Employees (those employed under a contract of employment) enjoy numerous employment rights and protections which have been passed into law by Parliament over many years. However, not all these statutory rights kick in from day one of employment – many only apply once an individual has completed a certain amount of service with their employer (known as qualifying service).

Handshake Start of Employment

Employment rights from your first day

Employees are entitled to a variety of different legal rights from their very first day of employment, regardless of industry or profession. These rights can be broken down into several different categories.

Pay rights

From their first day, all employees have certain legal rights regarding their pay. These are:

  • To receive at least the relevant rate of the national minimum wage, which is dependent on an employee’s age.
  • To receive an itemised payslip showing gross pay, deductions and net pay.
  • Not to have unauthorised deductions made from their pay.
  • To be paid for accrued but untaken statutory annual leave on the termination of employment

Paid/ unpaid leave

Employees are also legally entitled to receive paid annual leave (28 days for a full-time worker) from the start of their employment. In the first year they can only take annual leave which has accrued at the time they wish to take holiday. In subsequent years this restriction does not apply.

They will also be entitled to claim statutory sick pay, providing that they pay national insurance and have been off sick for four days in a row.

Maternity and family leave

Employees are entitled to take 52 weeks’ maternity leave and an employer must ensure that they return to the same job, even if they were pregnant when they started the job. They also have the right to take paid time off for antenatal appointments. Partners are entitled to take unpaid time off to attend up to two antenatal appointments with their partner.

52 weeks of paid adoption leave is also a day one employment right.

All employees are entitled to take unpaid time off to deal with unexpected emergencies involving family members.

Right to breaks and reasonable working hours

An employer is legally obliged to provide an unpaid 20 minute break after working for six hours, as well as a daily rest break of 11 hours in every 24. Employees are also entitled to a weekly rest break of one day off in every fourteen.

Equality and discrimination

There are strict equality and discrimination rights applied to all workers, from their first day of employment. These are:

  • Not to be discriminated against, harassed or victimised due to a relevant protected characteristic (i.e. age, disability, gender reassignment, pregnancy and maternity, marital or civil partnership status, race, sex, sexual orientation and religion or belief)
  • To ask for reasonable adjustments to be made to enable you to do your job if you are disabled
  •  To receive equal pay to employees of the opposite sex doing the same or a broadly similar job, a job of equal value or a job which has been rated as equivalent
  • If you are employed on a fixed-term contract, to be treated no less favourably than a comparable permanent employee e.g. in relation to pay, benefits and training
  • If you are a part-time worker, not to be treated less favourably than a comparable full-time worker

Employees sitting on a wall together

Other day one employment rights

Disciplinaries and grievances

In the event of a disciplinary or grievance matter, every employee has the right to be accompanied by a colleague or trade union representative at any formal hearing.


All employees are protected against detriment or dismissal due to whistleblowing.

Personal data

There is also the day one right to have your personal data dealt with in accordance with the Data Protection Act 2018, this includes ensuring that your personal data is fairly and securely processed and not kept for longer than necessary.

Trade unions

An employee have the right to belong to a trade union and take part in industrial action and not to suffer any detriment or dismissal for a union-related reason from the beginning of their employment. They also have the right to be informed and consulted on any proposed TUPE transfer or collective redundancies.

Health and safety

All employees, regardless of time served, are entitled to protection under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974. The general duty is that the employer must take reasonable steps to ensure the health and safety of those at work.

Employment rights beyond day one

Following your first day of employment, an employee becomes entitled to more employment rights at varying milestones of service.

After one month

After a month of service, employees are entitled to more rights, several of which address the issue of pay if an employee is forced to stop working. These are the right to:

  • Be paid, if you are suspended on medical grounds
  • Be paid statutory lay off pay if you are laid off or put on short-time working

Other rights following being employed for a month are:

  • To be given a written statement of the main terms and conditions of your employment (from April 2020, the employer must provide this on day one)
  • To be given at least a week’s notice of dismissal

After 26 weeks

Following 26 weeks of service, employees become entitled to several employment rights that are centred around parental needs, with more family-friendly working options becoming available. Your rights after 26 weeks are:

  • To request (but not necessarily be granted) flexible working.
  • To take paternity leave
  • To take shared parental leave (if you are the mother of a child, other criteria apply to fathers/partners)

After one year

After being employed for one year, employees are entitled to take 18 weeks’ unpaid parental leave in respect of each child. This must be taken before the child’s 18th birthday.

Staff Explaining during Meeting

Rights only available after two years of employment

There are a variety of important employment rights that only become available following two years of service.

Unfair dismissal

After two years, an employee has the right to bring a claim for ordinary unfair dismissal, protecting them from an employer terminating their contract without valid reason or without following a fair procedure first.

However, it is worth noting that the two-year qualifying period does not apply if the dismissal is for certain reasons. This includes health and safety, maternity or family leave issues, whistleblowing or because the employee sought to assert a statutory right.

Statutory redundancy payment

Where the dismissal is due to redundancy, an employee is entitled to statutory redundancy pay only after two year’ services. The amount is capped (but rises every year) and is calculated based on age, pay and length of service.

It is worth noting that an employer may have their own contractual redundancy scheme which applies with different rules to, or may offer to make an ex gratia redundancy payment to those with, less than two years’ service.

Written reason for dismissal

Following two years of employment, there is the right to request written reasons for dismissal form your employer. However, if the reason was for pregnancy or a family leave related reason, this right applies from the beginning of employment.

Rights before becoming an employee

It should also be noted that even before someone becomes an employee, they have certain legal protections as a job applicant. Mainly this encompasses the right not to be discriminated against (due to any protected characteristic) and where the applicant is disabled, an employer must make reasonable adjustments made to the interview/selection process.

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