A guide to the employment rights act

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A guide to the employment rights act

Whether you currently have a part time job, are doing an apprenticeship, or starting your first graduate role, you should be aware of the employment rights act. This act outlines your rights as an employee and ensures that you are treated fairly.

'The employment rights act outlines your rights as an employee. Every employer needs to follow this as long as you are working for them in exchange for a wage'

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What is the employment rights act?

The employment rights act 1996 is an important piece of legislation to be aware of. It is designed to protect you as an employee and outlines your legal rights in the workplace, covering things like health and safety, contracts, notice periods and entitlements. Every employer needs to follow this as long as you are working for them in exchange for a wage. 

For employers, not following the employment rights act means that they are breaking the law. So, it’s a good idea to familiarise yourself with the key points and are aware of what your rights are. As with any legal document, the original act is pretty lengthy (over 200 sections to be exact!), so like the nice people we are, we thought we’d save you a week of reading and tell you about some important bits that will be most relevant to you in the working world. 

If you do fancy some bedtime reading, you can view the entire act by visiting the government legislation website

Health and safety

It might sound obvious, but you have the right to work in a safe environment and not to be endangered while doing your job. All employers should take steps to ensure that your working environment is safe, but under the employment rights act, if they fail to do this, you have every right to refuse to work until it is safe.

As an example, if you worked in a warehouse and were not given the correct equipment to lift and transport heavy items, you could do yourself a serious injury. So, it would be your right to refuse to work until this equipment is provided.

Cartoon hand holding banknotes
You should receive a payslip on or before the day you are paid.

Minimum wage 

When you start a job, you should have an agreed salary. This will vary depending on the job, but you should be paid at least the national hourly minimum wage. Minimum wage varies depending on which age bracket you fall into and whether you are an apprentice, but tends to change slightly each year. So make sure to check the government website for current rates.


You should receive an itemised payslip on or before the day that you get paid. This should outline your total pay, any deductions (such as National Insurance and pension) and your net pay (the amount you are left with after deductions). Payslips are important to have for your personal records, but it is also important for you to see that everything looks right and you haven’t been over or underpaid.

Employment terms

Employment terms are the conditions of your employment. You should receive the main terms of your employment in writing within two months of starting a job. This should include details such as your job title, hours of work, wage, pension scheme details, holiday and sick leave entitlement and minimum notice periods. Should your employer require you to complete any training while you are employed, this should also be outlined here.

Fountain pen writing on paper
Both you and your employer need to give notice to leave a job.

Dismissal and notice periods 

Unfortunately, sometimes things don’t work out and you may want to leave a job, or your employer may wish to terminate your contract. In the event that this happens, both yourself and your employer will have to give a minimum notice period. 

For your employer, this is one week if you have worked there for over a month, but less than two years (increasing to two weeks after two years, plus an extra week for each year after that, up to a maximum of 12 weeks). However, there are some exceptions that require no notice from your employer, such as in instances of gross misconduct.

As an employee, if you have worked somewhere for over one month, you also need to give your employer a minimum of one week’s notice. Do make sure to check your employment terms though, as some employers will ask for one month or more after your probationary period (if this applies). 

If you want to find out more about your rights in the workplace, check out this guide to your rights as a young worker.


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