Last edited 24 Feb 2021

Employees in the construction industry

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An employee is someone who is employed by an employer to perform a specific role under the terms of an employment contract.

The employment contract sets out the terms of the individual’s employment and is typically offered following an application and interview process in which they are deemed to be the most suitable candidate for the job.

Employees have a number of rights, including:

  • National minimum wage.
  • Protection against unlawful wage deductions.
  • Statutory minimum level of paid holiday.
  • Statutory minimum length of breaks.
  • Working hours of no more than 48 hours on average per week.
  • Protection against discrimination.
  • Protection against unfair dismissal.
  • Protection against whistleblowing.
  • Protection against being treated unfavourably for working part-time.
  • Statutory sick pay.
  • Statutory maternity, paternity, adoption and shared parental leave and pay.
  • Minimum notice periods.
  • The right to request flexible working.
  • Emergency time off.
  • Statutory redundancy pay.
  • Workplace pension.

Some of the above rights may only be available to employees after a certain minimum length of employment (often called a probation period). The precise length of this period should be stated in the employment contract.

The Pay as you Earn scheme (PAYE) is the means by which HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) deduct tax and National Insurance contributions from employees. Any person, whether an individual or company, who employs someone under a contract of employment is obliged to operate a PAYE scheme and then deduct tax and national insurance before passing those deductions to HMRC. For more information see: PAYE.

The Equality Act was introduced on 1 October 2010. It gives legal protection from discrimination in the workplace and in wider society. It consolidates three previous duties covering race, disability and gender, bringing them together into a single duty, and extending it to cover the ‘protected characteristics of age, sexual orientation, religion or belief, pregnancy and maternity, and gender reassignment. For more information, see Equality Act.

Equal opportunities policies are now commonplace in most businesses. The policy will state how the organisation will ensure that it is open and accessible to all. It will typically cover discrimination on grounds of sex, race, disability, religion, age, marital status, gender, sexual orientation or sexuality. For more information, see Equal opportunities policy.

IR 35 (or 'Intermediaries Legislation') was introduced by HM Revenues and Customs (HMRC) in 2000. It was thought to be needed because the Exchequer was losing substantial amounts of tax and national insurance revenue due to the use, by individuals, of personal services companies or self-employed status in circumstances where, in reality, they were employees who should be subject to full PAYE rules. IR35 sets out the rules which individuals must apply to assess whether or not PAYE applies.

Personal Services Companies (PSC) are companies which are set up so that individuals can offer their services via the medium of a company, rather than in a personal capacity. For more information see: Personal Services Companies.

Umbrella companies (or employment intermediaries) are commonly used to employ contractors in the UK. Effectively the contractor becomes an employee of the umbrella company and is assigned to work for construction clients. The umbrella company takes on the administrative burden of tasks such as payrolls, taxation, timesheets, insurance and invoicing. However, in 2015 it was announced that there would be a crackdown on the use of such companies that can abuse tax reliefs. From 6 April 2015, businesses providing two or more workers without operating PAYE must report their details, details of the position and of payments to HMRC. For more information see: Umbrella companies.

A union is an association of workers who by virtue of having banded together to form a single entity can increase their bargaining power in matters such as workers' rights, pay, working conditions, work rules, compliant procedures, employment benefits, strike action and social policy. A union can negotiate with employers, local and central government, and other organisations on behalf of its members. For more information see: Union.

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