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Legal aspects

The National Minimum Wage

In the UK, most workers aged 16 or over are entitled to a National Minimum Wage (NMW). The minimum wage applies to you, whether you are in a permanent job, working for an agency or on a short-term contract.

If a worker is over 25 they will be entitled to the National Living Wage (NLW). This is a higher amount than the National Minimum Wage.

Employment contracts for payments below the correct minimum wage are not legally binding. The worker is still entitled to at least the National Minimum Wage or National Living Wage dependent on age.

Middlesex University pays the London Living Wage (LLW)

Find out more about the national minimum wage

Your right to breaks and time off

Break-time entitlements

By law, after 6 hours of continuous working, you are entitled to a 20 minute break.

Working time regulations (WTR) cover your employment rights to make sure you do not work excessive amounts.

You cannot be forced to work more than 48 hours in a single week; your boss can ask you to work more than this, but this request must be made in writing and in advance.

Holidays/Holiday Pay

Almost all workers are legally entitled to 5.6 weeks’ paid holiday a year (known as statutory leave entitlement or annual leave).

Visit GOV.UK or Citizens Advice for more information on your holiday entitlement rights.

Booking time off

You can usually take your holiday when you want to but there are some steps you’ll need to follow to arrange it with your employer.

To take your holiday, you’ll need to:

  • Check when you can take it
  • Give the right amount of notice to your employer - that means giving them enough advance warning of when you want to take your holiday

Understand your annual leave rights

Statutory Sick Pay (SSP)

To qualify for Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) you must:

  • Be classed as an employee and have done some work for your employer
  • Earn an average of at least £120 per week
  • Have been ill, self-isolating or ‘shielding’ for at least 4 days in a row (including non-working days)

How many days you can get SSP for depends on why you’re off work

Agency workers

If you’re an agency or casual worker and you’re working on an assignment when you get ill, you might be entitled to SSP until that assignment ends. If you’d already agreed to another assignment, you might be entitled to SSP till the end of that future assignment.

If you’re not working when you get ill, you won’t be entitled to SSP.

If you’re on a zero hours contract, you can still get sick pay.

Telling your employer

You must usually tell your employer you’re unable to work before the deadline they set (or within 7 days if they have not set one).

You could lose some of your SSP if you do not tell your employer in time.

Find out how to claim your SSP


It is illegal for employers to discriminate against you on the basis of certain characteristics:

  • Age
  • Disability
  • Gender reassignment
  • Marriage and civil partnership
  • Pregnancy and maternity
  • Race
  • Religion or belief
  • Sex
  • Sexual orientation

For further information contact the Equity and Human Rights Commission

Health and safety at work

Employers are expected to provide a safe place of employment, a safe working environment, a written safety policy/risk assessment and look after the health and safety of others, for example the public.

See how you are protected

Joining a trade union

A trade union is an organisation with members who are usually workers or employees. It looks after your interests at work by doing things like:

  • Negotiating agreements with employers on pay and conditions
  • Discussing big changes like large scale redundancy
  • Discussing members’ concerns with employers
  • Attending disciplinary and grievance meeting with members

If there’s a union at your work, you can ask the trade union representative (‘rep’) about joining. Their contact details may be in your company handbook, intranet site or on the union noticeboard.

The union rep will tell you if you’re eligible to join and give you a membership form to fill in.

View a full list of trade unions

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