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Employee rights

Employee rights

Employees are entitled to certain rights through statute. Many decisions taken during the course of business may affect these rights, and it is important to consider the implications.

Rights created by statute

The main statutory rights are:

  • Not to be discriminated against on the grounds of disability, gender reassignment, marriage or civil partnership, pregnancy or maternity, race, sex, sexual orientation and/or religion or belief (England, Wales and Scotland) or religious belief or political opinion (Northern Ireland)
  • To be paid the minimum wage and given breaks from working
  • Entitlement to family leave including maternity, paternity and parental leave
  • Not to be unfairly dismissed
  • To be paid a redundancy payment (subject to certain conditions)
  • To be given minimum notice when the contract of employment is terminated
  • To be entitled to join a trade union

These are the main statutory rights by law. Below you will find a summary of the topics covered in this section which pertain to the legal rights related to and beyond these statutory rights. This section covers:

Working time regulations

The Working Time Regulations provide rights for workers ensuring that they do not have to work excessive hours and have rights to paid breaks including holidays.


If you discriminate (Overview) against your employee on the grounds of age, disability, gender reassignment, marriage or civil partnership, pregnancy or maternity, race, sex, sexual orientation and/or religion or belief (England, Wales and Scotland) or religious belief or political opinion (Northern Ireland), or trade union membership, you may be acting unlawfully.

Equal pay

Men and women are entitled to be treated no less favourably than a person of the other gender in the same employment, where they are employed on 'like work' with the other person. The position is the same where the work is rated as equivalent, or the work is of equal value (Equal pay) to that of the comparator in the same employment.

Adoptive leave and pay

Adoptive leave and pay allows one member of an adoptive couple to take paid time off work when their new child starts to live with them.

Maternity leave

All pregnant women have a right not to be dismissed for any reason connected with pregnancy or their maternity leave (Maternity rights) period.

Paternity leave

An employee is entitled to take up to two weeks' paternity leave if the employee has or expects to have responsibilities for a baby's upbringing and they otherwise meet the criteria to qualify for paternity leave. See our section on Paternity leave: births to find out more information.

Shared parental leave

Employees who meet certain requirements have a right to statutory shared parental leave and statutory shared parental pay. Shared parental leave is taken by dividing the mother's maternity leave, or main adopter's adoption leave, between them and their partner.

Parental bereavement leave

Employees can take up to two weeks' parental bereavement leave for a child under 18 who died on or after 6 April 2020. This also applies to stillbirths after 24 weeks of pregnancy. Two weeks' leave can be taken for each child who has died.

The employee will be eligible from the day they start work (without needing a minimum period of service), but must have a qualifying relationship with the child. See our section on Parental bereavement leave to find out more information.

Flexible working

Part-time workers must not be treated less favourably than full-time workers unless that treatment can be objectively justified.

Right to request flexible working

Employees who have worked for their employer for 26 continuous weeks (roughly 6 months) qualify for the right to request to work flexibly.

An employer must consider a flexible working request seriously.

See Applications for flexible working for more information.


The Public Interest Disclosure Act 1998 (or the Public Interest Disclosure (Northern Ireland) Order 1998) protects workers (not just employees) from being victimised or dismissed for making a disclosure (Whistleblowing) (often in breach of contractual terms concerning confidentiality) in certain circumstances.

Working for a new owner

If you sell the business and there is a new owner, it does not mean that your employee will be obliged to work for the new owner. The employee will have the right to inform you or the new owner that they object to becoming employed by the new owner.

Enforcing employee rights

Employment tribunals enforce most statutory employment rights. They have jurisdiction to hear, for example, unfair dismissal and discrimination claims. Tribunals can also hear some breach of contract claims.


Employment legislation requires you to indicate in employees' statements of terms and conditions to whom, and how they are to apply, if they have any Grievances relating to their employment.

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What is the law guide

The Desktop Lawyer law guide aims to present the law to you in a comprehensive yet jargon-free and easy-to-read format. Our law guide is constantly kept up to date with changes in business and family law by our team of in house solicitors, and includes information across all the legal jurisdictions in the UK.

Our law guide is free to use. Where we provide documents related to this area of law, or where they may help you with any legal issue in this area, they will be listed to the right of this message.

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