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Your employment rights

This is the first in a series of articles on employment law aimed at the public and specifically looking at the practice and procedure in the employment tribunal.

The aim of these posts is to offer employees a better insight into their rights at work and how they can (and should) enforce them –in the context of an economy stuck in the longest double-dip recession since the 1950s with high unemployment and greater job insecurity for many workers.

This first post will give a general overview of the nature of a worker’s rights in his job. These rights are a mix of common law and statute. For the sake of convenience, we’ll break them down into four (extremely broad) categories – a structure I’ll be following over the next few weeks:

  • The right not to be unfairly dismissed;
  • The right not to be discriminated against – or harassed or victimized – at work;
  • Rights related to your wages; and
  • Rights related to balancing your work and family life

The right not to be unfairly dismissed
The right not to be unfairly dismissed at work is found in the Employment Rights Act 1996, section 94. It is something that most workers, however vaguely, are familiar with. The aim of this particular right is to prevent employers from exercising their superior powers in the workplace by arbitrarily dismissing their employees. However, although the right not to be unfairly dismissed provides a means of redress for employees in particular circumstances it still leaves the employer with a wide degree of discretion as to whom they should employ.

The right(s) not to be discriminated against (or harassed or victimised) at work
In October 2010 the Equality Act 2010 came into force. The Equality Act sought to consolidate the diverse common law and legislation that preceded it into one simple statute. The aim of this was to demystify for the ordinary person the law related to the right not to be discriminated against at work and – in the main – it worked!

It is impossible to give an adequately concise description of your right not to be discriminated against in this relatively short post but we’ll give you a brief insight into the various main types of discrimination that can occur in the workplace:

  • Direct discrimination: this occurs if you’re treated less favourably (i.e. demoted, dismissed, disciplined etc.) because of your protected characteristic (e.g. your age or race or sex etc.). Refusing to promote you because of your age would be an example of direct discrimination.
  • Indirect discrimination: this occurs if your employer has in place a provision, criterion or practice (‘PCP’) that puts persons who possess your protected characteristic at a particular disadvantage and does in fact put you at such a disadvantage. Refusing to employee persons from a particular area of a city (where, for example, a high proportion of Muslims live) could be an example of indirect discrimination.
  • Failure to make reasonable adjustments for a disability: this occurs where a disabled worker is subjected to (among other things) a PCP which places them at a disadvantage and their employer fails to make such adjustments to the workplace as are reasonably necessary to remove the disadvantage.
  • Disability-related discrimination: this occurs where a disabled worker is treated unfavourably by their employer for a reason related to their disability.
  • Harassment related to (or because of) a protected characteristic: this occurs where a worker is subjected to unwanted conduct (potentially of a sexual kind) related to their (or another person’s) protected characteristic which has the purpose or effect of humiliating them or degrading them (among other effects).
  • Victimisation: this occurs where a worker is subjected to a detriment because they have engaged (or may engage) in a ‘protected act’ (for example, giving evidence in a case of race discrimination).

Broadly put, you should not be subjected to the above types of discrimination, harassment or victimisation because of a protected characteristic that you (or, in limited circumstances, someone else) possess. Should your right not to be discriminated against be infringed you can seek to gain redress for this (generally in the form of compensation) in the Employment Tribunal.

Rights related to your wages
These rights related to, among other things:

  • Your right not to have your wages unfairly deducted
  • Your to be paid at least the National Minimum Wage
  • Your right to holiday pay
  • Your right to sick pay
  • Rights related to balancing your work and family life

 

Rights related to balancing your work and family life
These rights address such issues as your right to take maternity leave, paternity leave, adoption leave, and parental leave.

Chris Hadrill is a specialist employment law solicitor at Redmans Solicitors, Richmond. Redmans are JusticeGap associates.

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