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What are my primary employment rights as an employee, worker, or freelancer?

Legislation is the primary source of employment law in the UK. Other protections are provided in work contracts. The law distinguishes between employers, contractors and self-employed individuals. Employees have the broadest range of rights.
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The primary legal rights of self-employed people

You don't have traditional employment rights because you're considered your own boss and can set your own fees, holidays, and so on. As a result, you would not be entitled to:

  • The sick leave, maternity compensation, holiday pay, or pension provisions (some freelancers might be considered "staff" and therefore entitled to holiday pay and pension contributions);
  • The legal right to be protected by the client's internal disciplinary and grievance procedures;
  • The legal right not to be fired (always read the service contract you agreed to since it can include provisions relating to termination of your relationship and time periods).

Following the Independent Workers case, the government released draught legislation in March 2021 that would allow workers to have the same rights as employees against ‘detrimental' treatment on the grounds of health and safety. This applies to all cases and is not limited to COVID-19. The IR35 changes are without a doubt the most significant legislative transition on the horizon.

2021 new Employment Bill

Making flexible work the standard - According to the Conservative Party's election manifesto, the government wants to make flexible working the "default position" unless an employer has a compelling reason to do so. A thorough consultation is required, but the Employment Bill is likely to include new rights provisions.

Allow for neonatal treatment - A new entitlement to 12 weeks of paid leave for parents whose babies are in special hospital neonatal care units is likely to be included in the Bill, which is expected to go into effect in 2023.

Caregivers are entitled to a week's leave - The Bill is also expected to provide a new right for working caregivers to take up to 5 additional days of leave each year to support them with their caring obligations.

The right to request a contract that is more predictable and secure - In addition, the Bill is expected to provide a new right for all employees with flexible hours to seek a more permanent and predictable contract after 26 weeks of service. It is likely that the Bill will go a step further to include additional provisions requiring employees to be given fair notice of their working hours and to be paid if their shifts are cancelled or reduced without reasonable notice.

A single regulatory body for the labour market - The government aims to create a single body in charge of state implementation of labour laws for more marginalised jobs. Its responsibilities will include things like gangmaster licencing. It will also take over HMRC's regulation of the minimum wage and play a new role in enforcing holiday wages for vulnerable jobs. The Bill is supposed to provide provisions for the creation of the new department, but it will be several years before it is operational.

The new law has been in effect since May 31, 2021. This ensures that the Health and Safety at Work Act of 1974 (and amendments) and the health and safety provisions of the Employment Rights Act of 1996 (section 44) extend to both employers and employees; so staff cannot be subjected to any ‘discrimination’ by their employer because they left or declined to attend their place of work because they reasonably believed there were circumstances of serious and imminent danger, or because they took reasonable action to protect themselves or others from what they reasonably believed were circumstances of serious and imminent danger.

It is important to remember you have legal rights at work regardless of your job status, whether you are an employee, a worker, or a freelancer/contractor. Please contact Persona Finance [enquiries@personalfinance.co.uk] if you need accounting services.
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