Employment law – Knowing your rights and responsibilities
Sophie Allinson gives an overview of rights and responsibilities in an employment relationship.
It is often overlooked that an employment relationship is a two way relationship. Both employers and employees have rights and responsibilities towards each other.
We frequently find that employers and employees are unsure about what rights and responsibilities they have, which can lead to strained relationships and potential disputes.
This blog aims to provide a brief overview of rights and responsibilities in an employment relationship.
Where do our employment rights and responsibilities come from?
Rights and responsibilities in an employment relationship arise from what's agreed between parties (whether verbally or in writing), from the employment documents and also by statute i.e. legislation, regulations and directives.
Rights and responsibilities can arise from various pieces of employment documentation, including:
- Contracts of employment
- Policies and procedures
Contracts of employment
The contract of employment sets out the employment conditions together with the employee’s rights and responsibilities and job duties. These are collectively known as the terms of the contract.
The terms contained in the contract creating rights and responsibilities can either be express terms, i.e. they are set out in the written document, or implied terms.
Examples of express terms include the employee’s holiday entitlement, salary, confidentiality clauses, contractual rights to a bonus, post-employment restrictions and the ability of the employer to pay in lieu of notice, amongst others.
Implied terms under a contract of employment include the obligation on each party to maintain a relationship of trust and confidence with each other, the duty to work with due care and attention and the duty to take care of the employee’s health and safety.
The written contract of employment is therefore an integral document in assessing the employer and employee’s rights and responsibilities. As a result, it is critical that employers provide written contracts of employment to their staff and update these to reflect any change in terms and conditions.
Policies and Procedures
Employers often have a collection of policies and procedures governing the employment relationship which can also give rise to rights and responsibilities. These policies and procedures may be standalone documents or are often contained within a staff handbook.
Examples of the rights and responsibilities often contained in the employer’s policies include consultation periods for redundancy, the right to enhanced redundancy pay where applicable, provisions relating to sick pay and absence reporting, as well as employee’s rights and responsibilities in respect of data protection and IT use.
A great deal of employment rights and responsibilities in employment law are created by statute.
Examples of these rights and responsibilities are the right to work no more than 48 hours per week on average, to receive the National Minimum Wage, to receive adequate rest breaks, equal opportunities in the workplace, maternity leave and pay and other family friendly rights and the right to protection in respect of personal data.
In addition, there are rights and responsibilities in respect of common employment tribunal claims, for example the protection from whistleblowing and discrimination. Further, where an employee has 2 years’ service or more, they are entitled to the right to protection from unfair dismissal and the right to receive redundancy pay.
Many of these rights and responsibilities are often reflected in the employer’s policies and procedures. For example, the right to be accompanied at a dismissal hearing, the right to maternity and statutory sick pay. It is, however, important to remain up to date with changes in statute in order to make sure your documents reflect current employment law rights and responsibilities.
Why is knowing your rights and responsibilities important?
When both employers and employees are aware of their rights and responsibilities, this helps to promote an effective working relationship. Each party knows their obligations and clear guidelines are provided for employees which encourage productivity in the workplace.
Further, employers and employees are better able to identify and address issues in the workplace earlier, with the confidence to be able to enforce their rights against one another should that be required.
The Employment Law and HR team at Burnetts regularly undertake reviews of employment contracts, staff handbooks and policies in order to provide clarity in respect of the rights and responsibilities of both employers and employees. If you are interested in this service, please call 01768 800855 and ask to speak to a member of the Employment Law and HR team.
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About the Author
Sophie is a Solicitor in the firm's HR & Employment team.
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