An employee is a type of worker who works for an employer. An employee is usually employed to perform a set of duties or actions for an employer on a regular basis under a contract of employment.

The majority of workers in the UK are employees.

A worker is probably an employee if:

  • Their contract of employment refers to them as an employee
  • They are paid for their work
  • They are required to work a minimum number of regular hours
  • The employer deducts tax and National Insurance contributions from their pay
  • They are entitled to holiday, sick and maternity/paternity pay
  • They work at the employer's premises using work materials provided by the employer
  • They may join the employer's pension scheme
  • They are subject to the employer's rules and disciplinary and grievance procedures

Employee rights

Employees in the UK are entitled to statutory employment rights by law. Employees may also be granted additional rights in their contract of employment with their employer.

If your statutory rights and your contract of employment contradict each other, your minimum statutory rights are always valid. However, if your contract assigns you rights which exceed your statutory rights, then your contractual rights apply. There are some circumstances in which you may choose to waive your statutory rights, for instance by agreeing to exclude yourself from the maximum weekly working time (see Working Time Regulations, below).

Statutory employment rights in the UK include:

  • Being paid at least the National Minimum Wage, which depends on the employee's age
  • Adherence to Working Time Regulations (1998) which covers:
    • maximum weekly working time (maximum of 48 hours over 7 days)
    • entitlement to paid holidays (annual leave)
    • rest breaks during shifts of over 6 hours
    • length of night work
  • Written terms and conditions of employment
  • The right to request flexible working
  • For part-time, full-time and fixed-term employees to be treated equally
  • Time off for trade union activities
  • An itemised payslip
  • Protection from unlawful deductions from pay
  • Sick pay
  • Maternity, paternity and adoption leave and pay
  • Redundancy pay
  • A minimum notice period of dismissal
  • Protection from unfair dismissal including the right to compensation
  • Protection from compulsory retirement on grounds of age
  • Protection for whistleblowing (exposing misconduct or illegal activity)
  • Protection from unlawful discrimination

Contract of employment

An employee will typically have a contract of employment with their employer. This contract details the agreed terms and conditions of employment including pay, working hours, holiday entitlement, and other matters.

A contract of employment applies to an individual employee. However, the terms and conditions of a contract of employment are usually common to all the employees in an organisation. Trade unions often play a role in negotiating terms and conditions of employment with the employer.

Employee handbook

Employers will often provide an employee handbook or staff manual as part of an employee's induction. The employee handbook will contain information about terms and conditions of employment and employee rights, as well as the employer's policies and procedures. Alternatively, or in addition, the employee handbook may be presented as a resource on the staff intranet.

The employee handbook usually contains essential information for the employee, such as:

  • Grade and pay scale
  • Holiday entitlement
  • Working hours including lunch breaks
  • Flexible working arrangements
  • Promotion or transfer procedures
  • Appraisal process
  • Regulations on conduct
  • Rules on use of work equipment including telephone, email and internet
  • Disciplinary and grievance procedures
  • Health and safety policy
  • Equality and diversity policy
  • Rules on claiming expenses including use of own vehicle for company business
  • Resignation and retirement procedures
  • Workplace pension
  • Union membership


Employers will deduct income tax and National Insurance contributions from the wages of salaried or otherwise paid employees using pay-as-you-earn (PAYE). The amount deducted is based on a tax code determined by Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs (HMRC).

Tips on being an employee

Here are some practical tips on being an employee:

Further advice

The Prospect website includes advice and resources on employment rights and contracts of employment. Further guidance on being an employee is available on the GOV.UK and workSMART websites.