The Importance of Understanding Your Rights as an Employee

No matter who you are, where you live, or what stage of your career you find yourself in – you have rights as an employee. Perhaps we know this in theory but haven’t taken the time to consider how important those rights are and why we need to defend them in unjust circumstances. Let’s slow down from the daily grind, and discuss the importance of understanding your rights as an employee.

Without understanding the importance of employee rights, one might find themselves in a workplace that is not safe, nor abiding by legal standards. The number of workplace lawyers that categorically uncover employee rights breaches when a claim is taken to them is consistent across the globe, suggesting there is not enough education about what you should accept from an employer. The obvious ones would include safe working conditions and a wage that meets the minimum wage and above, and yet employees will accept conditions that require them to work alone in safe areas or conduct machinery that they are not trained or certified to do. Similarly, employees will accept a wage that is below minimum wage, despite readily available literature on what that minimum wage should be for that country. By understanding your employee rates, you will be able to identify employers that are not providing a safe and legal working arrangement.

Not tolerating bullying

Bullying is unfortunately not going away anytime soon, although it can be identified and stopped through legal innovation if you understand your employee rights. Workplace bullying is when an individual or group of individuals are consistently targeted with unreasonable behaviour. This could manifest in taunts, blame, and any negative behaviour that is not appropriate in the workplace and inflicted on a select few. You might have already guessed that, but there is another form of workplace bullying which goes against your rights as an employee. Let’s take the example of a sales professional who is working to monthly, quarterly or annual targets. If these targets are ‘demonstrably unachievable’ and there is undue pressure to meet these targets, that is considered workplace bullying.

Identifying discriminative behaviour

Despite discrimination being the hot topic it is today, employees still fail to recognise workplace discriminative behaviour that violates their rights as an employee. Discrimination, unfortunately, spans gender, age, race, religion and sexual orientation, although employees should not be treated differently no matter which group they identify as. So, what does that look like in practice? It can be anything from using derogatory slang for a race or religion, or could even be conducting a different hiring process for different genders. However you identify, it is well worth the investment of time to familiarise yourself with your rights and discriminative behaviour so that you can spot this in the workplace and take the due course of action should it arise.

Recognising an unfair dismissal

Losing your job can be an incredibly stressful life event, made even more stressful if it is by surprise and under unfair circumstances. Of all the workplace rights across the globe, unfair dismissal is fairly universal in its simplicity. If your employment contract has been terminated for something that does not exist within your contractual obligations and without fair warning, you could be looking at unfair dismissal. You have the right to an explanation for your dismissal, and knowing this might actually secure your role or have you entitled to a redundancy package. It might seem like an ominous task to familiarise yourself with your rights surrounding dismissal when your first take a job, but it might bring clarity one day in a stressful fog that could make a huge impact.

There is a lot to know about your role and employer beyond what can be found on their website, so dig a little deeper to understand what your rights are and how your employer abides by those rights. As a general rule of thumb, if something doesn’t feel right it likely isn’t, so arm yourself with the right information so you are not taken advantage of.


Stan Roach

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