Differences between US and UK employment law – an introduction

Differences between US and UK employment law – an introduction

Several US clients who are considering employing their first UK employee have asked us to explain the differences they should be aware of between US and UK employment rights.

Although we cannot detail the entirety of UK law in a blog, here are the key differences in US and UK employment law to be aware of.  Some of the rights will have qualifying criteria and there may be some differences between the law in England and Wals and that in Scotland or Northern Ireland.

Download our quick reference guide: US and UK Employment Law Differences

Family Leave

UK

Up to 52 weeks maternity leave.  An absolute minimum of 2 weeks. Employees can also have paid adoption/paternity leave, can share ‘maternity’ leave and can take unpaid paternal leave of us to 18 weeks per child.

US

Up to 12 weeks unpaid leave for eligible employees per year.

Right to Minimum Annual Holiday

UK

Yes.  5.6 weeks (pro-rated for less than full time working and can include public holidays).

US  

No.  There is no federal or state statutory minimum paid holiday leave.  Paid leave is at the discretion of the employer.

National Minimum Wage Rates

UK

Yes.  Varies by age and if an apprentice.

US

Yes.  Many states also have minimum wage laws.  Where there are both state and federal minimum wage laws, the employee is entitled to the higher of the two.

Sick Pay

UK

Yes.  Guaranteed minimum sick pay for up to 28 weeks, on statutory rates.

US

No.  Up to 12 weeks unpaid leave for certain medical conditions.

Right to a Pension

UK

Yes.  Automatic entitlement to a workplace pension.  Minimum employer contribution of 3% (combined contributions must be at least 8%).

US

No.

Right to Healthcare Insurance

UK

No.  National Health Service (NHS) funded through taxes.

US

Should be provided by employers of 50+ employees

Protection from Discrimination

UK

Yes, for defined ‘protected characteristics, i.e. age, disability, gender reassignment, marriage and civil partnership, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion or belief, sex, sexual orientation, political opinion (NI).

US

Yes, US Workers are generally protected against discrimination under federal law on the basis of race, colour, religion, sex, sexual orientation, pregnancy, national origin, genetic information, retaliation or union activity.

Protection from Unfair Dismissal

UK

Yes, employers should at least follow the ACAS process.

US

No, there are no unfair dismissal policies in the US.

Right to a Written Employment Contract

UK

Yes, employees must be provided on or before their first day of work.

US

No, there is no requirement for a written contract of employment.

Regulation of Working Hours

UK

Yes, limits apply to weekly hours, rest breaks and night working. There are differences for young workers.

US

No, there is no regulation of working hours

Right to Work

UK

Right to work status needs to be confirmed before the start of employment.  EU/EEA citizens’ automatic rights now depend on when they arrived in the UK.

US

A Visa and Employment Authorisation Document is required before you are able to work in the US.

Right to Join a Trade Union

UK

Yes, but no automatic right for a union to be recognised by an employer.

US

Labour unions are legally recognised as representatives in many industries in the US.

Further sources on information of UK and US employment law

Related article | Employing staff in the UK? A guide for overseas companies

Related article | Why growing US companies choose the UK as their European subsidiairy

Related article | Are you ready for the new UK immigration rules?

Here are a couple of useful UK sources of information:

ACAS (the UK Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service) gives employees and employers free, impartial information and advice on workplace rights, rules and best practice,

The UK Government website

How can Isosceles Help?

If you are a US employer looking to establish a UK presence, please contact our HR team at info@ifteam.co.uk for more detailed and specific help and information.

Please note: This blog should not be considered legal advice from Isosceles. Always seek professional advice specific to your circumstances.