If you have been treated unfairly at work, Slater and Gordon Lawyers can help. To discuss your case, call our specialist employment law solicitors on freephone 0161 830 9642 or contact us online and we will call you at a time that’s convenient.

We know that protecting your rights at work isn’t always easy. To help you to be able to identify your legal rights, here is a brief guide to some of the most important employment laws in the UK.

Employment status

Many employment rights, for example the right to redundancy pay and the right to not be unfairly dismissed, depend on you being an employee. Unfortunately, it is common for employers to call people ‘self-employed’, ‘trainees’ or ‘casual workers’ when in fact they are employees. Sometimes this is done deliberately to reduce the amount of National Insurance and tax they have to pay and to limit the rights of their workers.

To ensure you don’t miss out on any rights you are entitled to, it’s important to understand your employment status. It doesn’t matter what your employer calls you or whether you pay National Insurance and tax as a self-employed person, you may still legally be classified as an employee. What matters most when determining employment status is how you work, what you are expected to do by your employer and who decides what you do.

If the following criteria apply to you, you are most likely an employee under the law:

  • You are paid a regular amount at regular intervals, rather than being paid per job.
  • Your employer tells you what work to complete and how to do it.
  • If when you are unable to complete work (for example, due to sickness), your employer finds someone else to do it - rather than you arranging for someone else to step in.
  • Your employer provides most of the materials and tools you need.

If you think your employment status does not reflect the true nature of your role, contact our employment law solicitors for advice on what to do next.


Your employer is not allowed to discriminate against you because of any of the following ‘protected characteristics’:

  • Age
  • Sex
  • Sexual orientation
  • Disability
  • Race (including nationality, colour or ethnic origin)
  • Religion or belief
  • Being pregnant or on maternity leave
  • Being married or in a civil partnership
  • Being or becoming a transsexual person

Discrimination laws apply to everything from promotion and training opportunities, to pay and benefits, to recruitment and redundancy.

If you think the reason your employer has treated you unfairly is discrimination, don’t hesitate to contact the legal experts at Slater and Gordon. Direct or indirectly discrimination cases can be complex, so you want to have the best employment law solicitors by your side.

Minimum wage

By law, employers are required to pay their workers at least the minimum wage. This rate varies depending on your age and whether you are an apprentice. Bear in mind that you must be of school leaving age to be guaranteed the National Minimum Wage and 25 or over to get the National Living Wage.

These rates change every year, and you can keep up-to-date on the latest figures online. If you are not getting the minimum wage when you should be, it’s important to take action as quickly as possible. Your employer will owe you the difference between what you should have received and what they actually paid you.

Be aware that employers are not allowed to ‘top up’ pay that falls below the minimum wage by giving workers added benefits, such as providing free meals or allowing them to keep their tips. Employees are entitled to be paid the minimum wage on top of any extras like these.

The employment lawyers at Slater and Gordon can help you if you are in a dispute over pay, or if you are not sure about your rights in this area.

Working time regulations

Under employment laws in the UK, the majority of workers cannot be made to work for more than an average of 48 hours a week. This includes overtime. You can choose to work more hours than this, and be asked to sign a statement to confirm this, but you can’t be forced or pressured into doing so.

If you wish to stop working in excess of 48 hours a week, you are required to give your employer at least seven days’ notice (and you might have to give more notice than this if you have a written opt-out agreement).

The hours you are allowed to work are generally averaged out over a period of 17 weeks. Some working weeks may be longer than 48 hours and some less, but the average must be 48 or less. When you’re calculating your average weekly hours, don’t count the following:

  • Your lunch breaks (unless you must work during them)
  • Your journeys to and from work (if your workplace is fixed)
  • Days on sick leave, holiday leave or parental leave
  • Time you spend working at home (unless your employer knows about this and has agreed to it)

You can count any time you spend working ‘on call’, but only if this time is spent at a place of work. If you don’t have to stay at a certain place that is decided by your employer while you are on call, this doesn’t count until you actually start work.

Bear in mind that you may not be covered by these working time regulations if you have a role:

  • in the emergency services or army
  • as a junior doctor
  • as a coach or lorry driver
  • working on a vessel at sea or on inland waterways
  • as a domestic servant in a private residence

There are also special rules that apply to night workers. If you fall into this category, your employer can’t force you to work for more than an average of eight hours in every 24-hour period (averaged out over 17 weeks).

It’s also important to note that if you’re a night worker, your employer is required to offer you a health assessment before you start working nights, and this assessment should be offered on an ongoing, regular basis. If you have health problems that your doctor says are connected to working nights, your employer should offer other suitable work where this is possible.

