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Basic rights at work

Employment tribunals survey

Are you thinking of taking a case to an employment tribunal? If so, we’d like to hear about your experience.

The tribunal system has changed significantly in the past two years and we want to check whether it is working properly for people in England and Wales.

By filling in this quick survey, you can help us understand how the people are seeking justice for issues at work.

Rights at work

Your rights at work will depend on:-

  • your statutory rights (see below), and
  • your contract of employment (see below).

Your contract of employment cannot take away rights you have by law. So if, for example, you have a contract which states you are only entitled to two weeks' paid holiday per year when, by law, all full-time employees are entitled to 28 days' paid holiday per year, this part of your contract is void and does not apply. The right you have under law (to 28 days' holiday in this case) applies instead.

If your contract gives you greater rights than you have under law, for example, your contract gives you six weeks' paid holiday per year, then your contract applies.

There are special rules about the employment of children and young people.

For information about young people and their rights at work in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, see Young people and employment. In Scotland see, Young people: education and employment.

Statutory rights

Statutory rights are legal rights based on laws passed by Parliament.

Nearly all workers, regardless of the number of hours per week they work, have certain legal rights. There are some workers who are not entitled to certain statutory rights (see below).

Sometimes an employee only gains a right when they have been employed by their employer for a certain length of time, and when this applies, the length of time before the employee gains the right is listed below. Unless you are in the group of workers who are excluded (see Workers not entitled to certain statutory rights), you will have the following statutory rights:-

  • the right to a written statement of terms of employment within two months of starting work, (see under heading Written statement of the main terms and conditions of employment)
  • the right to an itemised pay slip. This applies from the day the employee starts work.
    More on Rights to pay
  • the right to be paid at least the national minimum wage. This applies from the day the employee starts work.
    More on Rights to pay
  • the right not to have illegal deductions made from pay. This applies from the day the employee starts work.
    More on Rights to pay
  • the right to paid holiday. Full-time employees are entitled to at least 28 days a year. Part-time employees are entitled to a pro rata amount
    More on Holidays and holiday pay.
  • the right to time off for trade union duties and activities. This applies from the day the employee starts work. The time off does not necessarily have to be paid. Employees also have the right to be accompanied by a trade union representative to a disciplinary or grievance hearing. If an employee takes part in official industrial action and is dismissed as a result, this will be an automatically unfair dismissal
  • the right to paid time off to look for work if being made redundant. This applies once the employee has worked for two years for that employer (see under heading Time off work)
  • the right to time off for study or training for 16-17 year olds. This applies from the day the employee starts work (see under heading Time off work)
  • the right to paid time off for ante natal care. This applies from the day the employee starts work, (see under heading Time off work)
  • the right to paid maternity leave. More on Maternity leave.
  • the right to paid paternity leave
  • the right to ask for flexible working – see under heading The right to ask for flexible working
  • the right to paid adoption leave
  • the right to take unpaid parental leave for both men and women (if you have worked for the employer for one year) and the right to reasonable time off to look after dependants in an emergency (applies from the day the employee starts work) (see under heading Time off work)
  • the right under Health and Safety law to work a maximum 48-hour working week. This applies from the day the employee starts work (see under heading Health and safety)
  • the right under Health and Safety law to weekly and daily rest breaks. This applies from the day the employee starts work. (see under heading Health and safety). There are special rules for night workers
  • the right not to be discriminated against. This applies from the day the employee starts work. See under heading Harassment and discrimination
  • the right to carry on working until you are at least 65
  • the right to notice of dismissal, provided you have worked for your employer for at least one calendar month
  • the right to written reasons for dismissal from your employer, provided you have worked for your employer for one year if you started before 6 April 2012 or two years if you started on or after that date. Women who are pregnant or on maternity leave are entitled to written reasons without having to have worked for any particular length of time
  • the right to claim compensation if unfairly dismissed. In most cases to be able to claim unfair dismissal you will have to have worked for your employer for one year if you started before 6 April 2012 or two years if you started on or after that date
  • the right to claim redundancy pay if made redundant. In most cases you will have to have worked for two years to be able to claim redundancy pay
  • the right not to suffer detriment or dismissal for ‘blowing the whistle’ on a matter of public concern (malpractice) at the workplace. This applies from the day the employee starts work (see under heading Whistle-blowing at work)
  • the right of a part-time worker to the same contractual rights (pro-rata) as a comparable full-time worker
  • the right of a fixed-term employee to the same contractual rights as a comparable permanent employee.

You may also have additional rights which may be set out in your contract of employment. In particular, a part-time worker’s contract should be checked.

