Do you know your rights in the workplace?

If you are employed by an employer, rather than owning your own business and being self-employed, then it is about time that you know your rights. Not only will it help you to be more productive at work, but it will help you in the case of any dispute. Because, at the end of the day, a job helps you to be able to support yourself and your family. You don’t want to get yourself into a situation where you end up losing your job when it could have been avoided. So what are some of the things that you should or shouldn’t be doing in the workplace? Hopefully, this will help, if there were any things that you weren’t sure of before.

Work Hard

There aren’t many problems that can’t be solved by working hard. Your employer is going to expect that of you. And you know what? They pretty much have a right to expect hard work from you. They are paying you to do something, so they expect that you will get it done. If there are circumstances that mean that you can’t get something done on time, then open your mouth and speak to someone about it. When you keep the communication lines open it will make a massive difference to your employer and what they think about you and your work ethic. So keep them in the loop.

Safe and Healthy Environment

The type of job that you have can affect the kind of level of health and safety that you should expect at work. But all jobs should have a certain level of health and safety standards for you at work. Is the office where you work too hot or too cold? Are you provided with clean places to eat or bathroom facilities? If you don’t have basic things like this, then it needs to be looked into. There should also be plans in place for broken equipment in the office. Even something like a flickering light bulb should be dealt with as soon as possible, as it could be a massive health and safety issue for a colleague that is epileptic. Have you ever seen a risk assessment for anything that you have done in the office before? Have you had a workstation risk assessment or a check that you have everything you need to avoid things such as repetitive strain injury?

Your employer should be providing anything for you to protect you if you need it for work. In production or manufacturing, people should be issued with things like safety goggles, and that seems fairly obvious. But even in an office environment, there are things that you might need to help you. An adjustable desktop can be useful so that you can have the height at different levels to suit your needs and body shape. You should also ask for things like wrist rests or a raised computer screen if they will help you to work at your desk without getting an injury or strain.

Know Your Contract Termination Rights

First thing is first, if you have never signed a contract, then that is something that needs to be looked at. Second, you need to make sure that you understand your contract and know what it all means. There is nothing wrong with asking for clarification on something. You can’t use ignorance as an excuse when it comes to examples of gross misconduct, for instance. So you need to check that you understand it all. Then you will know what your employer expects of you at all times. You could be fired at any time if you have signed a contract that says so. So make sure that you are happy with your employment terms and what it all means. It also gives you protection if your employer is trying to get your fired. If you haven’t done anything wrong, then they will have a hard time. So reading and understanding your contract will really help should anything go awry in the future.

Getting Paid What You Are Owed

It can be easy to become complacent when it comes to our wages. If they are paid straight into your bank account each month, then you might just forget about it and not check it each month. But it pays to go through your paycheck each month. First of all, you should make a note of any overtime that you have done, and what the terms of that were. Were you meant to have been paid double for it, for example? So you should go through your calendar and figure out what you should have been paid for the month. If it differs from what you actually received, you are well within your rights to speak up and ask why it happened. Then corrections can be made, and it can get sorted out.

If you are told something like the extra pay for overtime hours didn’t apply this time, then you need to pursue it. If an employer told you that would get paid a certain amount for some extra hours, then they can’t take it back. You have the right to get paid what you are owed, so do check your paychecks carefully each month.

Benefits and Leave

Benefits and leave are part and parcel of working for someone else. It can be tricky when you’re self-employed for this kind of thing, so it makes sense that for many people, they’d prefer to work for an employer. Paid leave can be given in certain circumstances when you are employed by a business with a contract. But having said that, you need to check what you are entitled to. What are the rules on sick pay for your company? Do you only get it paid after a certain amount of time, or do you get it any time that you are sick? And if so, is it full pay or just a certain percentage? You just need to know this kind of thing just in case the worst does happen and you need to be off work.

The same goes for medical or family leave; what are you entitled to? What about maternity or paternity leave? Does this get paid or is it just time off work that you don’t get paid for? It will differ for most employers, so it really does have to be something that you check yourself.

Then there are extra things like pensions and medical cover that can come from having an employer. What is your entitlement here? When you start a job, you need to know this kind of thing. So you do have the right to ask about it all. There should be a place, whether a physical document or an online portal or intranet, where you can access all of the information that you need. If there isn’t someone to get all of this information, then speak to your employer, as there should be!

Harassment or Discrimination

Being harassed or discriminated against at work is never okay. But it can be even more isolating and difficult if the harassment or discrimination comes from those that are above you in rank. So you need to know who to talk to. If you have a line manager that you can talk to, then that is really worth looking into. If you have a human resources department, then you should speak to them too. You can’t just make claims like this willy-nilly, though. You will need to know some examples of what has happened, and things like the date and time, what was said and who was involved. So it might not be your first thought when this kind of thing happens, but you should write it all down with locations and times. Your employer has to provide you with a safe environment to work in. So if you don’t feel safe at work, then you have the right to have it investigated. Report it and keep a record of it.

Even if you’re not the victim, you need to make sure that you are not someone who is doing any of the harassing either. Even a comment that you think might be harmless could be classed as bullying or harassment. So it is better to not say anything at all, especially if you think it could be racial or offensive. It is unlikely that you could be sued for this kind of thing, but it can be a disciplinary action at work if it gets reported. To prevent lawsuits, many companies will have a zero tolerance policy on this kind of thing, and it could be seen as a breach of your contract, meaning that you’d lose your job. So it is certainly best to err on the side of caution.

If you ever have any doubts about your rights at work, then speak to your employer. If they aren’t helpful or you aren’t in a position to be able to ask them, then it could be worth speaking to a lawyer. You never know when you might need this kind of information.



Michael Foote

Michael Foote, founder of Quote Goat, has over 13 years experience working in the finance, insurance and currency sectors, gaining a financial qualification in 2010-2011. LinkedIn Profile

Do you know your rights in the workplace?

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