Employment Rights Act 1996 - UK Solicitors* Solicitors

UK employment law has grown steadily over the last decades as a strong trade union movement and the influence of the European Union has facilitated law making to protect workers. Most employment rights are now embodied in statue rather than in Common Law which is the slow progress of influence resulting from judgements in court cases which alter the legal landscape gradually. A number of key pieces of legislation protect your rights at work. The Employment Act 2002 and legislation protecting workers from discrimination on the grounds of age, gender, sexuality, disability and race are all important. However the legislation that most comprehensively maps out workers rights, used by solicitors on a regular basis is the Employment Rights Act 1996.

Understanding the basic provisions within the Employment Rights Act 1996 can be important. It may be that you have been experiencing a violation of your rights at work and having some indication of the ways in which you are protected by legislation will enable you to obtain more detailed legal advice from a solicitor and potentially, a resolution to any problem you have in the workplace.

Workers are entitled to take the benefit of a wide range of statutory employment rights. Employees are entitled to claim for financial redress in the Employment Tribunal when these rights are infringed. If an employee wishes to pursue a claim, they should seek advice from a specialist employment solicitor in regards to the strength of the potential claim and how to proceed. Basic rights include; restrictions on working hours, sufficient holiday time, sick pay, breaks, national minimum wage, health and safety protection and the option of joining a union.

    Working Time Regulations

    • UK law protects employees from being required to work more than 48 hours a week although employees may choose to work more. Employers must obtain written consent from an employee when exceeding a 48-hour working week. Employers are prohibited from pressuring workers into consenting to longer hours and from treating an employee unfairly if they refuse.

    Time Off Work

    • You are entitled to certain protections involving having time off that may be due to ante-natal care, training or public duties. The statute outlines procedures involving suspension due to maternity leave or medical problems. The rights and obligations of maternity leave are covered in particular detail and an employee seeking redress of grievance over their employer’s handling of maternity leave might do well to contact a solicitor in regard to their legal rights.

    Holiday Rights

    • All employees are entitled to four weeks paid holiday a year. Businesses generally allow employees to choose when to take holidays however this is not a statutory right, it is a matter of company policy. Most employers do not include national bank holidays as part of the four weeks holiday allowance however it is legal for employers to count bank holidays as part of the annual statutory holiday.

    Sick pay

    • The law ensures that employees receive sick pay. The amount and terms of sick pay is dependent on the employees contract.


    • All employees working for more than six hours are entitled to a paid rest break of at least 20 minutes.

    Minimum Wage

    • The National Minimum Wage Act 1998 set a legal requirement for certain rates of pay to be met by employers. These statutory amounts are liable to increase with time and inflation and employees should keep up to date with changes.

    Payment of Wages

    • The right not to suffer from unauthorised wage deductions. It offers ‘guarantee payment’ which guarantees payment of wages even where an employer is unable to supply you with work during your hours of employment. It has provisions concerning Sunday work, and gives you protection from 'detriment' during working hours.

    Health and Safety

    • The Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 set out strict guidelines regarding health and safety in the workplace. These employment rights cover all workers and also anyone visiting premises. Employers have a legal responsibility to carry out risk assessments to identify hazards within the workplace. Procedures must be implemented to prevent or reduce dangers found by this process. Businesses failing to follow health and safety laws are liable to face a heavy fine or prison sentence and may be shut down. Health and safety is of paramount importance and breaches are considered extremely seriously by the courts.

    Union Membership

    • Every employee should be given the option of joining a union. It is illegal to discriminate against an employee on the basis of union membership.

    Dismissal & Redundancy

    • Unfair dismissal where an employer has insufficient evidence to back up their formal reason for dismissing an employee is unlawful. The legislation also provides a guarantee of redundancy payment in appropriate circumstances.

    Transfer of Undertakings

    • When some or all of a business is transferred to a new employer, the employees of that business retain certain rights. As employees of the new employer, they are entitled to maintain the same terms and conditions of employment. They also have a right to the continuation of their employment. These rights are enforced through the Transfer of Undertakings (Protection of Employment) Regulations.


    • The law protects employees who come forward to report wrongdoing in their place of employment (whistleblowers). You cannot be treated unfairly or dismissed for "whistleblowing" which is the common term for making a public disclosure about illegal, unethical or unsafe occurrences in the workplace.

Employment Tribunal

The Employment Rights Act 1996 also indicates the process by which you can resolve disputes related to any violation of your rights as an employee. Indeed, you have the right to go to the Employment Tribunal if you have a dispute with your employer over a range of issues. Such cases are outlined on a 'jurisdiction list' available from a local ET office.

Employment Rights Solicitors

Our solicitors deal with claims on behalf of employees. They are experts in their field and where possible they negotiate settlement failing which they will make application to an Employment Tribunal to resolve any dispute. If you would like to discuss your potential claim with a specialist lawyer with no charge and with no further obligation just email our offices or use the helpline or complete and send the contact form.