If in doubt about whether or not you have any statutory rights you should consult an experienced adviser, for example, at a Citizens Advice Bureau, To search for details of your nearest CAB, including those that can give advice by email, click on nearest CAB.

Workers not entitled to certain statutory rights

Some workers are not entitled to some statutory rights (see under heading Rights at work). They are:-

  • anyone who is not an employee, for example, an agency or freelance worker. However, most workers are entitled to certain rights such as the national minimum wage, limits on working time and other health and safety rights, the right not to be discriminated against and paid holiday.

For information on the rights of agency workers, see Agency workers' rights.

If you are not an employee but an agency/freelance worker, a casual worker, a trainee or self employed, you should seek help from an experienced adviser, for example, a Citizens Advice Bureau. To search for details of your nearest CAB, including those that can give advice by email, click on nearest CAB.

  • employees who normally work outside the UK
  • members of the police service. However, members of the police service are covered by discrimination law
  • members of the armed forces. However, members of the armed forces are covered by discrimination law
  • merchant seamen and share fishermen
  • some workers in the transport industry are not entitled to paid holidays or limits on their working hours by law and have to rely on their contract
  • trainee doctors are not entitled to paid holidays and have to rely on their employment contract. They are also limited to working a 58 hour week, rather than 48 hours.

Rights under the contract of employment

The contract of employment is the agreement made between the employer and the employee. This could be in the form of a written agreement or what has been agreed verbally between them.

In addition, the contract of employment will also include ‘custom and practice’ agreements. These are how things are usually done in the workplace, for example, if the employer always gives the employees a day’s holiday in August. Even though this is not mentioned in the written contract this will form part of the contract of employment as it is the usual practice.

If the written contract says one thing, but in practice all the employees have been doing something else with the employer’s knowledge and agreement, the ‘custom and practice’ would form the contract rather than the written statement.
A trade union may have negotiated an agreement with an employer about conditions at work. The negotiated agreement will often form part of a contract of employment, particularly if the conditions negotiated are more favourable than the previous ones.

Illegal contracts of employment

Some contracts of employment will be illegal if:-

  • the employee gets all or part of their wages as ‘cash in hand’; and
  • tax and national insurance contributions are not paid; and
  • the employee knows they are getting paid in this way to avoid paying national insurance and tax.

For more information on contracts of employment see Contracts of employment, and in England, Wales and Scotland, see Changes to employment contracts in Employment fact sheets.

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Written statement of the main terms and conditions of employment

All employees, regardless of the number of hours they work per week, are entitled to receive a written statement from their employer, within two months of starting work. The statement describes the main terms of the contract of employment.

The statement must give details about:-

  • job title
  • wages
  • hours of work
  • holiday entitlement
  • sick pay
  • pension schemes
  • notice
  • grievance, dismissal and disciplinary procedure.

For more information on the written statement of terms and conditions see Contracts of employment.

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Wages

There are a number of statutory rights associated with wages.

For information about wages including information about the national minimum wage, illegal deductions from wages and rights to a pay slip, see Rights to pay. For more information about illegal deductions from wages in England, Wales and Scotland, see Employer withholds your pay, in Employment fact sheets.

For information about the pay of agency workers, see Additional rights for agency workers.

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Holidays and holiday pay

Nearly all workers are entitled by law to paid annual leave. Full-time workers are entitled to at least 5.6 weeks a leave year. If you work part-time, you're entitled to a pro rata amount. There are some workers who are not entitled to paid holiday.

For more information about holidays and holiday pay, see Holidays and holiday pay, and in England, Wales and Scotland, see Holidays and holiday pay in Employment fact sheets.

Bank holidays

Unless your contract of employment gives you bank holidays in addition to your statutory paid holiday, bank holidays are included when calculating your entitlement. So if, for example, you work full-time and you have eight days off in a year for bank holidays, you will be entitled to these eight days plus another 20 days of holiday.

For more information about the dates of bank holidays, see Bank and public holidays.

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Lay offs and short-time working

If your employer has no work for you to do, they may put you on short-time working or lay you off.

If you are laid off, you will not usually get paid. Short-time working means you will receive only part of your normal wage. This could affect your pension. It could also affect your tax position and any benefits you get. For example, if your hours fall below a certain level, this could affect any tax credits you get. Make sure you tell HM Revenue and Customs if your hours go down. It could also mean that, because your earnings have dropped, you become eligible for benefits or other help that you couldn't get before, for example, Housing Benefit and Council Tax Reduction.

If you are laid off or put on short-time working, you may be entitled to a payment from your employer, called a ‘guarantee payment’.

In some cases, lay-offs or short-time working may be offered to you as an alternative to redundancy. In some cases, you may be able to claim a redundancy payment if you've been laid off or put on short-time working.

