Covid-19 is having a huge impact on our working lives.
Does the Covid-19 pandemic mean that you are looking for work, or has the work you signed up for changed? Are you worried for your health or about your working conditions? Do you know your rights?
Everyone who works in the UK has legal rights, including during these difficult times. You should seek free, reliable, and confidential help if you encounter any of the following situations:
Everyone who works in the UK, regardless of their legal status, has rights at work - even during these difficult times.
1. Right to the National Minimum Wage (NMW)
The UK has a national minimum wage, you should not be paid below this. As of 1 April 2020, if you are aged 25 years and over you are entitled to a minimum wage of £8.72 per hour. If you are aged 21 to 24 years you are entitled to £8.20 per hour, and if you are aged 18 to 20 years you are entitled to £6.45 per hour.
2. Right to safe and clean working environment
Your employer has a legal responsibility for your health and safety at work, this includes protecting you from being exposed to Covid-19. You should be provided with health and safety training and free Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), which might include face masks, plastic gloves, and handwash. Your employer must also clean the workplace regularly and ensure a two-metre separation of workers, where possible, to reduce the chance of spreading the virus.
3. Sick pay and sick leave during Covid-19
If you are unwell and earn more than £118 per week your employer must provide you with sick pay worth £94.25 per week, starting from the first day of a Covid-19 related illness. You can also claim sick pay if you are self-isolating because a family member has the virus. If you earn less than £118 per week, you can apply to Universal Credit or Contributory Employment and Support Allowance.
If you are on a zero-hours contract and can demonstrate that you earn a minimum of £118 from your employer, you are entitled to Statutory Sick Pay (SSP). A zero-hours contract is when an employer can change how many hours of work they offer you each week, for example, you might work 45 hours one week, but 10 hours the next.
4. Working more than 48 hours a week
You should not have to work more than 48 hours a week, including overtime, unless you have chosen to do so. If you agreed to work more than 48 hours in the past, you can change your mind at any point by letting your employer know.
5. Employment contracts
When taking a new job, your employer must give you a written employment contract. This contract must tell you what work you will be doing, where you will be doing it, how much you will be paid, when you will be paid, and what breaks and leave you can take. Even if companies are hiring for ‘urgent’ or ‘immediate start’ jobs, they still must give you a contract before starting.
6. Rights if you are a furloughed worker
Your employer might decide to ‘furlough’ your employment but they must inform you of the decision. If this happens, you are still employed by the company, but they cannot ask you to work. The UK Government will pay 80% of your salary up to a maximum of £2,500 per month. The Government has agreed to do this for three months but the agreement might be extended.
If you are a furloughed worker and you wish to work elsewhere until you are able to return to your normal job, you will need to check with your employer that this is not in breach of your contract.
7. Night shifts
Your employer can only ask you to work at night if it is written in your contract. If you work at night, you should not work more than 8 hours in a 24 hour period. If you are under 18 years old you should not work between midnight and 4 am.
8. Rights to breaks
If you work more than six hours in a day, you must be given a break of twenty minutes. You must also be given one day off per week, or two days every two weeks.
9. Record of payment
Your employer must provide you with a payslip which tells you how many hours you have worked and how much you were paid. It should also tell you if any deductions have been taken from your wages.
10. Deductions to pay
You might find that deductions have been taken from your pay, employers are allowed to do this. It is common to have deductions for tax and national insurance. Other deductions, for example housing, transport, or food, may not be legal.
For more information, download the GLAA Workers’ Rights Pamphlet in a range of languages. And for more support, keep reading below to find organisations you can call.
Labour exploitation can occur in all industries. As Covid-19 measures change the UK’s economy, workers in some key sectors will be more at risk than others
Who to contact
If you are concerned that your rights are not being respected, contact these organisations for confidential help and advice.
When calling Citizens Advice you will be asked to put in your landline, if you do not have one, stay on the phone and you will eventually be connected to an operator.
Acas gives employees and employers free, impartial advice on workplace rights, rules and best practice.
More ways to get support
Trade unions exist to protect workers, especially during hard times. If you are a member of a trade union, we recommend you get in contact with them for help and advice.
If you are not a member of a trade union, you can find out which trade union represents workers in your sector. Once a member, your union can offer you employment advice and provide legal support.
If your employer fails to provide a safe working environment, which includes protecting you from Covid-19, you can report them to the Health and Safety Executive.
If you think you, or someone you know, is experiencing exploitation, call Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.
In an emergency, dial 999.