Health and Safety at Work Act
The Health and Safety at Work Act was introduced in 1974 “to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, the health, safety and welfare at work”. It governs the safe use of machinery, hazardous substances, and risks in the working environment. Employers must take the necessary steps to reduce risk in order to protect their employees, includes providing all employees with adequate training and the correct personal protective equipment.
Any employer that doesn’t abide by the legislation runs a risk of employees being injured which can be costly to the employer for several reasons. The employee will be off sick which will mean sick pay being paid. The employer might have to find cover for the injured employee. The injured employee could wonder how much compensation for a work accident claim they could claim which could lead to a compensation payout and the employers insurance costs rising.
Any company which employs more than 5 people must keep a written record of their health and safety policy. They must also notify and consult with staff if they wish to make changes to the policy.
Equality And Diversity In The Workplace
Equality and Diversity in the Workplace revolves around the need for employers to understand and embrace the differences between people.
“Equality” promotes equal opportunities for all people, regardless of their race, religion, gender or disability. Employers may need to provide additional support to people to allow them to have equal opportunities. For example, a blind person may be given special software to allow them to read information from a computer screen.
“Diversity” involves building a workplace culture where a mixture of people and ideas are welcome. Diversity can help businesses grow, because it helps to widen the talent pool and introduce a fresh perspective into the organisation.
Why Is There Still Not Equal Pay?
Although legislation has been introduced to promote equal pay in the workplace and things are getting better, there might still sometimes be a distinct pay gap between men and women.
Much of the problem has been caused by pervasive social and cultural attitudes towards women and traditional female stereotypes. Jobs which were traditionally considered to be “men’s jobs” were more highly paid than roles which were traditionally considered to be “women’s jobs”, even if these roles required the same skills levels. Women were also stereotypically thought to be considered as non-managerial, making it harder for women to secure leadership roles.
The Equality Act 2010 protects disabled employees. The act prevents employers from discriminating against people because of their disability (or other protected characteristics).
Employers must avoid discrimination in various aspects of the workplace, including; the application process, the job interview, training and promotion opportunities, terms of employment and pay scale.
Laws Regarding Age Discrimination
The Equality Act 2010 also means that it is illegal for an employer to discriminate against an employee or potential employee because of their age or perceived age. An employer cannot force an employee to retire because of their age, even if they have passed the state pension age. It is also illegal for an employer to choose an employee for redundancy just because of their age.
Sex discrimination and gender discrimination may be confused in a workplace context. Most employers consider gender and sex to be synonymous terms, however they are not. The Equality Act 2010 prevents discrimination based on sex and based on gender reassignment. This means that people should not be discriminated against because of their biological sex or because of any process which they have undertaken to change their gender. Employers must take equal care not to discriminate against people of their own sex or people of the opposite sex.
Employment Rights Act 1996
The Employment Rights Act of 1996 is a very important document for all employees, because it codifies the rights of all people who have employee status. It helps to enshrine various important rights, including the right not to be unfairly dismissed. Employers must prove that they are dismissing an employee for a fair and reasonable reason. This reason must also be substantial.
An employee should also be given a reasonable (and pre-agreed) amount of notice before their employment is terminated. All employees should be given at least 1 week’s notice before their contract is ended, however the employment contract may set out a longer notice period. The Act also helps to protect employees’ rights if their employer is forced to make people redundant. All employees who are made redundant should be given adequate redundancy payments to compensate them for their service. The size of the redundancy payment should be based on length of service and the age of the employee.
Various bodies across the UK are fighting to introduce even more legislation to protect employee rights. Employment law is an ever changing landscape and it is important that employers keep up to date with the latest developments. Citizens Advice and ACAS can offer employees additional advice about their rights in the workplace.
What Are The Working Hours Requirements?
Each employee should have their working hours set out in their employment contract. The contract will normally set out a minimum number of contracted hours, but the employee may work more hours as overtime. Zero-hours contracts may state that the employee is given a minimum of zero hours of work per week.
In general, UK law states that employees cannot work more than 48 hours per week on average (with the figure normally being averaged out over a period of 17 weeks). However, employees can choose to opt out of the working time directive. Under 18s are only permitted to work for 40 hours a week and cannot opt out of this regulation. Working time does not include time spent on call, on breaks, on holiday, or time spent travelling to work.
Employment Contracts Explained
An employment contract is a document or verbal agreement which sets out the rights and responsibilities of both the employee and the employer. Any contract issued in the United Kingdom must meet the rights set out by UK employment law, however, the contract can give the holder additional rights. An employment contract cannot limit your legal rights, even if you have signed it and agreed to it. Likewise, your contract cannot require you to do anything illegal as part of your role.
An employment contract can include expressed terms and implied terms. The expressed terms are those which are clearly stated in the contract, such as sick pay, hours of work, holiday pay, and required notice period. Implied terms are not written down or verbally agreed upon, but they exist through common knowledge and practice; for example, an employee should not steal from their employer.
An employer cannot change the terms of your contract without your agreement, and they cannot fire you for failing to agree to new contract terms. However, your company may be able to make your redundant if you will not agree to a new contract. If you are made redundant, the company must pay a redundancy settlement which is in line with legal requirements and any terms which were set out in the old contract.
Sick Pay And Legal Rights
Most employees are entitled to Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) if they are forced to take time off of work due to illness. SSP can be paid by the employer for up to 28 weeks. The SSP rate is £89.35 per week minimum. Some employees may be entitled to a higher rate, if their employer has set up its own occupational or sick pay scheme. If you are unsure whether you are entitled to a higher rate of sick pay, check your employment contract or ask your HR department. SSP is not paid for the first 3 days off of work, unless you have been paid SSP in the last eight weeks for a related illness.
To qualify for SSP, you must be classified as an employee, you must be off for at least 4 days in a row, you must earn more than £113 per week, and you must not have used up all of your existing SSP allowance. You are also required to follow your company’s reporting policy to confirm absence. Your SSP will be paid to you in the same way that your wages are paid to you, and tax and National Insurance contributions will be deducted if necessary.
Bereavement Pay And Rights
At present, there is no legal right for employees to receive pay if they are forced to take time off of work due to bereavement. However, most employers will allow their employees to take some time off in the event of bereavement. This time may be paid or unpaid, depending on the company’s own policy. The Employment Rights Act 1996 states that all workers are allowed “time off for a dependant”, however this does not have to be paid. This should include taking time off to arrange and attend a funeral. However, employers do not have to let their employees take time off to attend a funeral if the deceased was not classed as a dependant.
You are advised to familiarise yourself with your rights and responsibilities when you start a new job. If you do not agree with any of the terms of employment, you should query them before you sign the contract. If you are confused about your rights as an employee, you are advised to speak to your HR representative, the Citizens’ Advice Bureau or ACAS. ACAS is an organisation which can help employers and employees to resolve employment disputes.