Alan McCormack | Senior Associate

Employment Law Basics

Employment law can be very complex and subject to rapid change.  However, there are a number of basic requirements that all employees and employers should always be aware of.

Written contract

Even although you may not have a written contract of employment with your employer/employee, all employees have a statutory right under Section 1 of the Employment Rights Act 1996 to be issued with a “written statement of particulars”.  A written statement of particulars is in effect the main contractual provisions of their employment.  Employees must be issued with this within two months of commencing their employment.  The written statement of particulars must include the names of the employer and employee, the date when the employment began, the level and arrangements for making payment of wages.  It should also include other conditions such as entitlement to holiday pay, sick pay, and pensions.  Exercising a right to a written statement of particulars can be particularly important to employees when applying for mortgages and other loans.  Issuing employees with a written statement of particulars should not be difficult and could make things easier for both employees and employers regarding their respective obligations to one another.

Holiday Pay

All employees are entitled to at least 5.6 weeks of paid holiday per year of their employment.  This means that all full time employees are entitled to take 5.6 weeks away from work as holidays and be paid as if they were at work.  Part time workers are entitled to 5.6 weeks paid holidays in proportion to the amount of time that they work.  If you are looking to see what a part time workers’ holiday entitlement should be an easy to use calculator can be found here. Your employer can choose to provide you with more than 5.6 weeks’ paid holiday per year; however they are not obliged to by law.  If an employee has not been paid the correct amount of holiday pay, this can be reported to HMRC who are responsible for ensuring that all employers pay the correct amount of holiday pay.  An employee who has not been paid the correct amount of holiday pay can also raise an application with the Employment Tribunal for an unlawful deduction from wages (an employee will need to have done so within three months minus one day from the date the deduction from their wages took place).

Sick Pay

All employees are entitled to some level of sick pay.  If this is not specifically set out in an employee’s contract of employment, this will be at the statutory level.  This currently amounts to at least £94.25 per week and this is paid by their employer.  An employer can choose to pay employees more than the prescribed minimum but are not obliged to by law.  Statutory sick pay can only last for a maximum length of 28 weeks and payments are also subject to any applicable taxes in the same way that an ordinary salary payments are already.  However, there are a number of conditions before they become eligible for statutory sick pay.  An employee will need to be have been ill for over four consecutive days (including days they may not be working) and earn on average £118 per week.   Unless an employee is unwell for a period longer than seven days, they are not obliged to provide a note from their doctor attesting to the fact that they were unwell.  If an employee believes they should be being paid statutory sick pay and have not, they should contact HMRC or can pursue this through the Employment Tribunal.

Maternity/Paternity Issues

Having children while employed and working can be a stressful, so the law attempts to make this easier for all employees.  For example, all employees are entitled to time off for medical appointments related to the pregnancy.  All employees are also protected from any discrimination arising from pregnancy or maternity during the course of their employment.  All female employees are entitled to a minimum period of maternity leave (this amounts to two sets of 26 weeks’ worth of time off).  All an employee needs to do is inform their employer of their pregnancy 15 weeks prior to giving birth and an employee is entitled to begin their maternity leave from 11 weeks from their due date.  An employer can of course agree to increase an employee’s entitlement to maternity leave should they wish to.

New mothers are also entitled to statutory maternity pay.  Statutory maternity pay is calculated at 90% of an average of the employee’s weekly earnings for the first six weeks from when their maternity leave begins, and thereafter it would be either £148.68, or 90% of an average of an employee’s weekly earnings (whichever is lower) for a further 33 weeks.  Despite all employees being entitled to maternity leave, in order to qualify for maternity pay, they need to earn on average £118 per week, and crucially have worked for their employer for 26 weeks prior to 15 weeks before their due date.  There is also the possibility that mothers and fathers of a new baby can share portions of their maternity leave and pay between them.  Similarly, disputes regarding levels of maternity leave or shared maternity/paternity pay can be reported to HMRC or pursued through the Employment Tribunal.

Employment law is a hugely complex area of law and often changes quickly as a result of new legislation or Tribunal and Court decisions.  However, these are a few broad areas that will affect nearly all employees throughout the course of their career.  If you are looking for more specific advice in relation to any of these then please get in contact with a member of our specialist employment team.

Alan McCormack

Alan McCormack

Employment Law Team

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