For more information about short-time working and lay-offs, see When can your employer make you redundant.

For more information about benefits and tax credits, see Benefits and tax credits for people in work.

For more information about Housing Benefit, see Help with your rent – Housing Benefit. For more information about Council Tax Reduction, see Council tax Reduction – what you need to know in England, Wales and Scotland and Help with your rates in Northern Ireland.

If you have been laid off or put on short-time working, you should consult an experienced adviser about the benefits and other payments you may be entitled to, for example, a Citizens Advice Bureau. To search for details of your nearest CAB, including those that can give advice by e-mail, click on nearest CAB.

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Sickness

Many employees will be entitled to statutory sick pay if they are off work due to sickness. In addition, some employees may receive occupational sick pay from their employer but this will depend on their contract of employment.

For more details about statutory sick pay, see Off work because of sickness. In England, Wales and Scotland, there is also a fact sheet called Sickness at work in Employment fact sheets.

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Time off work

Almost all employees have a statutory right to take paid time off work for the following:-

  • to carry out duties as a trade union official
  • to carry out duties as a trade union health and safety representative
  • to look for work if faced with redundancy
  • to receive ante-natal care
  • to have a baby, to take paternity leave, to take adoption leave or to ask for flexible working hours to care for a child

For more information about maternity, paternity and adoption leave and asking for flexible working hours, see Parental rights at work.

  • to study or train for employees aged 16-17

In England and Wales, for more information about young people’s right to time off for study/training, see Young people and employment.

In addition, almost all employees have a right to take time off work, although not necessarily with pay, for the following:-

  • to participate in trade union activities
  • to perform ‘public duties’, for example, being a JP, local authority councillor or school governor
  • to care for their children. People who have worked for their employer for one year have the right to unpaid parental leave. You are entitled to 18 weeks' unpaid leave before your child is five, or if your child is disabled, before they are 18.
  • to attend to unexpected problems with dependants, for example, where child minding arrangements break down. A dependant includes anyone who reasonably relies on the employee

For more information about your right to time off work in England, Wales and Scotland, see Time off work in Employment fact sheets.

If you have a query about your rights to time off work, or a problem arises in relation to these rights, you should consult an experienced adviser, for example, at a Citizens Advice Bureau. To search for details of your nearest CAB, including those that can give advice by email, click on nearest CAB.

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The right to ask for time for training

In England, Scotland and Wales some people have the right to ask for time off work to do training. But even though you have the right to ask for time off, your employer doesn't have to give you this time off. If they do give you the time off, they don't have to pay you for it.

You have the right to ask for time off for training if:

  • you are an employee
  • you work for an organisation with 250 or more employees
  • you've been working for your employer for at least 26 weeks when you make the request
  • you don’t already have a legal right for paid time off to study or train. For example, you might already have this right if you're 16-18.

In England and Wales, for more information about time off for study or training for young people, see Young people and employment.

You can ask for time off to do any training which would help you be more effective at work, and improve the performance of the business you work for. The training can be training that leads to a qualification, or that helps you develop skills at work. There's no time limit on the amount of time you can ask for.

You can find out more about the right to ask for time off to train, what you can ask for and how to make your request on the Directgov website at: www.direct.gov.uk.

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The right to ask for flexible working

If you have worked for your employer for at least 26 weeks, you can ask for flexible working.

Flexible working can include working part time, working school hours, working flexitime, home working, job sharing, shift working, staggering hours and compressing hours (where you work your total number of agreed hours over a shorter period).

Although you have the right to ask to work flexibly, your employer doesn't have to agree to it. However, they must give your request serious consideration and have a good business reason if they decide not to agree.

You can make one request to work flexibly each year. This must be in writing. You should say how you think the change in your working pattern will affect your employer's business and how this might work in practice.

You do not have the right to appeal but it is good practice for your employer to allow this. If your appeal for flexible working is refused, you may be able to:

  • ask ACAS to help you sort out your dispute with your employer. ACAS has set up a flexible working arbitration scheme to deal with this type of dispute. You can find out more on the ACAS website at www.acas.org.uk
  • complain to an employment tribunal.

You can only complain to an employment tribunal under certain circumstances, for example, where your employer hasn't followed the procedure properly for considering your request or where they haven't taken the right information into account when making their decision.

You may also be able to make a claim to an employment tribunal for sex discrimination. For example, If you are a woman, you may be able to make a claim on the basis that refusing to allow you to work flexibly is 'indirect sex discrimination'. This is because more women than men have childcare responsibilities.

