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United Kingdom

Staff welfare

Updated 03/2011

Legal requirements

Labour legislation covers basic workplace standards which employers must follow. These include:

  • protection against discrimination
  • the right to equal pay
  • the national minimum wage
  • paid holiday entitlements
  • limits on working hours
  • the right to a safe and healthy working environment

Social rules

Non-discrimination, equal treatment and gender equality

An employer must not discriminate in recruitment or selection procedures or in day-to-day business. This covers gender, sexual orientation, marital status, race, colour, age, nationality, ethnic origin, religion etc.

The right to equal pay includes:

  • basic wages;
  • bonus payments;
  • company health insurance;
  • pensions;
  • maternity pay;
  • training;
  • career development.

Equal pay for men and women is covered by the Equal Pay Act 1970.

Health and safety at work

Businesses have a legal duty to ensure the health and safety of employees and other people affected by their business activities such as customers and suppliers.

The Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 is the primary piece of legislation covering occupational health and safety in the UK. The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) is responsible for enforcing the Act and a number of other Acts and Statutory Instruments relevant to the working environment.

The right approach however is not just about doing the minimum required to comply with the legal requirements. It can also benefit your business . Poor health and safety leads to illness and accidents and significant costs for businesses.

Effective health and safety practices pay for themselves. They also improve a company's reputation with customers, regulators and their own employees.

Labour law

Employment Contract

The moment an applicant unconditionally accepts the offer of a job, a contract of employment comes into existence. The terms of the contract can be verbal, written, implied or a mixture of all three.

Even if the company does not issue a written contract, it is under a legal duty to provide most employees with a written statement of main employment particulars within two months of the start of their employment.

If an employee is going to work abroad for more than a month within two months of starting work, the written statement must be given to an employee before he or she leaves.

The written statement is not itself the contract but it can provide evidence of the terms and conditions of employment between the employer and the employee if there is a dispute later on.

Labour relations

Working hours in the UK are currently determined by national Working Time Regulations. These limit the average working week to 48 hours, but UK workers can also choose to work more hours if they wish.

Working Time Regulations enforcement is split between different authorities. The limits on working time and health assessments of night workers are enforced by the:

  • Health and Safety Executive 
  • Local authority environmental health departments 
  • Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) 
  • Vehicle and Operator Services Agency (VOSA) 
  • Office of Rail Regulation (ORR)

The entitlements to rest and leave are enforced through Employment Tribunals.

Almost all workers above school leaving age - not just employees but also, for example, agency and casual workers - are entitled to 5.6 weeks' paid holiday per leave year (28 days for a worker working a five-day week). The 5.6 weeks is a minimum entitlement.

Employers must set out leave and holiday pay entitlements in a written statement, so that employees can calculate entitlements for themselves. This includes untaken holiday pay when they leave. Employers must also inform staff in writing of any increased holiday entitlements.

The Employment Act 2008 strengthens, simplifies and clarifies key aspects of UK employment law. The Act brings together both elements of the UK Government's employment relations strategy - increasing protection for vulnerable workers and lightening the load for law-abiding businesses.

If an employee takes time off from work due to illness, he/she might be entitled to sick pay. There are two types of sick pay:

Guidance on how to deal with grievances and disciplinary procedures that might arise with employees is available on the Business Link website.

Mandatory social rules complete the requirements related to managing staff.

Businesses are free to go beyond the minimum social legal requirements at their own initiative.

Resources

The UK's Health and Safety Executive has a range of tools available to help businesses comply with health and safety rules and guidance per sector.

The Business Link website provides information on social security issues, national insurance contributions and many other areas related to employing staff.

Employees also have the right to ask employers for information to help them determine whether or not they are receiving equal pay. To do so, an 'Equal Pay ' questionnaire must be completed.

The Employment Agency Standards inspectorate (EAS) works with agencies, employers, and workers to ensure compliance with employment rights, particularly for vulnerable agency workers.

Help & advice

Help & advice

E-mail a business organisation near you

The EU runs a network (Enterprise Europe Network) of local business organisations in most European countries that may be able to help you.

Choose your country and town and enter your enquiry below.

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