Shift working allows an organisation to manage staff availability and consistency while also allowing workers to balance their home and work responsibilities.
It is the responsibility of the employer to ensure that their workers are receiving the correct breaks and are not working too many hours.
Below we go into more detail about employee rights for;
- Working weeks
- Night work
- Rates of pay
- Part-time work
- Equality and discrimination
- Sick Pay
What are my legal rights as an Employee?
In general, as an employee, temporary or permanent, you have the right to:
- Take a minimum of 20 minutes break if you are working longer than six hours.
- Not work on average more than 48 hours per week unless you have opted out of this clause.
- Take 11 consecutive hours' rest in any 24-hour period
- Take one day off each week or two consecutive days off in a fortnight
- Limited night shifts to 8 hours in any 24 hour period
These rights are known as The Working Time Regulations.
The average working week is calculated by taking the average weekly hours over a 17 week reference period. This means that you may work more than 48 hours in some weeks without having to opt-out so long as the average does not exceed 48 hours.
An employer must ensure that every worker receives at least 90 hours of rest per week.
If you agree to work beyond the 48-hour limit you must put it in writing. This is known as an opt-out agreement.
You have the right to cancel an opt-out agreement by giving your employer a period of at least seven days’ notice unless otherwise set by your employer. If there is a longer notice period, this must be clearly stated as a term of the opt-out agreement and cannot be longer than three months.
As a night worker you would usually work at least three hours during the night between 11pm and 6am.
You should not work more than an average of eight hours in a 24-hour period. This average is usually calculated over a 17 week reference period. Regular overtime is included in the average and workers cannot opt out of this limit.
Due to the possible impact on your wellbeing, employers must offer you a free health assessment before you become a night worker and on a regular basis while you are working nights. You do not have to accept this health check.
If you are at school leaving age, the law states that you must be paid at least the National Minimum Wage (NMW).
If you are aged 23 or over, then the law states that you must be paid at least the National Living Wage (NLW).
The current minimum rates of pay are;
- £10.42 per hour for ages 23 and over
- £10.18 per hour for ages 21 to 22
- £7.49 per hour for ages 18 to 20
- £5.28 per hour for under 18
- £5.28 per hour for apprentices.
These rates are reviewed every year.
Overtime is usually classed as any hours worked over an organisation's regular full time requirement. If you have fixed working hours, overtime would be any additional hours worked.
Your employer may offer overtime to cope with an increase in demand such as to satisfy a large customer order, or during staff shortages. This overtime can be compulsory or voluntary.
Overtime is usually paid at your usual rate, but in some cases overtime hours may be uplifted to a higher rate of pay at the discretion of your employer. There is no legal right to receive a higher rate for any overtime worked.
Part-time work is when a worker is contracted for anything less than the basic full-time hours.
There are no set number of hours that makes someone full or part-time; part-time working can be a good way of balancing work and personal commitments.
There are many reasons why you may choose to work part-time. It may be to simply improve your work-life balance or you may have other responsibilities that dictate their availability for work.
As a part-time worker, you have the right to be treated no less favourably than comparable full-timers. This means that you should:
- receive the same rates of pay
- not be excluded from training simply because you work part-time
- receive holidays pro rata to comparable full-timers
- have any career break schemes, contractual and parental leave made available to you in the same way as for full-time workers
Fairness in the workplace is supported by the law under the Equality Act 2010. The aim of the Equality Act is to improve equal job opportunities and fairness for employees and job applicants.
Under the Act, it is unlawful to discriminate against people at work in any of the nine areas termed in the legislation as protected characteristics:
- Gender reassignment
- Marriage and civil partnership
- Pregnancy and maternity
- Religion or belief
- Sexual orientation
Both employers and their employees can be held responsible and liable for their actions where they discriminate.
If you believe that you have been subjected to discrimination, or believe you have witnessed discrimination in the workplace, you should feel confident in raising the matter with your employer.
Being absent from work is likely to happen at some point; illness, family emergencies, holidays and appointments can all disrupt your working life. The most importance is placed on how you arrange your absences or notify your employer of your absence to ensure you are being courteous and fair.
Planned or authorised absence is when your employer is aware of the absence in advance and has authorised you to take the time off, this could be for annual leave, long term sickness or maternity leave.
Unplanned or unauthorised absence is when your employer is unaware of the absence until just before it happens. This can be caused by illness, travel disruptions and domestic emergencies.
You should always let your employers know as soon as possible if you are unable to attend work.
If you fail to turn up to work without any reason being given or contact being made, your employer will most likely, attempt to contact you as soon as possible, perhaps even using an emergency contact. If contact cannot be made, then your employer will in most cases discuss the absence with you upon your return.
If no satisfactory reason is provided for your absence and your failure to make contact, you could be facing disciplinary action.
If you are absent due to sickness for seven days or less, you can self-certify your absence. This means that you should inform your employer that you are not well enough to work, you do not need to provide any further medical evidence.
If a period of absence due to sickness lasts longer than seven calendar days (regardless of how many days you work each week) then you must provide your employer with a fit note.
A Fit Note (or The Statement for Fitness for Work), is a medical statement that a GP or a hospital doctor issues to advise that a worker is not fit for work or may be fit for work. When stating that an individual may be fit for work, the GP will consider their fitness for work in general, not their fitness for a particular job.
The doctor can also suggest ways of helping the worker get back to work such as:
- a phased return to work
- flexible working
- amended duties
- workplace adaptations.
An employer should consider any recommendations made on a fit note. If the absence is due to a disability, the employer must consider making 'reasonable adjustments' to help you to return to work and carry out your job.
If an employer is unable or unwilling to accommodate the recommended changes then you may remain off sick for the duration of the fit note.
If you are off sick for four or more days in a row you may qualify for Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) which is payable for up to 28 weeks. The rate of pay for SSP is currently £109.40 per week but to be eligible you must earn at least the lower earning limit. You can get more information about SSP on the government website.
The Advisory Conciliation and Arbitration Service (ACAS) website is a valuable resource for workers providing impartial advice and information on the legislation set out to protect employees and employers. To find out more about your employee rights visit ACAS.
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