UK Employment Law - Know Your Rights

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Employment law can be very confusing and sometimes it can seem impossible to find the one piece of information you’re looking for. Here’s what you need to know about your rights concerning working hours and wages when you work in the UK.

Working time regulations

As a full-time worker, you have a number of basic rights and protections:

  • You are not legally required to work more than 48 hours per week. If you choose to work more hours than this, you can opt out of the limit but you must confirm this in writing to your employer.
  • If you work a five day week, you’re entitled to 28 days paid holiday every year. Be aware that your employer can include Bank Holidays in this total.
  • You are allowed to have a minimum of 11 hours rest in between your working days.
  • You are entitled to either 24 hours of uninterrupted time off work each week or 48 hours per fortnight.
  • For every six hours you work, you are entitled to a rest break of 20 minutes. Extra breaks may be given under your contract of employment at your employer’s discretion. You have no legal right to cigarette breaks.

If you work in the armed forces or the emergency services, there will be some exceptions to these rights and you should check your contract of employment for clarification. Regardless of your job, you must have at least 90 hours rest each week.

Part-time workers have the same rights as full-time employees in comparable positions, on a pro-rata footing.

National Minimum Wage

All workers in the UK are entitled to a minimum hourly rate, regardless of their occupation. The current rates are:

21 years of age and over:

£6.50 per hour

18 – 20 years of age inclusive:

£5.13 per hour

16 – 17 years of age:

£3.79 per hour

Apprentice under 19 years of age or over 19 years of age in the first year of the apprenticeship:

£2.73 per hour

Apprentices over 19 years of age are entitled to receive the minimum wage rate applicable to their age once they have completed the first year of their apprenticeship.

For further information and advice on the minimum wage, call the National Pay and Work Rights Helpline on: 0800 917 2368.

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Sick leave and sick pay

Even the most conscientious employee is unwell from time to time, and if you’re absent from work due to sickness, you only need to provide certified proof of this after you’ve been off work for seven days. If you wish, you can use your holiday entitlement during your sickness period.

Your employer is legally bound to pay you Statutory Sick Pay of at least £86.70 per week for up to 28 weeks, and cannot offer you less than this amount.

Trade Union membership

Many industries have Trade Unions that look after their members’ interests whilst they are working. This representation can include matters like negotiating with employers concerning conditions and pay, or supporting and advising members during grievance or disciplinary hearings.

You have the right to decide whether or not to join a union.

Useful contacts

Here are the names of some other agencies that will be able to answer any further questions you might have regarding your rights as an employee in the UK.

ACAS (Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service)

Jobcentre Plus




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