Top 20 employment law facts you need to know

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Employment law covers a wide range of employee rights and employer responsibilities - from employment contracts to working time, statutory pay to dismissal. Complying with employment law helps you recruit and retain happy, productive employees, and can help you avoid expensive disputes and employment tribunal claims.

These 20 key employment rules will help you get started on the right foot.

  1. You must register as an employer with HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) before your first pay day when you take on your first employee. You must run a payroll and issue employees with a payslip detailing earnings before and after any deductions including tax and National Insurance. You must report your payroll information to HMRC electronically every time you pay an employee and pay any tax and NI owing.
  2. You must check that all employees have the legal right to work in the UK before they start work and keep copies of the documents provided.
  3. Employees and 'workers' are entitled to a written statement of employment terms. You can only change the terms of an employment contract if you have reserved the right to do so or have your employee's agreement or consent. Any changes must be agreed by both parties and confirmed in writing within one month of the change taking effect.
  4. An employment contract exists once a potential employee accepts an unconditional offer of employment, which may be before their employment commences.
  5. You can make a job offer subject to successful completion of a probationary period. Three to six months is typical; the period needs to be long enough to allow you to judge whether the employee is able to do the job.
  6. Almost all employees are entitled to be paid a minimum wage including casual, part-time and agency workers. The National Living Wage applies to workers aged 21 and over and is £11.44 per hour. The National Minimum wage for workers aged 18 to 20 is £8.60 an hour. 16 and 17-year-olds should be paid £6.40. Apprentices under 19 or older than this but in the first year of their apprenticeship should also be paid £6.40. After this, apprentices must be paid the rate applicable to their age.
  7. Employees are entitled to 5.6 weeks' paid holiday per year (at least 28 days a year for a full-time employee). Part-time workers are entitled to the same holiday on a pro rata basis. Entitlement to holiday starts to accrue from the first day of employment and continues to accrue even during periods of absence such as maternity or sick leave.
  8. Statutory sick pay (SSP) is £116.75 per week, but many employers pay more than this. You can refuse to pay SSP if you reasonably believe your employee is not genuinely ill or they fail to comply with your notification requirements.
  9. All employers must 'auto-enrol' eligible employees into, and contribute towards, a workplace pension. Unless your employees specifically opt out, you will have to provide them with access to a contributory pension and make contributions towards their pension funds.
  10. Employers are responsible for the health and safety of all employees, including those who work from home. All the normal health and safety legislation applies.
  11. A pregnant employee is entitled to paid time off for ante-natal care, which can include parenting and relaxation classes. You can ask for evidence of appointments, for example a doctor's letter or NHS appointment card.
  12. New and adoptive parents may be entitled to statutory maternity leave or statutory adoption leave providing they meet qualifying criteria. Employees who qualify are entitled to 26 weeks' ordinary leave and 26 weeks' additional leave. Statutory paternity leave covers one or two weeks' consecutive paid leave where an employee's partner gives birth to or adopts a child.
  13. Statutory maternity pay (SMP) and statutory adoption pay (SAP) is paid at 90% of the employee's average weekly earnings (AWE) for the first six weeks. For the remaining 33 weeks, it is £184.03 a week or 90% of the employee's average earnings if lower. Statutory paternity pay (SPP) is paid at £184.03 a week or 90% of AWE if lower. Leave must be taken within 56 days of the birth or adoption.
  14. An employee can end their maternity or adoption leave and pay early and share the remaining leave and pay with their partner (if the partner is also eligible) as shared parental leave and pay. They can choose how much of the leave each will take.
  15. All employed parents have the right to two weeks' statutory parental bereavement leave if they lose a child under the age of 18 or suffer a stillbirth from 24 weeks of pregnancy. Eligible parents can claim £184.03 or 90% of AWE, whichever is lower. From April 2025, parents of children who require specialist neonatal care after their birth will be entitled to additional neonatal leave and pay.
  16. Carers Leave permits employees to take a maximum of one week’s unpaid leave every 12 months on a rolling basis, to enable them to either care, or arrange care, for any dependents with a long-term care need. The leave is limited to one week in total, irrespective of how many such dependents the employee has.
  17. Gross misconduct is conduct that is so bad it destroys the employer-employee relationship and merits instant dismissal. You should detail, in your contract of employment or staff handbook, examples of what constitutes gross misconduct. You must also follow fair and reasonable dismissal procedures.
  18. All employers, regardless of size, must provide written details of their disciplinary rules and procedures. There is an Acas Code of Practice that sets out the basic requirements of fairness and, for most cases, provides a standard of reasonable behaviour.
  19. All workers over 18 are entitled to one day (24 hours) off per week and to work no more than 48 hours per week - although they can 'opt out' of this limit. Younger workers are entitled to work no more than eight hours per day and 40 hours per week. They are not permitted to opt out of these limits, even if they want to.
  20. Almost all employees are entitled to request flexible working from day one. This includes both full-time and part-time employees.

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