Protecting employee rights

Every employee is entitled to certain rights by law. Certain other rights are available for people working certain types of jobs and hours.

As an employer you need to be aware of those rights, and ensure the way you apply them and communicate them is suitable.

SICKNESS & SICK PAY

We all get sick from time to time, and it’s down to you as an employer to set out the rules for how sickness is handled in your business. There are some basics you’ll need to adhere to though.

If an employee’s sickness is serious or prolonged, you may be required to provide them with sick pay. Most of your full-time employees will be entitles to Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) of £94.25 a week, as long as they:

  1. have started working for you before they go off sick
  2. are sick for four or more days in a row (including non-working days)
  3. earn on average at least £118 per week (before tax)

Some businesses choose to set up an additional sick pay scheme, which pays over the statutory amount. Whatever you choose as an employer, you will need to make sure it’s clearly communicated in your employee handbook or a sickness and sick pay policy that your employers can check for information.

More information on statutory sick pay here.

MATERNITY PAY & LEAVE

Eligible employees are entitled to take up to 52 weeks of maternity leave; Statutory Maternity Pay (SMP) can be paid for up to 39 weeks.

In the first six weeks of leave, SMP is paid at 90% of your employee’s average weekly earnings before tax. After the six week mark, it goes to £148.68 per week or their average weekly earning, whichever is lower.

By law, employees who have a baby must have at least two weeks off after the birth, or four weeks if they’re a factory worker.

Your employee will need to give you correct notice of when the baby is due and when they want to start their leave; the earliest they can start their maternity leave is 11 weeks before the baby is due (unless the baby is born early).

It’s important to note that your employee’s employment rights are protected while they are on maternity, paternity or shared parental leave. This means they still have a right to pay rises, to build up holiday, and to return to work.

Working it out

The gov.uk website has an SMP calculator to help you work out your employee’s maternity, paternity or adoption pay.

PATERNITY PAY & LEAVE

If your employee needs time off because their partner is having a baby, they are entitled to either 1 or 2 weeks’ paternity leave. To qualify for paternity pay, they must:

  1. be employed up to the date of the birth
  2. earn at least £118 a month (before tax)
  3. give the correct notice
  4. have been continuously employed by you for at least 26 weeks leading up to the ‘qualifying week’ (the 15th week before the baby is due).

SHARED PARENTAL LEAVE

Employees who are having a baby are entitled to share up to 50 weeks of leave and up to 37 weeks of pay between them, if they meet certain eligibility criteria. They don’t have to work at the same place to qualify for this, so you may have one employee who wants to apply for shared parental leave and their partner works elsewhere.

An employee taking Shared Parental Leave (SPL) is able to take the leave in several blocks of time, with work in between, or they can take it all in one go.

You’ll need to know the eligibility criteria and ensure they’re given in your employee handbook and parental leave policy documents.

Working it out

If you’re unsure about any of the details of your employees’ rights in relation to leave and pay around pregnancy and birth, check the latest information on the gov.uk website here

ACCIDENTS

As you would expect, employees have a number of rights relating to health and safety in the workplace. It’s up to you as the business owner to make sure that all of your employees are operating in a safe environment. This includes assessing risks, providing appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE), and providing your employees with information on health and safety law, including both their responsibilities as employees and your responsibilities as the employer.

It’s a good idea to keep an accident book and make sure your employees know to report accidents, and how.

It’s a legal requirement if you have employees for you to have employer’s liability insurance, which helps protect your business against the costs of claims related to employee injuries and illnesses, and makes sure your employees are taken care of if there is an injury or illness related to work.

Protecting these employee rights are crucial to making sure you are looking after your workforce and complying with the law as an employer. If you are ever in doubt, the gov.uk website and Acas are good resources for more information.

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