Understanding Employee Statutory Rights

SME owners will often employ one or a few people to help run and grow their business. While many SME companies will often foster a close knit and informal working environment, it’s very important to understand and respect employee rights. If an employee feels unfairly treated, they could end up taking your company to court – and you could wind up having to pay damages if a court rules that that employee statutory or contractual rights have been infringed.

This article explores some of the employee rights that an SME must understand and observe when employing workers within their company.

Employee rights fall under two major categories – statutory and contractual. Statutory employment rights are compulsory rights that every employee must have by law. An SME must legally abide by statutory employment rights, and any segment of an employment contract that contradicts or infringes these rights to the detriment of the employee will be typically rendered null and void.

The major components of employee statutory rights include:

  • Terms of employment clearly written.
  • An itemized payment slip available as soon as the employee commences work.
  • The right to earn the existing national minimum wage.
  • The right to the national minimum paid holidays.
  • The right to carry out and get time off for trade union activities and duties.
  • A provision to allow reasonable paid time off to seek new employment if the employee has been notified of redundancy. This is dependent upon the amount of time the employee has been with the company.
  • Women who are having a baby have the right to paid time off for ante natal care. This is in addition to paid maternity leave.
  • Men also have rights to paid paternity leave.
  • Additional employee rights are provided to parents of adopted children (paid adopted leave) and all parents have the right to request flexible working.
  • Part time workers have the right to request the same pro rata contract terms as a full time employee in the same company.
  • Employees have the right not to be dismissed purely for taking legal strike action, or for “whistle blowing”.
  • Depending on the amount of time the employee has worked for the company, they will have statutory redundancy pay owed if made redundant. The employee also has the right to written reasons for dismissal and to claim compensation if a court finds the employee has been unfairly dismissed. Additionally, notice of dismissal is also a fundamental employee right.
  • Employees have the right to continue working until a set age as determined by law.
  • Every employee has the right not to be discriminated against.
  • Companies must allow employees to adequate breaks – this is on both a weekly and a daily level. Employees are also only required to work a maximum of 48 hours in a week.

Contractual employee rights are typically additional rights that a company may wish to add to entice workers into joining their company. Common examples include greater pay and holidays over and above the national minimum or the provision of private pensions and healthcare.