There's a strict time limit for making a claim to an employment tribunal. This is usually three months minus one day from the date when the thing you are complaining about last happened. This is extended from 6 May 2014 as you must notify Acas of your claim in most employment tribunal cases.

This is a very complicated area. If you want to make a claim to an employment tribunal because your employer has refused your request for flexible working, you should get advice from an experienced adviser, for example, at a Citizens Advice Bureau. To search for details of your nearest CAB, including those that can give advice by email, click on nearest CAB.

You should also bear in mind that an employment tribunal may not be able to over-turn your employer's decision. However, it may be able to force your employer to reconsider your request or to award you compensation.

For more information about the right to flexible working, go to the GOV.UK website at: www.gov.uk. Directgov has an interactive tool which can help you work out the rights and options for your own particular circumstances.

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Health and safety

All employers have a statutory duty to take care of the health and safety of all their employees, for example, they should provide first aid equipment, and adequate means of escape in case of fire, protective clothing and ensure all machinery is safe.

In addition, there are specific rules which cover the following:-

  • fire safety. For more information about employers' responsibilities for fire safety in England, visit www.gov.uk, in Wales visit www.wales.gov.uk and in Scotland, visit: www.infoscotland.com/firelaw
  • cleanliness
  • noise
  • machinery
  • lifting and carrying heavy weights
  • hazardous substances
  • toilets
  • washing facilities
  • drinking water
  • seating
  • first aid facilities
  • temperatures
  • hours and rests. Nearly all workers have the right not to have to work for more than 48 hours on average, a week. Night workers cannot work an average of more than eight hours in each 24 hour period. Workers aged 18 and over (adult workers) are entitled to one day off each week. Workers aged 16-18 (adolescent workers) are entitled to two days off each week. Adult workers are entitled to eleven hours consecutive rest per day, and a minimum 20 minute rest break if their working day is longer than six hours. Adolescent workers are entitled to 12 hours consecutive rest per day, and a minimum 30 minute rest break if they work for longer than four and a half hours
  • use of computers
  • smoking at work is banned.

For more information, in England, Scotland and Wales, about health and safety at work, see Accidents at work in Employment fact sheets.

For more information about your right to rest breaks in England, Wales and Scotland, see Rest breaks at work, and Working hours in Employment fact sheets.

In England, Wales and Scotland you can find further information on your rights on the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) website at www.hse.gov.uk.

In Wales, HSE has a bi-lingual website at www.hse.gov.uk.

In addition, in Scotland, Safe and Healthy Working has an adviceline on 0800 0192211 and a website at: www.safeandhealthyworking.com.

In Northern Ireland, the HSENI have an information and advice line on 0800 032 0121 and a website at www.hseni.gov.uk.

If you have a query about the weekly limit on working hours or about night work you should contact the Pay and Work rights helpline on 0800 917 2368.

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Discrimination

Discrimination means unfair treatment which is, in some way, related to a personal characteristic. It can be unlawful if it is to do with one of the following 'protected' characteristics:

  • age
  • disability
  • gender identity
  • marriage or civil partnership
  • pregnancy or maternity leave
  • race
  • religion or belief
  • sex
  • sexual orientation.

There are different types of discrimination:

  • direct discrimination
  • harassment
  • indirect discrimination
  • victimisation
  • reasonable adjustments
  • discrimination arising from disability.

Direct discrimination occurs when someone is treated worse than other people because of one of the protected personal characteristics listed above. For example, if an Asian employee is not selected for promotion because of their race, this is direct race discrimination.

Harassment can also be a form of discrimination if it is related to one of those characteristics. Harassment can include verbal abuse, suggestive remarks and unwanted physical contact.

Indirect discrimination occurs where a particular employee is disadvantaged by a policy or requirement which is not justifiable in terms of the work. The disadvantage must be linked to one of the 'protected' characteristics. For example, if the employer only gives training to full-time workers, this would indirectly discriminate against women, as more women than men are part-time workers.

You may also be discriminated against if you are victimised because you have tried to complain or take action about discrimination.

If you’re disabled, employers have a duty to remove the barriers you face because of your disability so you can do your job and apply for jobs in the same way as someone who's not disabled. This is called the duty to make reasonable adjustments.

If you're disabled, your employer could also discriminate against you if you’re treated unfairly because of something arising from your disability rather than the disability itself.

For more information about your rights not to be discriminated against at work, see Discrimination at work.

If you've been discriminated against at work you can make a complaint or raise a grievance, and negotiate to try the resolve the issue. Or you can make a claim to an employment tribunal. There's a strict time limit for making a tribunal claim. This is usually three months minus one day from the date when the thing you are complaining about last happened. You must notify Acas of your tribunal claim. You should get advice about what to do before the time limit is up.

