Everyone who is employed by a business, individual or organisation has certain rights as an employee. These include:
- paid holiday (annual leave)
- being paid at least the National Minimum Wage
- Statutory Sick Pay if you are ill
- time off to care for family or dependents
- Maternity Leave or Paternity Leave if you're having a baby
- fair treatment from your employer
- being able to join a trade union
Find out more about your rights in the workplace from the government's GOV.UK website.
If you have a disability, or are a carer, there are other rights that you should be aware of:
The Equality Act 2010
Although you might not consider yourself disabled, if you have a problem that has substantial and long-term effects (for more than one year) on your day-to-day activities, the Equality Act's definition of disability includes and protects you, too.
This act prevents employers from discriminating against anyone who fits the definition of disabled. This includes protection for unfair discrimination in:
- training opportunities
- job offers
It also protects you from being harassed or victimised in the workplace because of your disability.
Under the Equality Act 2010, employers must make reasonable adjustments to the workplace or to how the role is carried out so that any person with a disability (as defined by the same 2010 Act) will not be at a disadvantage.
What adjustments are considered reasonable will vary depending on the organisation and the needs of the individual, and relies on the individual being open with the employer about what they need. Some examples of reasonable adjustments include:
- being flexible with your hours of work
- providing special equipment such as adjustable height desks
- placing you in a better-suited environment
- making adjustments to the building you work in; for example, accessible toilets, or grab rails to help you to move around safely
Should I tell my employer?
If your condition or illness prevents you from doing your job well, or makes it more difficult than most, you may want to tell your employer about it. If you tell your employer, under the Equality Act 2010 they will not be able to discriminate against you based on your disability.
Even so, you're not obliged to tell your employer about a disability or health condition if you don't want to. But by telling them about any challenges you face, you allow them to make any reasonable adjustments that could help you with your work.
For some illnesses (such as diabetes or epilepsy) it can also be useful for your co-workers and employers to know how to help you in an emergency.
To get the support you need, you should be as open as possible with your employer and be clear about what you need.
What to do if you think you're being discriminated against
If you feel your employer or a co-worker is discriminating against you based on your disability, or if you feel reasonable adjustments aren't being made, you should contact your trade union, human resource department, occupational health department or your local Citizen's Advice.
You may also find it useful to look at our page on Obtaining legal advice.
Your employment rights as a carer
As a carer of an adult who lives in the same home as you, is married to you or is a close relative, you have the right to request flexible working hours.
Although your employer is not guaranteed to approve your request, they must provide business reasons for why the request is denied.
Flexible working hours could mean compressing your hours into fewer days, working from home some days or starting and finishing at more flexible times.
You're also covered by the Equality Act 2010 which prevents any unfair treatment on issues such as recruitment, wages, training opportunities or redundancy. As a carer you also have the right to unpaid time off, in the case of an emergency with the dependent.
See the carer's guide from Skills for Care, Balancing Care work and a job for more information.
Obtaining legal advice
If you think you need to take legal action in relation to an employment issue then you can get more information on our Obtaining legal advice page.
Other information and advice
The Disability Law Service is a professional organisation run by disabled people offering support and advice on employment rights and other legal issues for people with disabilities. It aims to demystify the legal system by giving concise and timely legal advice and information.
Disability Rights UK provide various work-related fact-sheets with advice on finding a job, and on claiming the right benefits if you are out of work or on a low income.
The Citizens Advice website provides information on various work-related issues.
The RNIB and Action for Blind People have produced a Staying in Work Factsheet and provide information on various other employment issues.
The Business Disability Forum provide a good summary of Disability Law in the UK.
The Accessible Britain Challenge is a government-led scheme which encourages communities to be inclusive and accessible. That means working with disabled people to remove the barriers that stop them participating fully in their community.
The UK's 12.2 million disabled people make a positive contribution to employment and local economies. The Accessible Britain Challenge wants to share great examples of this so others can learn from them. Whether or not you have a disability you should check out the website to find out more.
ActionDeafness provide Work Based Assessments which help employers to make adjustments to the work place to support employees with hearing loss.
Age UK offer information and advice on age discrimination and your rights in the workplace.
ecdp (formerly the Essex Coalition of Disabled People) provides a wide range of practical support services, alongside information, advice and guidance services.