In businesses of all sizes and across all industries there are a number of regulations that quite simply have to be followed. Your immediate thoughts might be about tax and privacy for clients, but in actual fact some of the most important laws to abide by relate to the treatment of arguably your most valuable assets – your staff.
Each individual employee that you hire is entitled to a series of rights that you, as the employer, have to adhere to. For instance, the Working Time Regulations 1998 state that a worker is “entitled to an uninterrupted break of twenty minutes when daily working time is more than six hours. It should be a break in working time and not taken at the beginning or end of the working day.” Essentially, this means that for an employee working regular shift patterns such as 9am until 5pm, would be allowed what many people call a “coffee break” of twenty minutes each day.
These regulations are in place to ensure that employees are able to get up and walk away from their desks or to stretch their legs and relax their eyes from staring at a computer screen all day. These are all health-related factors and as your employees are more use to you in the workplace than in their sick beds, it’s vital that you, as the employer, ensure they get this time.
In the majority of cases, employees are not allowed to work more than a certain number of hours each week, usually 48 hours. If anyone wants to work more than this amount, then they have to submit a written request to do so and this must be entirely voluntary. The only jobs that this 48-hour ruling does not apply to include the armed forces and those working in security and surveillance where the job is not determined by time but by fulfilling the tasks.
The working week includes any relevant training undertaken, time spent travelling as part of the job, such as call-outs for plumbers or sales representatives travelling to and from the office and both paid and unpaid overtime.
In terms of pay, employers must ensure that they pay their employees the minimum wage at the very least. This amount varies depending on the age of the employee, but is enforceable after they reach the school leaving age of 16. As of the 1st October 2012, the rates enforced in the UK are as follows:
- Under 18: £3.68 per hour
- 18 to 20 inclusive: £4.98 per hour
- 21 or above: £6.19 per hour
- Apprentices under 19: £2.65 per hour
- Apprentices 19 and over: £2.65 per hour (in the first year, they are entitled to receive the minimum wage rate after this time).
Matt Rawlings is a business, technology and travel writer based in the UK