Legal Overview

What are my rights at work?

Statutory Rights

Statutory rights arise because of laws or statutes passed by Parliament. In general you are not able to sign away these rights and an employer cannot make it a condition of employment that you agree to give up a statutory right.

As an employee or a worker you have various forms of statutory protection, some of which come into force immediately and some of which applies only after a period of continuous employment.

Automatic rights for workers

The following rights apply to all employees and workers and take effect immediately on starting work (or, in the case of discrimination legislation, upon being offered work):

  • National Minimum Wage (different levels according to age/position)
  • No unlawful deductions from wages.
  • Equal pay
  • Working hours (including statutory minimum rest breaks)
  • Paid holidays
  • Protection against discrimination on grounds of union membership including when being offered work
  • Right to be accompanied at formal hearings for disciplinary and/or grievances
  • Protection against discrimination on all unlawful grounds
  • Protection against punishment for whistle-blowing.

Rights for employees only (some depend on length of service):

  • Itemised pay statement setting out gross and net pay and any deductions
  • Written statement of particulars i.e. basic facts about your pay and duties
  • Statutory minimum notice
  • Protection from unfair dismissal
  • Implied terms e.g. trust and confidence
  • Time off for union duties and training, union activities and safety reps
  • Time off for public duties
  • Time off for ante natal care
  • Statutory maternity pay and leave
  • Statutory paternity pay and leave
  • Statutory adoption pay and leave
  • Parental and dependency leave
  • Right to request flexible working
  • Protection in business transfers (TUPE)
  • Redundancy pay and rights
  • Guarantee pay on lay offs
  • Medical suspension pay.

Some of these only come into effect after twelve months or more of continuous employment. In addition, if you are working on a single or series of fixed term contracts for the same employer, then after four years you should be able to secure a permanent contract unless the employer can show good reason why they should continue to use a fixed term contract.

Contractual Rights

A contractual right is an entitlement over and above your statutory rights, which is written into your contract. In many cases it will only be there because of previous action by a trade union.

One example is notice period: i.e. the minimum period of advance notice that you must give an employer, or the employer must give you, in order to bring the contract to an end.

If you work on a freelance basis there is no statutory entitlement to a minimum notice period. This means you must rely on the notice period written into your contract. If the employer tries to terminate the contract by giving less than the contractual notice, presenting you with a financial loss, you may be able to take action in court for breach of contract.

How can I enforce my employment rights?

The quickest way to get advice, support and representation on your rights at work is to join a trade union. BECTU is the media and entertainment trade union; find out more about membership You may also qualify to join as a new entrant

Other sources of advice include the Citizens Advice Bureaux ( and ACAS, the Advisory Conciliation and Arbitration Service ( Some local authorities also support local advice centres.