Guest Post: An Introduction To UK Employment Law

Today, we have a guest post from Kim. Kim lives in the United Kingdom where she has taken a fond interest in business and employment law. She has written a basic introduction of employment law over there for me and this blog. Enjoy!

Employment law was first really established in the UK during the industrial revolution over one hundred years ago. Originally it was designed to ensure employers didn’t take advantage of employees and ensured safer working conditions. Today employment law is a little more complicated. You’ve got to juggle between what’s actually illegal, what’s simply your company’s red tape and what’s just frowned upon. In an age where no win no fee has become a common phrase and no one thinks twice about instigating a lawsuit it’s essential that everyone knows their basic employment rights.

Employment law is a set of laws and regulations set by the government. They will cover all aspects of working life from the hours you’re legally allowed to work, to discrimination, your wages and overtime and everything in between. If an employee is found to be breaking these laws they could find themselves not only out of a job but they could also face criminal charges. If an employer was found to have broken these laws they’re likely to find themselves on the wrong end of a law suit and also up on criminal charges.

The tricky thing about employment law is that it will differ from country to country and it’s also being constantly updated.

One of the most basic elements of employment law is your pay. If you are over the age of 16 the government states the minimum amount you should get paid. For workers aged 21 and over this is currently £5.80 per hour which will increase to £5.93 as of October 2010.

As well as a basic minimum level of pay you’re also entitled to a minimum amount of time off each year. A UK worker who works full time is currently entitled to 5.6 weeks of holiday each year. However your employer can stipulate that this time includes standard bank holidays.

Your working week cannot consist of any more that 48 hours unless you chose to work extra. This rule applies to most workers in most industries but some emergency services and those who work at sea may not be covered by this law. This is not compulsory and you can opt out and work longer if you wish but your employer is not allowed to insist on this.

Another common factor in employment law is sick leave. The UK policy for taking time off work if you’re sick has changed recently. Instead of being issued with a sick note a doctor would now issue a fit note. A fit note would either state you’re not fit for work or it would state you may be fit for work. If you may be fit for work it would state a list of duties you may still be able to do with your sickness or condition. The purpose of this is to ensure people who are able to do some form of work are able to. This only applies if you’ve been sick for more than seven days.

When it comes to checking your employment rights at work the best place to check is going to be your employment contract which will clearly state your rights. If you’re still unsure the Directgov or the ACAS website will be able to clear anything up for you.