Employment Rights

What are your employment rights?

Employment Rights

  • What are my rights?
  • Can my employer stop me joining a union?
  • My employer says he doesn’t recognise the union. What does this mean?
  • Can the union represent me at a disciplinary or a formal complaint?
  • Statement of Fitness for work (Fit Notes)

 

Employment Rights

What are my rights?

All employees are covered by two sets of workplace rights. All employees are covered by the statutory rights set out in British and European employment law. Individuals are also covered by the rights that are defined in their work contract.

Statutory rights govern issues like the minimum wage and maternity leave.

Contractual rights address issues such working patterns and requirements for giving notice.

Can my employer stop me joining a union?

No. Trade Union membership is protected by freedom of association legislation. It is unlawful for an employer to subject you to a detriment for the purpose of preventing or deterring you from being, or seeking to become, a member of a trade union or penalising you for doing so. You are under no obligation to tell your employer that you have joined a union.

My employer doesn’t formally recognise Community, what does this mean?

Unions that represent a certain proportion of a workforce can have their presence formally recognised by law. This requires employers to collectively bargain with unions on behalf of their members in relation to pay and working conditions.

You are still entitled to be a union member and the union can still provide services to you as an individual. Even if your employer does not recognise Community for collective bargaining you still have the right to request to be accompanied to disciplinary and grievance hearing by a trade union representative.

If your employer doesn’t recognise the union, then it is probably because there are not yet enough union members where you work for Community to apply for formal recognition. If colleagues are interested in joining the union the Member Service Centre can provide you or your colleagues with application forms to join Community.

My employer says he doesn’t recognise the union. What does this mean?

Recognition means that the union collectively negotiates what are called your terms and conditions of employment. This includes wages, holidays, bonuses, overtime and other allowances. In order for a union to gain what is termed ‘statutory recognition’ it must have either 50%+1 of the selected workforce as members or a clear majority voting in favour of collective bargaining. However, good employers will more than often sign a recognition agreement with a union voluntarily.

Can the union represent me at a disciplinary or a formal complaint?

A union official is entitled to represent you at a formal disciplinary and a grievance providing you are a member. A union rep or a colleague can also represent you and they are allowed to make both an opening and closing statement. They can also ask questions and seek clarification but they are not allowed to answer any questions on you behalf.

 

Statement of Fitness for Work (fit note)

The fit note replaces the sick note. It is the new form that your doctor will give you when your health affects your ability to work. Find out how the fit note can help you and your employer manage your return to work after illness or injury.

Replacing the sick note

What has changed?

The fit note allows your doctor to provide you with more information on how your condition affects your ability to work. This will help your employer to understand how they might be able to help you return to work sooner.

The changes mean that your doctor can:

  • advise when you may be fit for work with some support
  • suggest common ways to help you return to work
  • give information on how your condition will affect what you can do

What stays the same?

The fit note can still be used as evidence for why you cannot work due to illness or an injury. You still won't need the fit note as evidence until after your seventh calendar day of sickness.

If you need to apply for benefit the rules and processes have not changed. If your doctor has recommended that you 'may be fit for work' you can still apply for benefit.

The requirements for the payment of Statutory Sick Pay have not changed. If your doctor recommends that you 'may be fit for work', and you and your employer agree that you should remain off work, you should still get Statutory Sick Pay.


Understanding your fit note

When your doctor provides you with a fit note they will advise you on one of two options. Either you will be 'not fit for work' or you 'may be fit for work'.

'Not fit for work'

Your doctor will choose this option when they believe that your health condition will prevent you from working for a stated period of time.

'May be fit for work'

Your doctor will choose this option when they believe that you may be able to return to work while you recover with some help from your employer.

Your doctor may include some comments which will help your employer understand how you are affected by your condition. If appropriate, they can also suggest one or more common ways to help you return to work.

This could include:

  • a phased return to work - where you may benefit from a gradual increase in your work duties or working hours, for example after an operation or after injury
  • altered hours - allowing you the flexibility to start or leave later, for example if you struggle traveling in the 'rush hour'
  • amended duties - to take into account your condition, for example removing heavy lifting if you have had a back injury
  • changes to your workplace - to take into account your condition, for example allowing you to work on the ground floor if you have problems going up and down stairs

Discussing your fit note with your employer

If your doctor has indicated that you 'may be fit for work', the fit note will give your employer the information needed to begin a discussion on whether you can return to work.

If it is possible for you to return to work, agree:

  • how this will happen
  • what support you will receive and for how long
  • how your pay may be affected if you return to work on different hours or duties

Sometimes it may not be possible for your employer to make the changes required to help you return to work. If this is the case, you will not be able to return to work until you have further recovered. You can use the statement as if your doctor had advised you were 'not fit to work'. You will not need to see your doctor for a new fit note.

Disagreements with your employer about returning to work

If you do not agree with your employer on when and how you will return to work, you should explain to them why you disagree. There may be issues which your employer was not aware of when they made their decision. As a Community member contact us for advice on this matter.


This information is intended as a general guide and does not constitute legal advice. To find out if this information is relevant to your situation, please contact your Branch Secretary or call the member service centre on 0800 389 6332