You can get help from an experienced adviser, for example, at a Citizens Advice Bureau. To search for details of your nearest CAB, including those that can give advice by email, click on nearest CAB.

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Bullying

Your employer should protect you from being bullied at work. The Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (ACAS) has useful guidance about workplace bullying and harassment on its website at www.acas.org.uk. If you are a member of a union, they will be able to provide information and help. The Trades Union Congress (TUC) worksmart website also has useful information on bullying in the workplace at www.worksmart.org.uk.

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Trade unions

An employee has the right to join a trade union, and should not be refused a job, dismissed, harassed or selected for redundancy because they are a member of or wish to join a trade union.

An employee also has the right not to join a trade union if they wish, and should not be refused a job, dismissed, harassed or selected for redundancy because they refused to join.

A member of a trade union has the right to take part in trade union activities, for example, recruiting members, collecting subscriptions and attending meetings.

Trade union activities must take place either outside the employee’s normal working hours or at a time agreed with the employer. An employee has no right to be paid for this time off work unless their contract allows for this.

Trade union activities don't include taking industrial action, for example, going on strike. There are different rules about taking industrial action. To find out about rights to take industrial action, see the Trades Union Congress (TUC) website at: www.worksmart.org.uk.

An employee should not be refused a job or dismissed because they are on a list because of their trade union activities or membership. It is also against the law to make, sell, supply or use a list to discriminate against people in a trade union.

You can get more information and advice about trade unions from the TUC or the Wales TUC. For information about which union to join, look on the union finder page of the TUC's website at www.worksmart.org.uk.

Contact details for the TUC are as follows:-

England

TUC
23-28 Great Russell Street
London
WC1B 3LS
Tel: 020 7636 4030
E-mail: info@tuc.org.uk
Website: www.tuc.org.uk

Wales

Wales TUC
Transport House
1 Cathedral Road
Cardiff
CF11 9SD
Tel: 029 2034 7010
E-mail: wtuc@tuc.org.uk
Website: www.tuc.org.uk

Scotland

Scottish TUC
333 Woodlands Road
Glasgow
G3 6NG
Tel: 0141 337 8100
E-mail: info@stuc.org.uk
Website: www.stuc.org.uk

Northern Ireland

Irish Congress of Trade Unions
Northern Ireland Committee
4-6 Donegall Street Place
Belfast
BT1 2FN
Tel: 028 9024 7940
E-mail: info@ictuni.org
Website: www.ictuni.org

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Whistle-blowing at work

There is some protection for workers who are concerned about malpractice at work and who publicly disclose information about their employer’s activities. This is called ‘whistle-blowing’. The information disclosed must relate to:-

  • a criminal offence
  • a failure to comply with a legal obligation
  • a miscarriage of justice
  • a health and safety issue
  • damage to the environment
  • an attempt cover up any of the above.

Further information and help with cases of public disclosure is available from:-

Public Concern at work
3rd Floor, Bank Chambers
6 - 10 Borough High Street
London
SE1 9QQ
Tel (general enquiries and helpline): 020 7404 6609
Fax: 020 7404 6576
E-mail (enquiries): whistle@pcaw.co.uk
E-mail (helpline): helpline@pcaw.co.uk
Website: www.pcaw.co.uk

Audit Scotland produces a leaflet called Whistleblowing, that outlines what to do if you work for the public sector in Scotland and have concerns about corruption or malpractice at work. It is available on the Audit Scotland website at www.audit-scotland.gov.uk.

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Surveillance at work

Employers have the right to monitor their employees’ communications, provided they have warned them first that they are doing this. Employers can monitor, for example:

  • postal communications
  • telephone calls
  • faxes
  • emails
  • internet use
  • by CCTV use.

In some circumstances, an employer can also monitor what their employees are doing by using CCTV.

Monitoring and surveillance is only permitted by law if:-

  • the monitoring is relevant to the employer’s business
  • the telecommunications system is provided for use partly or wholly in connection with the employer’s business
  • the employer has made all reasonable efforts to inform users that their communications will be intercepted.

Ideally, an employer should have a code of conduct or policy about surveillance. If it has been agreed with the employees, it will form part of the contract of employment and can be the basis for disciplinary action or a grievance.

If you believe that your employer has been monitoring your communications in a way which is not permissible, there are a number of ways in which you can challenge this.

For more information about surveillance in the workplace in England, Wales and Scotland, see Monitoring at work.

To challenge surveillance in the workplace, you will need expert advice and should initially consult a Citizens Advice Bureau. To search for details of your nearest CAB, including those that can give advice by email, click on nearest CAB.

