A Refresher on Your Employment Contract: Know Your Rights!
Your employment contract details your expectations as an employee, but also your rights as a worker. So, for a refresher on your entitlements as a worker during these turbulent times, read on…
As a UK worker, be it in an office, a production line, in retail, in construction, or as a key worker, you are entitled to a certain number of rights. These rights as a UK worker, detailed within your contract, protect you from being used and abused, by law.
Being sure you’re aware of these rights, so you can take action when they’re not being met, is paramount. Your contract will detail any benefits and bonus’, your holiday and sick pay entitlement, and any other rights you may have. So, to ensure you receive what you’re due, any employment law solicitors will tell you that you need to first educate yourself thoroughly.
If you truly believe that your employer isn’t adhering to their end of the contract, or that your contract isn’t fair, you are more than entitled to sue for breach of contract. That said, you first need to know what your main rights are, so you can take the next steps. So, for all this and more, read on…
10 Things You’re Entitled to in Your Employment Contract
As an employee, you should be sure that you are being treated according to the correct laws. The best way you can do this is to scrutinise your employment contract before signing it, and ensure your employer is adhering to the contract once it’s signed. Some of the key pointers your employment contract should include, and which should be practiced, include:
1. Holiday and Sick Days
As an employee of any establishment, you are entitled, by law, to have a certain amount of holiday pay and statutory sick pay. This means that your contract should specifically set out how many holiday days you’re entitled to, where you’ll still get paid. It should also let you know how many weeks or months statutory sick pay you’re entitled to.
Your legal annual leave entitlement is 5.6 weeks, or 28 days. This number includes bank holidays, and it’s really important your employer allows you to take this time off, for your mental health and by law.
It’s important that you make sure these parts of your contracts are adhered to. As a dedicated worker in any sector, your role may require extensive hours, and potentially extra hours being worked. But, these hours shouldn’t eat into your holiday days; despite your obligations, you are perfectly entitled to taking these days by law, without guilt.
2. Equal Pay to Someone in a Similar Role to You
The Equal Pay Act 2010 describes that anyone, regardless of their age, gender, ethnicity, religion, or sexuality, is entitled to receive the same amount of pay as their employees. This rule goes if another employee has a higher pay than you, and:
- Their title is the same as yours;
- Your roles have similar responsibilities;
- Your roles provide similar value to the company;
- Your salary doesn’t meet your “market value”, or the average pay for someone of your skills and role.
Although most contracts describe a clause stating you can’t discuss your pay with other employees, this can be refuted if you genuinely believe you’re being paid less. So, if you feel you’re not being paid enough, be sure to ask around, and get to the bottom of it. By law, you are entitled to ask for more.
3. The Hours/Days You Are Expected to Work
In a number of workplaces, for example as a doctor or nurse, it’s likely that your job role won’t follow the usual 9 ‘til 5. With this in mind, your contract should detail how many hours you’re expected to work each day or week, and any irregular hours you may face.
Although there’s no denying that you’re dedicated to your job, overworking can cause avoidable mistakes. It is also detrimental to your work/life balance and mental health, whilst also being illegal for your employer to disregard these rules. So, to ensure your employer is abiding by the law, and to make sure you and your clients and patients remain safe, this is a very important part of your contract.
4. Description of Your Probationary Period and its Conditions
Most employment contracts will specify details about your probationary period; a period of time where you can legally be let go without warning or reason. This is the time from the day you start working officially, until you are deemed “worthy” of remaining in the role. This provides a little safeguard for employers to ensure they’ve hired the right person for the job.
During this time – usually between three and six months – your notice period will usually be a lot shorter. That said, each probationary period is different, wherever you work, so it’s important that you read up on this before signing your contract. It’s also important to make sure that you keep track of how long you’ve been working, so you don’t miss out on the day you’ve officially “passed” your probation period.
5. Any Employment Benefits You’re Entitled To
Most companies will also provide you with employee benefits, for example, the Cycle to Work Scheme, healthcare and dental benefits, pay enhancements from out of hours work, and more. That said, many workers don’t pay attention to these benefits, and may miss out.
For example, one relatively new employee right, which many people don’t know about, is that you’re entitled to a free eye check as a desktop user. The employer, by law, is supposed to pay for your eye test if this is the case, and if you ask for it.
It’s little things like this which you should be aware of, so you can get the most from your rights. As a key worker, you’re probably entitled to more bonus’ than most people in the general workforce, so make use of it! You certainly deserve it.
6. A Pension Contribution from Your Employer
It’s also key that you take note of how much pension your employer is contributing. This is important so you know how much you should be contributing to balance it out.
The general rule of thumb for this is that your overall contribution percentage should add up to half of your age when you begin contributions. So, a 24-year-old starting their pension contributions should ensure 12 percent of their salary is going in each year. With this in mind, if your employer is paying in five percent, you should be paying in the additional seven percent every month.
7. Rights to Non-Compulsory Training
By law, your specific workplace may be required to provide statutory training, which includes health and safety training, and the like. That said, you may also be able to attend non-compulsory training days and events for the purpose of being the best you can be at what you do. These opportunities may be specified in your contract, so it’s important to suss out whether you might be able to request paid time off for this voluntary training.
8. Contracted Redundancy Pay
In the current economic situation, many people will have been made redundant, and this is a whole different procedure in itself. Your redundancy pay really depends on how long you’ve been working at your company, and should usually provide enough stability to get you back on your feet again. Although details for this may not be in your initial contract, it’s paramount that an additional clause or new contract is drawn up for this procedure.
9. Detailed Notice Periods
Your notice period – the time you have to continue working before leaving, if you quit or are fired – should also be specified in your employment contract. As we’ve seen, this will be different during your probationary period, but your notice period after this will also be confirmed in a later contract clause. The notice period will usually increase every year of working, so being sure to keep track of this is vital, so you and your employer can adhere to it if you ever leave.
10. Your Pay
Finally, and perhaps one of the most important aspects of your employment contract, is your pay. Being sure that your pay is what you expect it to be, and that you’re paid enough when your money comes into your bank account each month, is paramount. After all, if you aren’t paid what you’re owed, and nothing changes after bringing this to light, you may be entitled to sue.
What Counts as a Breach of Your Employment Contract?
Both you and your employer have the capacity to breach your employment contract. Naturally, you have the power to uphold it on your end, but what if your employer doesn’t uphold it, and how can you look out for these breaches? Some classic examples of your employer breaching your employment contract may include:
- Not following the correct disciplinary procedure for dismissals
- Not paying you the correct wage or salary
- Not paying you at all
- Not paying for travel expenses
- Not paying you for holiday pay
- Not paying your statutory or contractual sick pay
- Not being paid your notice period after being dismissed
- If the employer changes your working conditions, meaning you’re forced to resign
- If your employer cuts your pay, so you’re forced to resign
- Changes to your working hours
- Wrongful dismissal
- Withdrawing a job offer after it’s been accepted
Suing for a breach of your employment contract is a tricky business, and can sometimes be difficult to prove. So, if you are only emotionally damaged by it, and not necessarily financially damaged, taking it to court may be more effort and money than it’s worth.
Starting off by making a claim to an employment tribunal or trade union may be worth trying to begin with. But, if you think it’s worth your time, effort, and finances, taking it to court may very well be worth it.
Ultimately, if you think your employer has breached your employment contract, be sure to take it through the correct proceedings. Your employment contract is there to protect your rights as a worker, and as a human being. Receiving these rights under your contract, and getting treated the way you deserve, is really the minimum that UK workers all deserve.