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03. Working Conditions

Minimum Working Conditions

Employers have extensive obligations to safeguard the health, safety and welfare of all of their employees under both common law and statute.


Employers must pay all workers (not just employees) at least the statutory minimum pay per hour that they are entitled to. The National Minimum Wage (“NMW“) is the minimum pay per hour payable for those under the age of 23. There are four hourly rates for the NMW, depending on the age of the worker and whether they are an apprentice; the rate is currently GBP 10.18 (for those aged 21 and over). The National Living Wage (“NLW“) is payable to most workers aged 23 and over and is currently GBP 10.42 per hour. Workers who are not paid at least the correct rate can bring a claim before the employment tribunal. It is a criminal offence for employers, wilfully, to refuse to pay the statutory minimum rates of pay.

Employers can only make deductions from wages if the deduction is required by statute (for example deductions for income tax), the employee has expressly authorised the deduction or the deduction is provided for by a term of the employment contract.

Men and women have the right to be paid the same for the same, or equivalent, work (see 6. Pay and Equity Laws).

All workers (not just employees) have had the right to a written itemised pay statement (a ‘payslip’) at the time, or before, their wages are paid to them, to enable them to establish whether they have been paid correctly.  Payslips must include the number of hours paid for where an individual is paid on an hourly rate basis.

Maximum Working Week

Workers’ hours of work are regulated by the Working Time Regulations 1998 (“WTR“). Workers may not work, on average, for more than 48 hours per week (normally calculated over a 17-week reference period). In the UK employers can ask workers to consent, in writing, to opt-out of the 48-hour weekly working limit. However, workers must have the right to cancel their opt-out by up to three months’ notice at any time. The WTR also provides the right to daily, weekly and in-work rest periods.


If employers may want to require their employees to work longer than their normal working hours, they should ensure that the employment contract provides for this with an overtime clause. This clause should state whether or not the overtime is paid.

Employer’s Obligation to Provide a Healthy and Safe Workplace

Employers have a general duty to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, the health, safety and welfare at work of all their employees. This statutory duty is enforced by the Health and Safety Executive (“HSE”), which has the power to investigate breaches, and to prosecute and sentence individuals and organisations.  Employers’ health and safety obligations include:

  • A common law duty to have regard to employees’ safety;
  • An obligation to consult with elected trade union safety representatives, or where there is no trade union, to establish a means of consultation with employees;
  • Vicarious liability for accidents caused by employees who are acting in the course of their employment;
  • A duty of care owed to employees and other visitors to the premises that the employer occupies;
  • An obligation to prepare a written health and safety policy;
  • An obligation to give health and safety representatives facilities and time off for training;
  • An obligation to maintain insurance against liability for bodily injury or disease sustained by employees through their employment in the UK;
  • A requirement to report accidents, injuries, diseases and dangerous occurrences.

Complaint Procedures

If a worker believes their employer is exposing them to risks or is not carrying out their legal duties relating to health and safety, and if the worker has informed the employer but no satisfactory response has been received, they can make a complaint to the HSE.

Workers are protected from being subjected to a detriment or being dismissed because they have made a protected disclosure about malpractices at work (see Whistleblower Laws), this includes disclosures of information about health and safety breaches or risks.

Any questions

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