If you’re treated badly after using your employment rights

This advice applies to England. See advice for See advice for Northern Ireland, See advice for Scotland, See advice for Wales

Your employer isn’t allowed to treat you unfairly because you used a protected employment right. This is called ‘subjecting you to a detriment’.

There are things you can do if your employer subjects you to a detriment, including claiming in the employment tribunal.

To make a claim for detriment, you need to show that you did something to assert a protected right. Only certain employment rights are protected in this way. The main ones are:

  • rights to statutory holidays and rest breaks at work

  • National Minimum Wage or National Living Wage

  • taking part in trade union activities

  • health and safety

If you’re an employee, you’re also protected from detriment if you exercise any of the following rights:

  • you’re a young employee and ask for time off for study or training

  • you ask for family leave

  • you ask for flexible working

You might be an employee even if your employer or your contract says you’re self-employed. You might not be an employee if for example you work for an agency or you’re not guaranteed to get any work.

If you’re not sure if you’re an employee, check your employment status.

If you work more than one job, you’re protected from detriment if either:

  • you’re on a zero hours contract

  • you make less than £123 per week on average

Check what is a detriment

Detriment is treatment by your employer that’s demeaning or detrimental. It can include your employer:

  • denying you training opportunities

  • giving you harder or more mundane work

  • making demeaning or humiliating comments 

  • highlighting insignificant issues about conduct 

  • not taking grievances and disciplinary issues seriously or dealing with them properly

  • withholding a reference

Taking action about detriment

You should start by talking to your employer about the problem. If that doesn’t work, you can raise a grievance.

You can also take your employer to an employment tribunal. Before you go to the employment tribunal you have to go through early conciliation. This is a process to try to help you and your employer reach an agreement.

You need to apply for early conciliation within 3 months minus 1 day of the detriment you’re claiming about. For example if your employer treats you badly on 4 June, you must apply for early conciliation by 3 September.

Check what compensation you can get

If you take your employer to the employment tribunal for detriment, you can claim:

  • any money you’ve lost because of how they treated you

  • money for emotional distress - this is called ‘injury to feelings’

To claim injury to feelings, you’ll need to say how the treatment made you feel. You can ask your family, friends, medical professionals or support workers if they’ll be witnesses to show how the treatment affected you.

If the tribunal orders your employer to give you compensation for injury to feelings, it will usually be a minimum of around £1,000. The tribunal will work out the amount based on things like how serious the treatment was and how it affected you.

Help us improve our website

Take 3 minutes to tell us if you found what you needed on our website. Your feedback will help us give millions of people the information they need.

Page last reviewed on 11 November 2021