Minimum Working Conditions
Employers have extensive obligations to safeguard the health, safety and welfare of all of their employees under both common law and statute.
Employers must pay all workers (not just employees) at least the statutory minimum pay per hour that they are entitled to. The National Minimum Wage (“NMW“) is the minimum pay per hour payable for those under the age of 25. There are four hourly rates for the NMW, depending on the age of the worker and whether they are an apprentice; the top rate is currently GBP 8.20 (for those aged 21 and over). The National Living Wage (“NLW“) is payable to most workers aged 25 and over and is currently GBP 8.72 per hour.
Employers can only make deductions from wages if the deduction is required by statute (for example deductions for income tax), the employee has expressly authorised the deduction or the deduction is provided for by a term of the employment contract.
Men and women have the right to be paid the same for the same, or equivalent, work.
Since April 2019, all workers (not just employees) have had the right to a written itemised pay statement (a ‘payslip’) at the time, or before, their wages are paid to them, to enable them to establish whether they have been paid correctly and must include the number of hours paid where an individual is paid on an hourly rate basis.
Maximum Working Week
Workers’ hours of work are regulated by the Working Time Regulations 1998 (“WTR“). Workers may not work, on average, for more than 48 hours per week (normally calculated over a 17-week reference period). In the UK employers can ask workers to consent, in writing, to opt-out of the 48-hour weekly working limit. However, workers must have the right to cancel their opt-out by up to three months’ notice at any time. The WTR also provides the right to daily, weekly and in-work rest periods.
If employers may want to require their employees to work longer than their normal working hours, they should ensure that the employment contract provides for this with an overtime clause. This clause should state whether or not the overtime is paid.
Employer’s Obligation to Provide a Healthy and Safe Workplace
Employers have a general duty to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, the health, safety and welfare at work of all their employees. This statutory duty is enforced by the Health and Safety Executive (“HSE”), which has the power to investigate breaches, and to prosecute and sentence individuals and organisations.
If a worker believes their employer is exposing them to risks or is not carrying out their legal duties relating to health and safety, and if the worker has informed the employer but no satisfactory response has been received, they can make a complaint to the HSE. Workers are protected from being subjected to a detriment or being dismissed because they have made a protected disclosure about malpractices at work, this includes disclosures of information about health and safety breaches or risks.