Workers Rights: What You Need To Know

2nd April 2015 By ,   2 Comments

9 to 5, JSA, National Minimum Wage and zero hour contracts, are a whole lot of acronyms and Phases thrown about in the Leaders Debates 2015 and I still don’t know what’s what. What I know goes like this; study, apply, sign, work. This is the Scenes of Reason, Employment 101.

Apprenticeships: Nothing To Do With Alan Sugar

If you are over 16 and not in full time education you can apply for an apprenticeship. Apprenticeships combine paid practical job training with on-the-job experience.

In February 2015 the government announced 750 new apprenticeships for young Brits in a variety of industries. So you get to work alongside professionals, earn some dollar, get job specific skills and earn a qualification. Not bad eh?

Jobless And Cashless: 18+

Enter Job Seekers Allowance. If you are over 18 and job-hunting, you can receive JSA money paid to you by the government to support you whilst unemployed but job hunting. JSA is means tested (the total amount depends on your household’s income) and you must be working less than 16 hours a week. How do they know you are looking for a job? Pop along to the Jobcentre Plus every 2 weeks and show proof you have been applying for jobs or interviewing. This is called ‘signing on’.

Workers Rights: National Minimum Wage

This kinda does what it says on the tin. UK Law = All workers must be paid at least the minimum wage. The amount changes depending on how old you are.

Age 21 + 18 to 20 16 to 18 Apprentice
2014 (current rate per hour) £6.50 £5.13 £3.79 £2.73

Good news: Minimum Wage is rising in October benefitting more than 1.4 million workers. For 21+ it’s rising by…. 20p

Age 21 + 18 to 20 16 to 18 Apprentice
2015 (new rate per hour) £6.70 £5.30 £3.87 £3.30

So What’s The National Living Wage Then?

Not UK law… Yet. It’s the amount you need to earn to cover the basic cost of living. Promoted by the Living Wage foundation; Green Party and Labour are also big fans. How much? £7.85 per hour for the UK, and £9.15 in London, because it’s most expensive to live there.

Know Your Workers Rights: Working 9 To 5

48 hours a week. Yup, that is LEGALLY the most hours you are set to work even if you have 2 jobs. If you’re a workaholic you can have an ‘opt out’ agreement where you and your employer both acknowledge that you want/are working for more than 48 hours.

Salary workers: Don’t expect to be paid extra though, that’s not part of the deal but you might get Time Off In Lieu (TOIL), which means payment in extra days off. Winner winner. Most of us ‘opt out’ without even acknowledging it, it’s called working in the 21st century folks.

I'm Not Working

Hand Written “I’m Not Working” sign.

Zero Hour Contracts Mean I Do Zero Work, Right? Sign Me Up.

No, Lazy. Zero hour contracts, or casual contracts, gives employees no guarantee of work: Employees work only when needed, normally at short notice, and are only paid depending on how often they work.

Sports Direct and everyone’s favourite local, Spoons, are fans of these contracts. Labour are particularly keen to scrap zero hour contracts. They claim they don’t offer enough hours or financial stability and security, and workers earn £300 on average less than those on normal contracts and don’t receive the same employment rights.


Make sure you have the correct number of paid days off to jet off to far and distant lands. Almost everyone should receive 5.6 weeks (28 days) off per year paid, which can include bank holidays. Part timers should multiply their number of working days a week by 5.6 to work out how many paid days of holiday they have. Calculators at the ready.

Most Important: Read The Small Print

When starting a new job – always, always, always read the contract through and discuss any questions with your manager.

Why? If you don’t, you might miss important information like the amount of notice you have to give if you want to leave (or perhaps more importantly, the amount of notice your bosses have to give you.) or whether you get sick pay.

Happy job hunting folks and find out where the Political Parties stand on Employment right here. 


  1. […] Carer’s Allowance so it matches Jobseekers’ Allowance (explainer). Carer’s Allowance is currently £62.10 per […]

  2. […] Zero hour contracts? You’re done with, you’re history, adios. Didn’t know what they are, Zero Hour Contracts: explained.  […]

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