What are my employment rights?

Illustration shows young people in their work uniforms, surrounded by plants and flowers. The text above reads. "Employment Rights"

Hi, I’m Monica! I graduated from the University of Leicester with a Law degree and completed the Legal Practice Course at Leicester Institute of Legal Practice. I have worked in a specialist employment firm and at a multi national commercial firm in Bristol. I’m very passionate about helping young people and I like the work The Mix does.

Understanding employment rights

On the 23rd March 2020, the UK was put into lockdown to stop coronavirus further spreading and putting a strain on the NHS. Since then, there have been massive changes to life as we know it and one of the biggest things to be affected is the job market.

There have been schemes introduced by the government, to prevent further strains on the economy and to keep people in their jobs. But with so many updates and the fact that we’re slowly coming out of lockdown, it can all get a bit confusing.

So, what do you need to know about employment rights in the UK? Below is a breakdown of useful answers to some questions you might have.

Amidst the updates and adjustments, companies must prioritize communication that reassures employees about their rights and provides clarity regarding the evolving landscape.

In times of uncertainty, using inclusive language at work becomes a powerful tool in maintaining employee engagement. Ensuring that communications are clear, empathetic, and considerate of diverse perspectives fosters a sense of belonging and security among employees. It’s not merely about conveying information but creating a dialogue that acknowledges the shared experiences of the workforce. By employing inclusive language, organizations can strengthen the bond between employers and employees, cultivating an environment where everyone feels heard and valued during these challenging times.

What does being furloughed mean?

The term “furlough” has been mentioned a lot in the media but what does it actually mean?

  • The official name for furlough is the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, which was introduced by the Chancellor shortly after lockdown.
  • The scheme allows employers to stand down their workers and claim a grant of up to 80% of the workers wages.
  • The amount has been capped at £2,500 a month.
  • The amount claimed by the company should be given to staff as pay. It is the choice of the employer if they wish to make up the 20% difference.

What’s the current update on the furlough scheme?

Currently, the scheme is being used by 935,000 companies and is currently paying around 7.5 million employees.

  • The scheme was meant to run to the end of June but the Chancellor, Rishi Sunak, has recently extended it by four months, to the end of October 2020.
  • The rate of 80% pay is still in place, but from the 1st August, the amount of grant available from the government each month will be reduced.
  • Companies will only be allowed to apply for the grant if they still pay their furloughed staff at least 80% of their wages up to a capped amount of £2,500 a month, whilst they’re on furlough.
  • The government hopes that by allowing workers back part time will work as a preventative measure to stop employers making people permanently unemployed.
  • If employees are made redundant during this time, they can apply for Universal Credit.

Find out more about Universal Credit and how to apply.

Read The Mix’s guide to Universal Credit.

What will happen if my employer can’t afford to pay me?

This is sadly a situation which many employers are finding themselves in due to the current situation. There are options available and the most obvious choice is to ask your employer to put you on “Furlough Leave” and be paid 80% or your salary whilst you’re at home.

  • If your employer asks you to reduce your pay due to financial struggles, legally they must ask for your consent first.
  • It’s illegal in the UK to impose reductions in pay without your permission.
  • You’re within your rights to refuse the reduction; but if employers can’t afford to keep you on your current salary, they may look to end your contract.
  • If you’re laid off work for four weeks in a row, you’re in your right to ask your employer to give you statutory redundancy payment plus any notice pay.
  • If you don’t hear from your employer you can choose to resign from your workplace, but will have to give notice which you’ll find in your contract.
  • After your notice period is over you have a legal right to claim statutory redundancy pay.

Red The Mix’s article on surviving unemployment.

Am I entitled to sick pay during lockdown?

Under new government measures, if you’re off sick with coronavirus you’re entitled to the same sick leave and pay as if it was any other illness.

  • This can include company sick pay but you’ll need to follow your company’s sickness policy.
  • If you’ve been advised by NHS 111 service or a doctor to self-isolate, you’re still entitled to sick pay.
  • The government announced that they’ll meet the cost of coronavirus-related Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) for small businesses of under 250 employees, for 14 days.
  • Currently you can get £94.25 per week for up to a period of 28 weeks.
  • Any employees off-sick with coronavirus will be entitled to SSP from day one.
  • If your employer instructs you to take time off work you’re entitled to leave on full pay.

You can find out more about SSP and how to apply here.

What happens with my annual leave during lockdown?

Under law, all employees (including zero-hour contracted workers and those on irregular hour contracts) are legally entitled to 5.6 weeks’ paid holiday per year. An employee has the same holiday entitlement regardless of whether they’re on sick leave or not.

  • Any employees who have been placed on furlough will still be able to get their statutory holiday entitlements, and any holiday requirements under their employment contract.
  • If you’re on furlough you can take holiday and if employers wish you to take holiday they should explain the reasons why before making it a requirement.
  • Employers can ask their employees to take holiday or can cancel an employee’s holiday, but they must give you enough notice.

What are my rights if I am self-employed?

Similar to the furlough scheme, the chancellor, Rishi Sunak, announced the self-employment income support scheme (SEISS) for those who are self-employed and out of work due to coronavirus.

  • You’ll be able to claim up to 80% pay to a limit of £2,500 a month and still continue to do business.
  • HMRC will contact eligible self-employed people directly and pay the grant into their bank account, all you’ll have to do is complete an online form.

Find out more about this scheme and how to apply.

For more information on employment rights:

Information on holiday entitlement and pay

For most recent information on the furlough scheme

Information on employment rights from Citizen’s Advice

Support and advice can be found via Lockdowngeneration.org

Next Steps

  • Find your local Citizens Advice here, for free and independent legal advice. Or call their helpline. 03454 04 05 06
  • Young Women's Trust offer a free telephone and online coaching service for women aged 18-30 to help with anything from work, life or building confidence. You can also get free advice on your CV or job application. Call 0808 808 8099.
  • Chat about this subject on our Discussion Boards.

By Monica Guram

Updated on 24-Jul-2020