Steps to follow
If you have a contract of employment you’ll usually be classed as an employee and are therefore entitled to a number of employment rights. These include statutory rights which all employees enjoy by law, as well as any extra rights which arise under your employment contract.
Rights you’re entitled to include: not to be paid less than the national minimum wage; working time limits (including rest breaks, paid holiday and curbs on night work); Statutory Sick Pay and Statutory Redundancy Pay; maternity, paternity and adoption pay and leave; protection against unauthorised deductions from pay; protection against less favourable treatment; protection against discrimination; not to be unfairly dismissed.
If you undertake to personally carry out any work or services for an employer, you’ll probably be classed as a worker (this includes most agency workers and short-term casual workers and some freelancers).You generally have all the same rights as those enjoyed by employees except you’re not automatically entitled to redundancy pay or maternity, adoption and paternity leave. Your rights not to be unfairly dismissed are different too.
If you feel one of your employment rights is being breached you should first talk the problem through with your manager or HR department.
If you get no joy, you should make a formal complaint and follow the grievance procedure which every company should have in place by law. The way you go about this should be outlined in your staff handbook but it generally involves outlining your grievance in writing and giving your employer a reasonable time to respond. You will then meet your employer to discuss your grievance and s/he will give you their decision in writing.
If you’re not happy with their decision, you can appeal. Write to your employer telling them you’re appealing against their decision, and outlining why you don't agree with it. A different, more senior manager who was not involved in the original dispute should deal with your appeal. You have the right to ask either a colleague from work or a trade union representative to accompany you to the appeal meeting. After this appeal meeting, the employer should write to you to tell you their final decision.
If the appeal doesn’t go your way you can try and persuade your employer to sort the matter out via mediation – your employer will usually pay for an external mediator. The process is entirely voluntary though, so no-one can be forced to do it.
Another possibility is conciliation – a free service offered by ACAS to all employers and employees for issues that are likely to lead to an employment tribunal claim.
If all else fails, take your case to employment tribunal. This is less formal than court, but it’s still a legal process and you’ll need to give evidence under an oath or affirmation. Get advice from a solicitor before you start – they can let you know if you have a strong enough case and can guide you through the process. It’s helpful to have a solicitor representing you at the tribunal hearing as well.
What to watch out for
If you plan to take you case to employment tribunal, make sure you get your application in to the tribunal within three months of the date of the source of your complaint. Unless you do this without a very good reason, the tribunal will not usually accept it.
Solicitor’s top tip
If possible, you should always go through your company’s formal grievance procedure before you take your case to employment tribunal. Unless you have a good reason for not going through it, the tribunal might reduce the amount of compensation it would otherwise have awarded you.
Overview of employment rights (personal)
Overview of pay (pay rises, pay cuts, notice pay, etc.)
Rights to maternity leave
Age discrimination (personal)
Overview of race discrimination
Overview of sex discrimination
Overview of overtime
Overview of sex discrimination in employment
Disability discrimination (personal)
What is redundancy?
Termination of employment contracts
What constitutes gross misconduct?
Gross misconduct or being fired
Do I need a lawyer? (personal)
Choices if you cannot afford a lawyer
Choosing an employment lawyer