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Notice of dismissal

Most employees have a legal right to a period of notice if their employer dismisses them. Many employees will have extra rights to notice under their contract of employment. There will always be a contract of employment, even if there is nothing written down. Even if the law or your contract of employment does not give you the right to a minimum amount of notice, you are still entitled to 'reasonable' notice.

In most circumstances, if your employer wants to dismiss you, they should follow a proper dismissal and disciplinary procedure. Before dismissing you, your employer should:

  • send you a written statement, telling you why they want to dismiss you
  • hold a meeting with you to discuss the matter
  • hold an appeal meeting with you, if you want to appeal against your dismissal.

After the meeting with you, or the appeal meeting if there is one, your employer should make a final decision about what they are going to do, and tell you what it is. If they are still going to dismiss you, your employer should tell you when the dismissal is to take effect, and how much notice they are giving you. They do not have to do this in writing, but it would be good practice to do so. Notice of dismissal must be given directly to you and not through a third party, for example your trade union.

If you are not happy with your employer's decision and you think your rights have been ignored, you may be able to take your case to an employment tribunal (industrial tribunal in Northern Ireland). You may need to comply with the dismissal and disciplinary procedure first. If you do not, any future award you get from a tribunal may be reduced.

There's a strict time limit for making a claim to an employment tribunal. This is usually three months minus one day from the date when the thing you are complaining about last happened. This could be extended from 6 April 2014 if you notify Acas of your claim. Notifying Acas will be compulsory in most employment tribunal cases from 6 May 2014.

This is a very complicated area. If you want to make a claim to an employment tribunal because your employer has dismissed you, you should get advice before the time limit is up. You can get help from an experienced adviser, for example, at a Citizens Advice Bureau. To search for details of your nearest CAB, including those that can give advice by email, click on nearest CAB.

For more information about the procedures your employer should follow when they want to dismiss you, in England, Wales and Scotland, see Sorting out problems at work. In Northern Ireland, see Dealing with grievances, dismissal and disciplinary action at work.

For more about age discrimination at work, see Discrimination at work.

Who has no legal right to minimum notice

The law does not give the following employees the right to a minimum period of notice – but see also under heading 'Reasonable' notice:-

  • those employed for less than one calendar month by their employer. From 1 October 2002, the law gives some employees on fixed-term contracts who have worked for their employer for one month, the right to notice
  • Crown servants
  • seamen employed on a ship registered in the United Kingdom under a crew agreement
  • employees who have been dismissed for gross misconduct.

If you have been dismissed because of gross misconduct, you may want to make a claim to an employment tribunal. There's a strict time limit for making a claim to an employment tribunal. This is usually three months minus one day from the date when the thing you are complaining about last happened. This could be extended from 6 April 2014 if you notify Acas of your claim. Notifying Acas will be compulsory in most employment tribunal cases from 6 May 2014.You should get advice about what to do before the time limit is up.

You can get help from an experienced adviser, for example, at a Citizens Advice Bureau. To search for details of your nearest CAB, including those that can give advice by email, click on nearest CAB.

If you have no legal right to notice, you will still be entitled to 'reasonable' notice or the notice your contract gives you. For more information about 'reasonable notice', see under heading 'Reasonable' notice. However, if you have been dismissed for gross misconduct, you will not be entitled to any notice under your contract, or any 'reasonable' notice. For this reason, it is important to check the real reason for the dismissal.

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How much notice should you get

The law gives all employees the right to a minimum amount of notice, except those listed under the heading Who has no legal right to minimum notice. This period of notice is:-

  • one week for employees who have worked for their employer for one month but less than two years; or
  • two weeks if the employee has worked for their employer for two whole years; and
  • one extra week for each further whole year's employment at the date the notice period expires, up to a maximum of twelve weeks' notice in total.

However, if you are being dismissed because you are 65, or above normal retirement age, the rules about notice are different.

Contractual notice

Your contract of employment may give you more notice than the minimum the law gives you. However, you can never get less than the minimum, no matter what your contract says.

If your contract does not specify a period of notice, you may still have the right to a minimum period of notice because of custom and practice. For example, if everyone who works for your firm has always been given at least three weeks' notice, you would have the right to this much notice.

'Reasonable' notice

If the law does not give you the right to notice, and there is no notice period in your contract (whether written, spoken or through custom and practice), you will still be entitled to 'reasonable' notice. What is reasonable will often depend on your pay period. For example, if you are paid weekly, you could argue that a week is reasonable, and if you are paid monthly, you could argue that a month is reasonable.

If you think you should be entitled to reasonable notice, you should consult an experienced adviser, for example, at a Citizens Advice Bureau. To search for details of your nearest CAB, including those that can give advice by email, click on nearest CAB.

