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What rights do employees and employers have?

The employment relationship is two-way and both you and your employees have various obligations towards each other but equally you both have certain rights. This article looks at some of the key rights and responsibilities you should be aware of.

What are an employer’s basic responsibilities to their employees that I must comply with?

Scroll through the carousel images below to view the basic conditions of employment.

  • Laptop screen
    Duty of Care

    Duty of care as defined by ACAS is where employers should take all steps which are reasonably possible to ensure their employees’ health, safety and wellbeing. ‘An employer can be deemed to have breached their duty of care by failing to do everything that was reasonable in the circumstances to keep the employee safe from harm.’ ACAS online 2016. This includes emotional and mental wellbeing as well as physical.

  • Pound coins and notes
    Contractual agreements

    It may sound obvious but it is your responsibility to ensure the contractual agreements made are honoured and adhered to. This includes both your responsibilities and those of the employee. This is often achieved by having a clear set of policies and procedures in place that are clearly communicated and made available to all employees.

  • Working on prototype
    Terms and conditions of employment

    When you wish to alter or change any terms and conditions of employment you must ensure that you consult fully with your employees and in accordance with any of the statutory requirements or guidelines around consultation.

  • Baker doing her thang
    Compliance with Statutory requirements

    This may range from HMRC tax calculations and deductions through to making the correct payment for sick absence or following through with the correct process for administering flexible working requests. It is your responsibility to know the law that governs the employment relationship and to ensure you comply with it. Ignorance of the law is no defence for non-compliance.

  • Back window of a car parked on the street in summer sunny day, rear view.
    Employers Liability Insurance

    If employees have an accident or sustain an injury whilst at work they have the right to make a claim against you for compensation. You are therefore required by law to ensure that you are properly insured to cover the cost of any such potential claims.

What rights do employees have to time off?

Employees have a range of rights to time off work. 

Reason for leave Entitlement
Holiday 28 days paid annual leave per person per year. May include public holidays if contract states clearly.
Carrying out public duties Employees must provide time off for employees to carry out their public duties. This may include but is not limited to being a school governor, local counsellor, or trade union member. Click here for details from
Court service Employees must be allowed time off for jury service or if they are a justice of the peace or magistrate or a member of any statutory tribunal. You can ask for a delay to the jury service but you must be able to prove that it will harm your business for your employee to attend at a particular time. 
Military training and service Employees that work for th reserve forces must be allowed time off for training and military service. 
Maternity, paternity and adoption This includes maternity, paternity and adoption leave. Statutory maternity leave is 52 weeks. There is also an entitlement to time off to arrange care for children. There is now an option for shared parental leave rather than the woman taking all 52 week maternity. 
Time of for dependents Employees are also entitled to unpaid time off to care for dependents. This is to deal with emergencies. 


Am I within my rights to refuse an employee their leave?

You cannot refuse leave which the employee is entitled by law.  It is possible to ask to defer your employees jury service if their absence would be detrimental to the business.  

You may reject an annual leave request if the dates of their leave will have a negative impact on the business, but you must ensure that your employee is able to take their leave at an alternative time. 

You need to ensure you have very clearly set out annual leave policies so employees understand the grounds on which the leave may be rejected and the process for applying ad approving leave applications.

What rights do employees have to a pay increase?

There is no legal entitlement to a pay increase – what matters here is what you have set out as the terms and conditions in their contract. 

If there is a commitment to awarding a pay increase each year then this must be adhered to. If there is not commitment to an actual increase in the contract, then none need be given if the business is unable to do so.

Do I have the right to change an employees working hours?

It depends what your contract states. If the hours of work are governed by the contract, then you cannot make changes to terms and conditions without prior consultation with your employee. Depending on the significance and the nature of the change it may be considered a fundamental change to terms and conditions in which case you may need to consider whether it would be appropriate to offer redundancy as an alternative. For example, if a job is going from full time to part time, or if the change in hours will result in a change in salary.

Ultimately it’s always good practice to have an initial consultation in the first place.

Do employees have the right to paid time off on bank holidays?

There is no legal requirement to provide pay for public holidays.

The 28 days paid leave entitlement set out in the Working Time Regulations 1998 may include the public holidays if you wish to.

If this is the case you must ensure your contract clearly sets out that this is the entitlement. Some companies chose to pay staff extra for working bank holidays but there is no legal requirement to do so.

The pay rate for bank holidays will be determined by the terms of your contractual agreement with the employee not by statute.

Quiz: Which of these do you think are employee rights protected by legislation?

Reasonable adjustments if disabled

Time off for a bereavement

Time off for adoption

Reference of employment

Regular tea or smoking breaks

Notice of termination of employment

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