for employees and employers. The service includes an occupational health assessment after four weeks of absence due to an illness. Social Security Contributions and Benefits Act 1992, § 151.
Pregnant employees are entitled to 52 weeks’ maternity leave. The first 26 weeks is known as ‘Ordinary Maternity Leave’ (OML), the last 26 weeks as ‘Additional Maternity Leave’ (AML). Although employees do not have to take all 52 weeks of their maternity entitlement, they must take two weeks’ leave once the baby is born. It is a criminal offense for an employer to allow an employee to return to work within two weeks of giving birth. The earliest that leave can be taken is 11 weeks before the expected week of childbirth. Pregnant employees also are entitled to receive up to 39 weeks of statutory maternity pay (SMP) if they have worked for the employer for at least 26 weeks and meet minimum earnings requirements. Maternity pay is currently 90 percent of the employee’s average earnings for the first six weeks of maternity leave, £145.18 or 90% of your average weekly earnings (whichever is lower) for the next 33 weeks. Employers can recover most of the cost of statutory maternity pay from the state. Many employers make payments in addition to this statutory minimum. During the maternity leave, the contract of employment continues and the employee is entitled to receive all her contractual benefits except commission, contractual bonus, wages and salary. A woman returning to work from pregnancy leave must be reinstated to her former position or, if she takes more than 26 weeks of maternity leave, must be given an equivalent job, unless the employer qualifies for certain statutory exceptions. Dismissal on grounds of pregnancy is invalid and qualifies as sex discrimination. Employment Rights Act 1996, ch. 18 §§ 7175; Children and Families Act 2014, Part 7; Maternity Pay and Leave.
Eligible employees can currently take two consecutive weeks’ paid paternity leave within eight weeks of a child’s birth or adoption in blocks of a week at a time. To be eligible, an employee must have 26 weeks of continuous service, have or expect to have responsibility for the upbringing of the child, and be the biological father of the child or married to or the civil partner of the child’s mother. Paternity pay is currently £145.18 per week or 90 percent of the employee’s average weekly earnings if this is less. An employee returning from paternity leave must be returned to his former position. Employment Rights Act 1996, ch. 18 §§ 80A80E; Statutory Paternity Pay and Statutory Adoption Pay (Weekly Rates) Regulations 2002.
Adoption leave is available to parents and civil partners who adopt a child up to 18 years of age. Eligible employees are entitled to 52 weeks of adoption leave. Statutory adoption pay is available for 39 weeks, and employees receive the benefit at the rate of 90 percent of their earnings or £144.18 (whichever is lower) for the first six weeks. Employees receive £145.18 a week or 90% of their gross average weekly earnings (whichever is lower) for the next 33 weeks thereafter. Employers can recoup most of the cost of statutory adoption pay from the state.
Up to 50 weeks of leave can be shared by parents if they meet certain eligibility criteria. Mothers must still take the initial two weeks after birth, but they can then shorten their maternity leave and exchange it for shared parental leave. The parents will then have the choice of how to split up the remainder of the leave entitlement. The law allows parents to take up to three blocks of shared parental leave in the course of the child’s first year. They must give their employer at least eight weeks’ notice before taking the leave. Parental leave pay is currently 90 percent of the employee’s average earnings or £145.18 pounds per week. Children and Families Act 2014, § 75G; Shared Parental Leave and Pay.
Last updated on: August 27th, 2019