For more information about what notice you should get when you are dismissed from work, see Dismissal and, in England Wales and Scotland, see Notice of dismissal in Employment fact sheets.

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How much notice is an employer entitled to

The notice you should give your employer before resigning should be in the contract. If your contract does not say how much notice you must give your employer then, if you have worked for one month or more, the minimum notice you should give is one week. If you have worked for less than one month, the notice period should be reasonable. See under heading 'Reasonable' notice.

If your contract says you must give your employer more notice than this, you must give the amount of notice in your contract. Your contract may set out how much you must give, whether it must be written, and/or when you should give it.

If an employer withholds money owed because you gave incorrect notice

If you leave your job without giving proper notice, your employer may try to withhold part or all of the money owed to you. In general, employers are not legally entitled to withhold money owed, unless your employment contract allows for it.

If this happens, you should consult an experienced adviser, for example, at a Citizens Advice Bureau. To search for details of your nearest CAB, including those that can give advice by email, click on nearest CAB.

For more information in England, Wales and Scotland about your rights when your employer withholds money owed to you, see Employer withholds your pay in Employment fact sheets.

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Are you entitled to be paid in your notice period

If you work your normal working hours in your notice period, you are entitled to be paid your normal pay.
You may not be able to work during the notice period because you are:-

  • willing to work but are given no work to do
  • on holiday
  • off work through sickness or injury.

If you do not work during the notice period for one of the reasons above, the law says you should usually still get your normal pay. However, there is an exception to this rule. If your contract gives you at least one week's notice more than the law gives you, you lose your legal right to be paid during the whole of the notice period.

If you are in this position, you should consult an experienced adviser, for example, at a Citizens Advice Bureau. To search for your nearest CAB, including those that can give advice by email, click on nearest CAB.

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References

Does my employer have to give me a reference?

Usually, you don't have a right to a reference from your employer. But your employer does have to give you a reference in some situations, for example:

  • if your contract says they have to give you a reference
  • where the reference is needed by a regulatory body. This might be a body like the Financial Conduct Authority so they can make sure people employed to give financial advice are qualified to do this.

There are different reasons why your employer might refuse to give you a reference. If you think your employer won't give you a reference for a reason related to your race, disability, sexual orientation, age, religion or belief or gender reassignment this might be discrimination. You should get advice from an experienced adviser, for example at a Citizens Advice Bureau. To search for details of your nearest CAB, including those that can give advice by email, click on nearest CAB.

Do I have a right to see a reference written about me?

Your previous or current employer doesn't have to show you a reference they've written about you. So if you want to see a reference that's been written about you, you should make a request to the employer the reference was sent to. You should make this request under the Data Protection Act. The employer will then work out whether they can show you the reference, in line with the Data Protection Act. You can find out more about making a request to see a reference on the Information Commissioner's website at: www.ico.org.uk. Or you can call their helpline on 0303 123 1113. The helpline is open Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm.

Can my employer write a bad reference about me?

Your employer has a duty to write an accurate reference about you, and shouldn't mislead the employer asking for the reference. But some information shouldn't be included in a reference, unless you agree to it. This is information like your medical records, or information about spent criminal convictions.

In England, Wales and Scotland, for more information about spent criminal convictions and work, see Do I have to tell my employers about my criminal record?

Your employer also mustn't give information in a reference or another document, for example, an e-mail, which is inaccurate, or which is deliberately wrong or misleading. If this has happened, you may be able to take action against your employer.

If you're in this situation, you should get advice from an experienced adviser, for example at a Citizens Advice Bureau. To search for details of your nearest CAB, including those that can give advice by email, click on nearest CAB.

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Pay in lieu of notice

If your employer has dismissed you without giving you the notice you are entitled to either by law or by your contract, your employer should pay you in lieu of notice. ‘In lieu’ means ‘instead of’. This is also called severance pay. The only exception to this is when you have been dismissed because of gross misconduct.

For more information about gross misconduct, see Step five: is the reason for dismissal one which isn't automatically unfair, in Dismissal.

The amount of pay in lieu of notice you should get will depend on how much notice your are entitled to. You should get pay in lieu at the rate of your normal wages. For example, if you are entitled to four weeks' notice, but are only given one, you will be entitled to three weeks’ pay in lieu of notice. You may be entitled to more than this, depending on what your contract says.

People often have problems with notice of dismissal. These are often to do with notice and sickness, maternity leave and holidays. If you are experiencing problems with notice, you should consult an experienced adviser, for example, at a Citizens Advice Bureau. To search for details of your nearest CAB, including those that can give advice by email, click on nearest CAB.