Understanding your rights when it comes to working time regulations isn’t always easy. If you have any questions about this issue or you think your employer is treating you unfairly, speak to our employment law solicitors for information and advice.

Parental rights

If you have children or you adopt, you are entitled to certain employment rights.

Maternity leave and pay

As long as you are an employee, you are entitled to take up to a year of maternity leave if you have a baby - regardless of how long you have worked for your current employer, how much you earn or how many hours you work.

You should inform your employer about your intention to take maternity leave at least 15 weeks before your baby is due, detailing when you want to start this period of leave and when you plan to return. (You can change these dates at a later stage.) It’s a good idea to inform your employer in writing to ensure that you have a record of this. Your maternity leave can start at any point from 11 weeks before your due date.

You may be able to get one of three different types of maternity pay. These are:

  • Statutory maternity pay - this is the legal minimum your employer can pay you
  • Contractual enhanced maternity pay - your employer may offer you this instead of statutory maternity pay (it must be at least as much as statutory maternity pay)
  • Maternity Allowance - you can claim this from the government if you are unable to access statutory maternity pay

Statutory maternity pay lasts for up to 39 weeks and is broken down as follows:

  • Six weeks of 90% of your average weekly pay (prior to tax deductions)
  • 33 weeks of the current rate of statutory maternity pay (which usually increases each April) or 90% of your average weekly pay - whichever is the lower sum

Adoption leave and pay

As long as you’re an employee, you may be entitled to adoption leave if you’ve been matched with a child for adoption or if you’ve had a child placed with you for adoption. Bear in mind that you only have these rights if you have been paired with a child through an adoption agency or, if you’re adopting from overseas, you’ve received an official notification that this is going ahead. You can’t take adoption leave if you’ve adopted privately.

If you fulfil these criteria, you or your partner may be entitled to up to a year’s leave. You may also be eligible for statutory adoption pay, which is worked out in the same way as statutory maternity pay.

Paternity leave and pay

If you become a father, or your partner has a baby, you’re entitled to take one or two weeks of paternity leave. This time off has to be taken in a block.

In order to be eligible for paternity leave, you must:

  • have been with your employer for a minimum of 26 weeks by the end of the 15th week before the baby’s due date, or by the time you’re matched with a child for adoption
  • have given your employer suitable notice before taking this leave
  • be responsible for the upbringing of the child and want to take time off in order to care for the child or provide support to the mother.

You can start this leave on the day the child is born or the day the child is placed with you for adoption, or on a date following the birth or adoption that you have agreed in advance with your employer (it must be completed within 56 days of birth or adoption).

Statutory paternity pay is calculated in the same way as statutory maternity leave.

Shared parental leave and pay

Whether you have a child or you adopt, you can share maternity pay and leave with your partner. You are allowed to share up to 37 weeks’ pay and 50 weeks’ leave, subject to meeting certain criteria.

If you think your employer has treated you unfairly in relation to your parental rights, don’t hesitate to contact our employment solicitors. We will advise you on your options.

Sick pay

If you are an employee, you may be entitled to statutory sick pay for up to 28 weeks providing you meet the following criteria:

  • You are sick for at least four full days in a row
  • You earn an average of at least £113 a week (before tax)
  • You follow your employer’s rules in terms of getting sick pay

Your employer may pay you more than the statutory sick pay rate. This is called ‘contractual sick pay’. You can check your contract to find out the sick pay terms set out by your employer.

It’s important to note that you can still access sick pay if you’re on a zero hours’ contract.

You shouldn’t feel guilty about asking for the sick pay you are entitled to. If you think you have been disciplined, treated unfairly or sacked because you requested this pay, you may be entitled to make a compensation claim. Our employment solicitors can assess whether you have a case.

Why choose Slater and Gordon?

We are ranked No. 1 employment law firm for individuals in Chambers & Partners and are ideally placed to help you protect your interests at work. Our specialists are skilled and experienced in all aspects of employment law.

At Slater and Gordon, we are committed to providing practical, prompt and authoritative legal guidance across the UK. In many cases, we are able to avoid employment tribunals, by achieving positive outcomes through negotiated settlements, and so minimising stress for our clients.

We act for everyone from high-ranking senior executives to junior employees. Whatever your role or level within your organisation, you can rely on us to help you achieve the best possible outcome.

To find out more about our employment law services, call us on freephone 0161 830 9642 or contact us online.

Slater and Gordon Lawyers is one of the UK’s largest and best known law firms, with offices in London, Leeds, Birmingham, Cardiff, Edinburgh, Preston, Manchester, Liverpool and Sheffield.