Solve your workplace woes
If you're concerned about your conditions or treatment at work, you need to know what the law has to say about your rights. Moneywise, with the help of solicitor Ed Hopkins from Speechly Bircham LLP, answers some of your legal questions:
Q: Things are extra busy at my workplace at the moment and my boss is asking people to stay late. I feel we are all being taken advantage of. Is this fair?
A: Asking staff to work longer hours is not uncommon in the current economic climate and employers often rely on contractual clauses that require staff to work outside their normal hours of work without further recompense. However, this shouldn't be on a regular basis.
That said, by refusing to work additional hours, you run the risk of disciplinary action or damage to your promotion prospects.
In these circumstances, you may decide to resign, and could therefore consider yourself 'constructively dismissed' – in other words, given no choice but to leave.
Alternatively, it might be prudent to wait and see what happens and whether the situation improves.
Should you be dismissed, it's likely that you will be in a position to present a complaint of unfair dismissal to the employment tribunal.
Q: I would like to avoid the daily commute by working from home more. What flexible working rights do I have – is there a set amount of time I have to spend in the office?
A: A statutory right is available for employees to make a request for flexible working to their employers.
However, this right is only available if it's sought to enable the employee to care for a child under the age of 16 (or under 18 if disabled) or a dependant adult.
Unfortunately, a long commute isn't enough to force your employer to consider your request. If, however, you have a disability and want to avoid rush-hour travelling, this might be a reasonable request.
There's no legal minimum amount of time you should spend in the office. Your contract of employment will typically specify hours of work.
However, you can always try to seek your employer's agreement to a contractual variation of your working hours or location of work.
Although there's no legal obligation for your employer to let you work from home, there's nothing stopping you from selling the idea to your boss.
It's worth concentrating on what you think the benefits will be for your employer rather than on your personal convenience. For example, avoiding the commute will give you more time to do your work and there are less distractions at home.
Q: I have chronic backache and my doctor has signed me off work indefinitely. How much sick pay am I entitled to and can my employer terminate my contract?
A: As a minimum, you are entitled to receive statutory sick pay, currently £79.15 a week for up to 28 weeks (you may be entitled to further benefits after that). You may also be entitled to additional sick pay from your employer, depending on the terms of your contract.
Your employer is obliged to provide you with sick pay details in your terms and conditions of employment within the first two months of starting your job – so check your paperwork.
Your employer can potentially dismiss you on the grounds of ill health. However, it will need to ensure it follows the proper procedures.
This would include consulting with you and medical professionals about the nature and prognosis of your condition, and giving careful consideration as to how long it can reasonably be expected to wait for you to return to work.
If you have a question for the Moneywise team email us at email@example.com.