Employment rights a mystery to more than one fifth of workers

More than 20% of the working population don’t know about their employment rights, a government report will reveal today.

The Fair Treatment at Work Report, to be released by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) this afternoon will show that 22% of workers are unaware of basic employment rights, such as the National Minimum Wage, or the right not to be discriminated against.

Private sector employees were less likely than public sector workers to know what their rights were.

Anthony Young, minister for employment relations, and Ian Rutherford a statistical adviser at BIS, will meet employers this afternoon to discuss the report and look in detail at the ways businesses can help staff become more aware of their employment rights and how to deal with problems which might arise.

However, 78% of workers taking part in the survey were confident that they did know their employment rights – up from 65% in 2005.

The survey of more than 4,000 businesses will also highlight that up to one third of workers had experienced an employment rights problem at work, rising from 24% in the past two years.

Once a problem had occurred, 71% of workers were found to have contacted a workplace source for help first, with 24% of them approaching their HR function first.

The mean time for an employment problem to be resolved has increased from six months in 2005 to eight months in 2008, and 18% of employees who report a problem leave their place of work as a direct result.

Employment law changes came into effect at the start of October, including an increase in the National Minimum Wage to £5.80 an hour and a ban on employers using tips to increase wages to top-up pay to minimum wage lavels.

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