HR RESOURCES:

The facts: Employee rights and responsibilities

Every employer in the UK has a responsibility to ensure that they follow the relevant rules and responsibilities to their employees as laid out by the government and other applicable regulatory bodies. Equally, your employees should also be fully aware of their own responsibilities towards your business, as well what their rights are in regards to employment.

An ACAS report has stated that around one fifth (or 200,000) of all calls made to the ACAS helpline center on contracts of employment, and what is expected from both employers and employees alike. Clearly, the importance of clarity in all matters of workplace law, legislation and contractual obligations should not be underestimated. Effectively communicating all workplace policies can really make a difference to both productivity and satisfaction levels in business.

Does employee status make a difference to rights or responsibilities?

Fundamentally, anyone who works within your business with either ‘worker’ or ‘employee’ status is entitled to certain basic rights by law.

A worker is legally required to the terms stipulated within their employment contract, and must carry out the work themselves. However, some workers do have limited rights to send someone else to carry out elements of their role, such as a sub-contractor. Despite the legal rights afforded to them, workers must anticipate that their work will still be casual and not necessarily guaranteed.

Workers are entitled to some employment rights, including:

  • The National Minimum Wage
  • Holiday pay and adequate time off
  • Adherence to the Working Time Regulations
  • Protection against unlawful discrimination, bullying and harassment
  • The right not to be treated less favourably if working part time.

What legal rights do employees have within a business?

As per those with ‘worker’ status within a business, employees must also work to the terms stipulated within their employment contract, and must carry out the work themselves. A contract normally exists when legal terms such as working hours, annual leave and pay have been agreed – it does not have to be put in writing, but it is considered best practice for employers to do so to avoid any misunderstandings, or potentially contentious situations.  

Anyone with employee status will be entitled to a wide range of employment rights, including all of those to which a worker is entitled. The key rights that an employee has a legal entitlement to include:

  • A written statement of employment
  • An itemized payslip
  • The National Minimum Wage
  • Holiday, maternity and paternity leave and pay
  • The right to request flexible working hours
  • Protection against unlawful discrimination, bullying and harassment

What do Express and Implied terms mean for employee rights and responsibilities?

Most employment contracts will be stipulated in writing, but they do not have to be. An oral contract can be just as binding legally, but the terms and conditions stipulated can be much harder to prove.

Providing a written contract can go a long way towards preventing or resolving disputes with any employees in the future. The main purpose of a written contract is to clearly illustrate two types of contractual terms – express, and implied.

Express terms

Express terms tend to refer to elements of an employee’s contract that have been specifically mentioned, either in writing or during an oral conversation, by both the employee and employer. These may include:

  • How much the employee will be paid (including overtime and bonus pay)
  • Hours of work required, including any overtime hours
  • Holiday pay and how many days of holiday that they will be entitled to per year (The majority of full-time workers are entitled to 28 days (including bank holidays) per year, with part-time workers pay prorated.
  • Sick pay and redundancy pay
  • How much notice would be required to end an employment contract

Express terms can be found within an employment contract, but also sometimes on the advert for the job in question, any letters that an employee may receive from you, and any documents that you may require an employee to sign, such as staff handbook.

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Implied terms

Implied terms refer to those that are not directly written or spoken about, but can be implied into the majority of contracts of employment. For example, this could include such obvious concepts as not stealing from an employer, or not giving away confidential information to competitors.

In turn, implied terms that an employer should abide by can include providing a safe and non-hazardous working environment, or asking employees to do anything illegal, such as drive a company car without insurance. Terms can also be implied through both accepted custom and practices – this refers to when arrangements have never clearly been agreed, but become an acceptable part of a contract over time. For an entitlement to become firmly established, it should normally be:

  • Uninterrupted
  • Long-standing
  • Automatically received
  • Expected and well-known

Ultimately, the most important element in any employment contract, regardless of express and implied terms, is the concept of mutual trust and confidence between the employer and the employee in question.

What common responsibilities do employees have to their employer?

Employee responsibilities are normally expressly stated within the standard contract of employment, but the law states that there are certain duties and responsibilities that owed to an employer by an employee. These commonly include:

  • Rendering faithful service to an employer
  • Not to compete in business against an employer (whilst still employed by them)
  • To obey lawful and reasonable orders (that are consistent with his or her contract)
  • To exercise reasonable skill and care in terms of fulfilling their role
  • To provide a personal service
  • Not to disclose any private or confidential information
  • Maintain trust and confidence by behaving in a reasonable manner
  • To fully disclose any wrongdoing
  • To look after an employer’s property if using it

Alongside the more general responsibilities towards an employer, your employee will also have specific obligations in regards to health and safety procedures. These tend to be:

  • Taking care of their own health and safety, and that of people who may be directly affected by what they do (or do not do)
  • Cooperating with others on health and safety, and not to interfere with, or misuse, anything that has been provided by your business for their health, safety or welfare
  • Follow all training that you may have provided them with when using any work items that you have also provided
  • Attend any health and safety training that you have deemed relevant to their role
  • Report any hazards and defects observed within the workplace

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