Know your rights for true career confidence
Guest blog from Sinead Bunting, VP of Marketing Europe Monster.co.uk
The recent gender pay gap statistics have caused many to re-examine how valued their work is by their employer, and question what their legal rights even are in the workplace.
To address this, Sinead Bunting, VP of Marketing at Monster.co.uk has laid out some of the most common questions around rights in the workplace, as well as how to raise any issues with line managers or bosses to get your workplace confidence back.
What’s not ok to be asked in an interview?
Many people during an interview are so keen to impress their potential employer that they don’t think twice about the questions they are being asked. However, there are some questions it’s actually illegal for potential or current employers to ask.
This may come as a surprise but it is illegal for employers to ask your age, ethnicity or date of birth in an interview. Likewise your marital status, children or plans for children and sexual status should not come up. They should not be judging on your age but on your aptitude and skills for the job.
If one of these questions is asked, the law is on your side. Be reasonable but firm in saying you politely decline to answer that question. If you do feel you were unfairly questioned and this may have impacted your chances you should seek advice from the Equal Opportunities Commission.
What can I do if I’m being harassed in the workplace?
Firstly, it is important to remember that harassment can come in many forms, and one of the most difficult steps is often admitting it is happening to you.
Harassment is unwanted or unwelcome behaviour which is meant to or has the effect of violating your dignity or creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment.
If you feel safe, you should tell the person harassing you that you’re uncomfortable and ask them to stop. Tell your HR what’s going on too. However, if these individuals are part of the problem you’ll need to seek outside help. Citizens Advice offers online resources plus phone and face-to-face appointments to help you address harassment and The Equality Advisory and Support Services can point you towards groups that support victims of harassment.
Whatever you do, put everything in writing. Collect evidence- keep a diary recording all the times this has occurred. Your employer has a legal, ethical, and employee relations obligation to investigate the charges. In fact, if an employer hears rumours that harassment is occurring, the employer must investigate the potential harassment.
If the harassment is sexual in nature and becomes physical without your consent you should report to the police as well as internal avenues.
What are my rights when it comes to maternity/paternity leave and pay?
The first thing to do when thinking about your maternity/paternity rights is to look at your contract, as many companies should have a policy in place. However, especially in smaller companies, this is not always the case. Informing yourself on your rights will hopefully make you feel confident enough to approach this topic with HR or with your boss.
As an employee you are legally entitled to Ordinary Maternity Leave (OML) as long as you give your employer 15 weeks notice. This gives you 26 weeks and there is no minimum qualifying period you have to have worked for your employer. Additional Maternity Leave (AML) starts at the end of your OML, and lasts for another 26 weeks. During the first period you are entitled to (as a minimum) 6 weeks pay at 90% of your average weekly earnings. This then drops to £140.98 or 90% of your average weekly earnings whichever is lower for the next 33 weeks. You have to by law take at least two weeks off after the birth of your child.
When on parental leave both parents have a right to have their positions held open for them, and to come back to the same terms and conditions of employment. If you feel you have been discriminated against after announcing a pregnancy or as a result of going on maternity leave it’s best to seek legal advice before approaching your boss or HR. Sites like Maternity Action, Citizens Advice and Equalities and Human Rights Commission have information and advisors that can help you with this.
For Dad’s this topic is sometimes harder to bring up with your employer, and it is much more common for no paternity policy to be in place.
Fathers do have fewer rights than mothers at the moment, and need to have been in continuous employment for at least 26 weeks. If this is the case then you’re entitled to two weeks taken anytime in the first 56 days after the birth. You are also entitled to £140.98 or 90% of your average weekly salary during this time – whichever is lower.
Shared parental Leave
If you and your partner are sharing responsibility for your child, have been employed by your current employer for over 26 weeks when you tell them about the pregnancy and remain with your employer during your shared parental leave – you should be eligible. This allows you to split the 39 weeks statutory pay as you see fit between both of you. This can be done in up to three blocks per person so you can even tag team in and out if you choose.
What if I’d like to work flexibly?
This is a question that many employees are scared or reluctant to ask their employers. Despite employees legally having to consider any requests many fear that their employers may question their commitment and that it could hinder their progress.
The best advice when asking to work flexibly is to come armed with a detailed plan of how it is going to work and that most importantly it won’t require other people having to pick up your jobs
What many are unaware of is that after working somewhere for 26 weeks, you have the right to ask to work flexibly. Your employer does not actually have to say yes – but they do have a duty to consider your request seriously. They can only turn you down if they have a good business reason to do so, and they have to decide within three months.
If you feel you’ve been unfairly turned down you can appeal internally – but if that is turned down again your only option is bringing an employment tribunal claim. Again Citizens Advice have great advice on this you can follow.