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Enforcing your Employee Rights

By: Chris Hogan MSc - Updated: 3 Feb 2019 | comments*Discuss
Workers' Rights Organisation Company

When it comes to taking a stand over your rights as a worker or employee, you need to know exactly what those rights. And the first step in that process is to find out what sort of employee you are, as many of the rights depend on that.

What Kind of Worker Are You?

At first glance it's easy to assume that we all know what kind of worker we are, but it's not that simple. For the purposes of work-related legislation, there are three main categories:
  • Employee – someone employed by a company, on their books, and with an open-ended or fixed-term employment contract, working full-time or part-time.
  • Worker – all other workers except the self-employed, for example, some freelancers, casual workers and agency workers.
  • Self-employed – working for yourself for a variety of different companies or people.

Employees get the best protection in terms of their rights, and workers get the core rights. If you are not sure which category you fit into, there is an online questionnaire on the government's direct.gov.uk website that can help you.

Try the Informal Approach

If you believe that you are being denied your rights, it's worth trying to sort it out informally as it could be that the company simply doesn't understand the law or their obligations. This is particularly true in smaller organisations where there may not be a trained human resources professional to help them do this. If this is the case then with luck, talking the issue over may be enough to get it put right.

Then Take Further Action

If it turns out that the organisation is aware of what they are doing, it'll be either because they think they can get away with it, or they believe in a different interpretation of the regulations. In both cases, the way forward will be to take out a Grievance Procedure to follow it through and determine the outcome. If you still believe that your rights are being restricted, you can take it to an Employment Tribunal who will make an impartial but legally binding decision on the matter.

But what of strikes and Taking Industrial Action? With the exception of wildcat strikes (unofficial strikes with no apparent leader), industrial action has to be backed up by a trade union and strikes are only allowed after a secret postal ballot after seven days notice to union members and employers. This has removed much of the immediacy of strike action and made unions more reluctant to strike, as a postal ballot is more expensive than a show of hands at a site. On the other hand, it has removed the tendency for members to be intimidated into voting in a particular way.

Trade Unions

Employees and workers who are members of a trade union are likely to be at an advantage in situations where rights are being eroded, as they can call on the strength of the union to support them. This doesn't necessarily mean industrial action though. Unions are a great source of free advice about employment issues and, if you get into a dispute and they agree that your stance is correct, then they will back you, often to the extent of providing legal advice at a tribunal.

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Hi, I am a single dad and I have my daughter, who is 6, I have her every Wednesday and Thursday during the week. My work has recently started having training days on a Thursday, this would be OK but as I work from home and the office is 200 miles away, it is very difficult for me to have the night away and get my daughter to school and picked up from school on the day I will be away. My daughters mother is unable to help on these days as she has a early start and a late finish on Thursdays, we have no family in the area and getting a babysitter to work these hours once every 2-3 months is very difficult. My work is putting quite a bit of pressure on me to attend the training days, do I have the right to say that there is no way that I can get there or do I have to attend? Any advice would be much appreciated Freddy
Freddy Forrest - 3-Feb-19 @ 1:40 PM
My boyfriend has recently asked for 2 days holiday and his employer said it was fine for him to have those days. They know seem to be stressed with the Christmas period saying jobs aren't finished and he now cant have those days holiday and must work. Is this allowed because they granted it and then took it away, if he doesn't take it now he will lose those days before next year.
ali - 20-Dec-17 @ 9:58 AM
I have been off sick for seven months, a month after returning I get paid and see my hourly rate has been reduced. I confronted the Admin in store and she said it was reduced for all Supervisors while I was away, my manger should have spoken to me about it. She didn’t and has now gone on maternity leave. Can this be done? I’ve not signed anything?
Miss Pink - 19-Oct-17 @ 12:50 PM
@RUBES - When it comes to discrimination, the self-employed have the same rights as other workers. However, in reality, the way in which a self-employed person deals with discrimination may be difficult. Unlike an employee, a self-employed person does not have a manager or human resources department to discuss and complain. It may be worth looking in your contract to see what it specifies. Otherwise, if you as a self-employed person believes that you are being discriminated against, one recourse is to contact a Citizens Advice Bureau or a solicitor to get further advice. I hope this helps.
WorkingRights - 11-May-15 @ 10:21 AM
I am a self employed taxi driver, but I work for a taxi company that I pay a weekly circuit fee to. I have had a dispute with two other drivers, consequently they have gone to the owner of the taxi firm and said if you don't terminate his employment then they will resign. Please tell can you tell me where I stand on this.Many ThanksMartin
RUBES - 8-May-15 @ 4:57 PM
i am cis for an agencey i have been with them 17 months since 17 dec 2012 but working for a company called mears i was told its temp to perm i have been offered contract but still waiting 14 months later should have been offered in march 2013 do i have any rights and entitlements as should have been taken on a year ago please help
justin - 11-Apr-14 @ 3:57 PM
I'm employed by a small company ( 2 'on the books' & 2 self-employed with occasional increase to self-employed numbers as work dictates). My tax is c/o PAYE & I presume I'm paying Class1 N.I. contributions. The company is based some 70 miles from where I live & recently there has been no work for me within a 100mile radius of where I'm expectedto work: I am therefore using my paid annual leave entitlement. When my annual leave runs out, will I have to take unpaid leave? Can I claim some sort of government benefit if this is the case?
Catweazle - 6-Nov-12 @ 3:18 PM
I'm a single father of two girls who has 50/50 custody. Week on week off schedule . I work long hours and when I do have them it is like pulling teeth to get off to pick them up on time so they done have to sit there and wait. How can i make my employer understand without getting fired .. thank you for reading my letter.
NITEHAWK - 15-Oct-12 @ 9:54 PM
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