Four commonly asked questions regarding employee rights

It can be hard to know what you’re entitled to.

When you first enter the world of work, you’re often so pleased to have a job that you sign the contract and get started, without taking due consideration about what the contents mean for you. 

But everyone has rights, and it’s important to know specifically what you are entitled to when you enter into a new working contract. Here, we take a look at four commonly asked questions regarding employee rights, so that you can start your new job with all the information you need.

What are employee rights, and who decides them?

Employee rights are the moral and legal entitlement an employee has to have or do something – basically, they lay out what your employer can and can’t ask you to do in your job, as well as what you can ask of them. These are set out in employment law, so they don’t differ from company to company. 

They cover things like the right to take time off, sick pay, discrimination, payslips and health and safety. It also covers the rights you have to maternity and paternity pay if you have a child. They’re designed to protect you, and some companies offer an increased benefit package, where you get more holiday, for example, than the minimum set out in law.

What affects my rights?

According to the Employment Rights Act of 1996, there are several different types of worker, and the type that you are affects what rights you’re entitled to. The main types are:

  • Worker. Where you have a contract for a set period of time, and your employer has work for you to do as long as the contract lasts. Workers have the right to say no to work that is offered to them.
  • Employee. All employees are workers, but they also have some additional rights. They work under an employment contract and have an obligation to their employer.
  • Self-employed/contractor. A person who is self-employed takes responsibility for their own business. In comparison, a contractor can be employed as a worker, or if they work for an agency, have the rights of an employee.

There are also rights for directors, officeholders and volunteers. In order to qualify for some employee rights, you need to have worked for the company for a certain continuous period of time.

What if I’m self-employed?

If you’re self-employed, you’re not covered under employment law because you’re your own boss. However, you do have rights when it comes to health and safety, discrimination and the rights and responsibilities that are included in the contract with your client. 

If you’re not sure if you class as self-employed, the UK government has issued some guidance around how you can check your working status

What can I do if my rights aren’t being met?

Ultimately, the law is the law, but there can sometimes be confusion around which employment category you fall into. If you’re unsure, then check your contract, and speak to your employer in the first instance. Once you know what status you are, you can determine what rights you have and if they’re being honoured. 

If you and your employer don’t agree on your rights, then you can contact the Acas helpline for confidential, free advice about how to tackle the subject moving forward. If this still doesn’t help, you may need to take your employer to a court tribunal to get a legal ruling on your employment status.

About the author

Elizabeth Long graduated with a degree in the English Language, and then travelled to different countries in order to expand her views, and experience different cultures. She now writes meaningful posts, designed to give readers helpful take-home points that they can act on in their own lives.