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UK labour law’s primary concern, particularly under the Employment Rights Act 1996, is to ensure that every working person has a minimum charter of rights in their workplace.
Traditionally it draws a divide between self employed people, who are free to contract for any terms they wish, and employees, whose employers are responsible for complying with labour laws. UK courts and statutes, however, use a number of different terms for different rights, including “worker”, “employee”, “jobholder”, “apprentice” or someone with an “employment relation”. A “worker” is entitled to a minimum wage of £5.92 per hour, 28 statutory minimum days of holiday and a formal right to opt out of working over 48 hours a week, enrolment in a pension plan, not to mention the right to equal treatment and anti-discrimination that also apply to consumers and public services.
An “employee” has all those rights, and also a safe system of work, the right to a written contract of employment, time off for pregnancy or child care, reasonable notice before a fair dismissal and a redundancy payment, and the duty to contribute to the National Insurance fund and pay income tax.
The scope of the terms “worker”, “employee”, and others, are more or less left to the courts to construe according to the context of its use in a statute. English courts view an employment contract as involving a relation of mutual trust and confidence, which allows them to develop and enlarge the remedies available for workers and employers alike when one side acts out of bad faith.