The Basics of UK Employment Law

UK employment law is highly regulated and frequently changes. Here, we cut through the legal complexities to provide an overview of your employment rights.

The Basics of UK Employment Law

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UK employment law is highly regulated and frequently changes. Here, we cut through the legal complexities to provide an overview of your employment rights. 

Minimum wage

Current minimum wages are:

21 and over: £6.19;

18 to 20: £4.98;

Under 18: £3.68; and

Apprentices under 19 or in their first year: £2.65.

Under the National Minimum Wage Act 1998, your employer is not allowed to pay you less than the minimum wage even if you agree.

Working hours and annual holidays

Full time workers are entitled to 28 days paid leave a year, including bank holidays. If they wish, your employer can make you work on a bank holiday and give you a different day off instead.

The Working Time Regulations 1999 set a maximum average working week of 48 hours, and   requires employees to be given an uninterrupted rest break as follows:

20 minutes where the working day is six hours or more;

11 hours in every 24 hour period; and

24 hours a week or 48 hours in a fortnight.

There are exceptions for certain workers, including senior executives, emergency and security service. It is also possible for you to “opt out” of the Regulations. Different working time rules apply to under 18s.

Parental leave

Mothers can normally take up to 52 weeks maternity leave, and fathers are usually allowed one or two weeks’ paternity leave. If the mother does not use her whole allowance, fathers can have up to a further 26 weeks.

If you have been employed for the 26 weeks leading up to the 15th week before the baby’s due date, you are also entitled to statutory maternity or paternity pay. For mothers, this is 90% of your usual salary for the first six weeks and £135.45 per week (if this is lower) for another 33 weeks. For fathers it is the lower of 90% of your salary or £135.45 per week.


Employers have certain legal obligations when terminating your employment:

They must follow certain procedures, for example trying to resolve problems with extra training, holding a meeting to discuss the problem, and giving you a final warning;

If your contract states anything about termination of employment, the employer must abide by this; and

They must have a valid reason for dismissal.

However, these obligations only normally apply once you have been employed for one year (or two years if you started after 6th April 2012). There are exceptions to this in some cases, for example if you have been unlawfully discriminated against.

If you believe that your employment rights have been breached there are a number of sources you can turn to. As well as consulting a qualified employment lawyer, you may get advice and assistance from ACAS (the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service); your trade union (if applicable); and, if you have been discriminated against, the Equality and Human Rights Commission.

To find out more on employment law in the UK feel free to visit



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