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Sunday working

Shop-workers have certain rights if they are asked to work on Sundays.

Shop-workers includes betting shop workers. Employees of a catering business do not count as shop-workers and are not protected from having to work on Sundays. This includes employees of pubs, restaurants and cafes.

Shop-workers have the same rights to limits on hours of work and entitlements to rest breaks, under Health and Safety law, as other workers - see under heading Health and safety.

For more information, in England, Wales and Scotland, about your rights to rest breaks at work, see Rest breaks at work in Employment fact sheets.

Shop-workers who started working for their employer before 26 August 1994 (6 April 2004 in Scotland; 4 December 1997 in Northern Ireland)

If you are a shop-worker, and you started working for your employer before 26 August 1994 (4 December 1997 in Northern Ireland) you are called a protected shop-worker. If you do not wish to work on Sundays you do not have to, and if your employer tries to dismiss you because you refuse to work on Sundays, you can automatically claim unfair dismissal at an employment tribunal (industrial tribunal in Northern Ireland). This is regardless of how long you have worked for your employer, of whether you work full-time or part-time and of how old you are.

For more information, see Dismissal.

If you are a protected shop-worker you must not be treated unfairly by your employer because you do not wish to work on Sundays. If you are being treated unfairly by your employer because you do not wish to work on Sundays, you should consult an experienced adviser, for example, at a Citizens Advice Bureau. To search for details of your nearest CAB, including those that can give advice by email, click on nearest CAB.

Shop-workers who started working for their employer after 26 August 1994 (6 April 2004 in Scotland; 4 December 1997 in Northern Ireland)

If you started working for your employer after 26 August 1994 (6 April 2004 in Scotland; 4 December 1997 in Northern Ireland), you  may be required to work on Sundays. However, unless you are employed to only work on Sundays, you may opt out of Sunday working. You have to give your employer three months' notice of your objection to working on Sundays. This notice must be in writing, and you must date and sign it. During the three-month notice period your employer may require you to work on Sundays. After that, if you give notice in the correct way and you work the three-month notice period, you have the right not to be dismissed or be treated unfairly for refusing to work on Sundays. If you are dismissed, it will count as an automatically unfair dismissal.

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Christmas Day working

Large shops (over 280 square metres) in England and Wales are not allowed to open on Christmas Day. This is regardless of which day of the week it falls on. This means that if you work in one of these shops, you must be given Christmas Day off. However, whether or not you will be paid will depend on your contract of employment.

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Enforcing rights at work

Raising a grievance

If you have a problem with your employer you should usually try to sort it out informally first. If this doesn't work, you should follow a proper grievance procedure which all employers should have. This means you should:

  • send your employer a written statement, setting out your grievance, and give them a reasonable time to respond
  • meet with your employer to discuss your grievance
  • appeal against your employer's decision if you are not happy with it.

If you have followed this procedure and are still not happy with the outcome, you can take your case to an employment tribunal.

For more information about raising a grievance with your employer, in England, Wales and Scotland, see Sorting out problems at work. In Northern Ireland, see Dealing with grievances, dismissal and disciplinary action at work.

Employment tribunals

Employment tribunals (industrial tribunals in Northern Ireland) are legal bodies which deal with complaints about employment rights. A tribunal is made up of a legally qualified employment judge and two other people representing the employer’s and the employee’s sides of industry. A tribunal can deal with problems on the following:

  • written statement of terms and conditions
  • maternity rights
  • discrimination because of things like race, sex or disability
  • holiday rights
  • itemised pay statement
  • unpaid wages and other unlawful deductions from wages
  • equal pay
  • some health and safety problems
  • unfair dismissal and redundancy.

In most cases, you may have to raise a written grievance with your employer before you can make a claim to an employment tribunal.

For more information about making a claim to an employment tribunal and raising a grievance with your employer, in England, Wales and Scotland see Sorting out problems at work. In Northern Ireland, see Resolving disputes at work in Northern Ireland.

If you make a claim to an employment tribunal (industrial tribunal in Northern Ireland), you may risk losing your job. There's a strict time limit for making a claim to an employment tribunal. This is usually three months minus one day from the date when the thing you are complaining about last happened. This could be extended from 6 April 2014 if you notify Acas of your claim. Notifying Acas will be compulsory in most employment tribunal cases from 6 May 2014.

This is a very complicated area. If you want to make a claim to an employment tribunal, you should get advice before the time limit is up. You can get help from an experienced adviser, for example, at a Citizens Advice Bureau. To search for details of your nearest CAB, including those that can give advice by email, click on nearest CAB.

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Citizens Advice

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