Everyone at work deserves to be treated fairly, but sometimes it's difficult to know if we are within our rights to speak up or challenge a decision our employer has taken. As an employee, we have the right to:
- Work in a safe and healthy environment
- Receive our contracted wages, or at least the National Minimum Wage
- Be trained how to carry out work safely
- Be protected from unfair treatment and discrimination
- Refuse work which could put you in serious danger
- Join a trade union
The best way of ensuring you are treated fairly at work is by being a member of a union.
- No more than 8 hours a day / 40 hours per week.
- Full 30 min break after 4.5 hours
- 12 hours off between shifts/ workdays and two days per week.
- No more than 48 hours per week, unless you have agreed to opt out (your choice).
- At least 20 min break after 6 hours
- 11 hours off between shifts/ workdays
- One full day off per week or two days per fortnight.
The government sets a minimum amount you must get paid on average for the hours you work. This is called the National Minimum Wage (NMW) or the National Living Wage (NLW) if you’re aged 25 or over. If you do not believe you are being paid correctly you should contact your rep.
Minimum wage rates are reviewed every year. They usually change in April if there's an increase.
Find the current rates here.
Who gets the apprentice rate
You’re entitled to the apprentice rate if you’re an apprentice aged:
- under 19
- 19 or over, and in the first year of your current apprenticeship agreement
If you're 19 or over and have completed the first year of your current apprenticeship, you're entitled to the minimum wage for your age.
GMB's Apprentice Network has advice and guidance on a range of issues for GMB apprentice members.
Heath & Safety
Do you work on a computer?
Your employer should adjust your desk, chair and computer to make sure it isn’t going to cause aches and pains or damage your eyes. They should also pay for your eye tests and put some money towards glasses if they are needed to work on a computer.
Do you lift, carry or move things?
You should be fully trained in the safest way to do this before you have to do it. Do not do it if you are feel that it is too heavy or unsafe.
Do you work with chemicals?
If you work with chemicals (such as cleaning fluids or hair dyes) you should be provided with free gloves and small rooms need to have ventilation – open windows or working extractor fans. You may need a mask, don’t be afraid to ask.
Do you work on the road?
Bikes, motor cycles and cars must be roadworthy and safe. You should be provided with protective equipment such as high visibility jackets, suitable helmets, gloves and cold / wet weather clothing. You should be given a phone or radio so that you can contact management in emergencies.
Is violence and abuse an issue?
If you are at risk of violence and abuse at work, your employer needs to do something to try to prevent this from happening to you. This could be things like violence and aggression training, not having workers working on their own or providing security guards.
Is there a risk of slips, trips or falls?
Your employer should do something to make slips and trips less likely, e.g. fitting nonslip flooring, keeping the floor clean and tidy or providing non slip shoes. You shouldn’t work at height for example on ladders, staircases or lifting equipment unless you have been fully trained and feel safe doing it.
Could you get cuts or burns?
You should be trained fully before using knives and food slicers must not be used if the guarding is broken or missing.
Hot items should be carried with gloves or other protection and large pots of liquid shouldn’t be moved without a lid.
You must be made aware of what happens if there is a fire, where you must go and what routes you can take. There should be regular fire alarm tests and practice evacuations.
Do you work outside?
In winter you should be provided with suitable wet and cold weather clothing, such as boots, waterproof jackets and trousers, extra layers, gloves and hats.
In summer you should be provided with sunscreen and hats, you may be provided with lighter clothing but only if it is safe to do so. In some cases full cover will still be needed to prevent cuts and grazes.
Plenty of water should be available at all times as well as somewhere warm, dry and clean for you to each lunch, make hot drinks, use the toilet and wash your hands.
What to do if an incident occurs
Report all accidents, incidents and attacks to your employer and get them recorded in the accident book. Also tell your GMB Health & Safety Rep or Shop Steward, they will make sure your employer does something to prevent anyone else being hurt in the same way.
If you think it's serious enough, you could also contact UnionLine on 0300 333 0303 to make a claim for compensation. As a GMB member, your legal fees would be covered to ensure you get the justice you deserve.
You should be trained in your role before you have to do the job. Your training should include information about:
- Any possible hazards and risks,
- How to protect yourself – e.g. what to wear or how to do the task safely,
- Basic health and safety and fire evacuation procedures in your workplace.
Treatment at Work
Your employer has a responsibility to prevent bullying and harassment in the workplace. If you ever feel a victim of these, talk to your union for advice as soon as possible. This is especially important if you feel you are being victimised because of your characteristics (your gender, sexual orientation, faith or belief, disability, race or age) as there are laws in place to protect you from this.
If you feel you are treating unfairly at work, you should speak to your manager and/or your trade union rep.
Right to Get Support at Work
Joining a trade union is the only way of ensuring that you have independent support during your employment. GMB Union will be there when you need it most.
You have a right to be accompanied by your trade union rep at formal disciplinary meetings, and your union rep will help you prepare for any meetings relating to your employment you are concerned about.
Where we have lots of GMB members in one workplace and have an agreement with your employer, your union will also be able to help negotiate pay rises and improvements to your terms and conditions. Your union will ensure your workplace is fair.
You have a right to be a member of a trade union. If you are are having any problems with your apprenticeship, get in touch with us below for support.