The UK Rules
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Continuity of Service

Continuous Employment: Employee Rights

Being 'continuously employed' for a minimum period influences certain rights for working employees. But, the beginning and end dates of continuous employment determine your individual rights.

CONTINUOUS EMPLOYMENT DEFINITION: It relates to the shortest period of continuous service worked for an employer.

Continuity of service usually means working without a break in continuity of employment. But there can be periods of interruption.

Your time out of service can include being on strike or having involvement in a lock-out at work.

In fact, employment protect law even covers unfair dismissal as part of continuous service. But, the employee would need reinstating or get re-engaged back into service.

Often, you can also treat employment as continuous even if you change employers. An example would be as a result of a business transfer or undertaking.

This guide explains how the length of continuous employment affects employee rights. It has a significant effect on redundancy payments and some dismissal issues. As a rule, your rights revolve around work breaks that do not interrupt continuous service.

The length of a worker's continuous service grants certain individual rights to those employees. Examples include:

When Does Continuous Employment Start?

Several important factors determine an employee's continuous service date, or how long an employee has been in continuity of service:

  1. Work out the date at which you qualify for a particular entitlement (called the qualification date).
  2. The qualification date for continuous service is often defined as a different date for each entitlement.
  3. Count the length of time back from that date to the date of your first day of work with your employer.
  4. In some cases, time working for a previous employer may get added to the time spent with a present employer.

Note: Always calculate an employee's continuous employment start date from the first day of work.

Continuous Employment Allowable Breaks

There are two types of allowable breaks that can occur in a period of continuous service of employment:

  1. Some breaks from work do not interrupt the normal continuity of employment.
  2. Other periods away from work do not count towards the total length of continuous employment. They do not create a break in continuous service either.

Some examples of breaks that still count towards a period of continuity of service include:

Strike Action and Continuous Service

The days spent on strike by an employee do not count towards continuous employment. But, taking strike action is not treated as a break from work.

An Example: Your employee works for 30 days. They take strike action for 9 of these days.

In this example, your employee completes only 21 days of continuous service.

Continuity of Service Notice Period

You need to determine the 'effective date of termination' when you calculate length of service. It is the date when employment ends after the notice period.

There may be times when you do not give an employee any notice at all. In this case, use the effective date of termination as the date on which the statutory notice would have expired (had you given them notice).

Continuous Employment Helpline

What happens in cases where there is a dispute about the length of continuous service? As a rule, an industrial tribunal will settle these types of disputes. As a rule, a tribunal assumes employment was continuous until, or unless, it gets shown otherwise.

Note: The Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service can help with any further questions about continuous employment.

What is Continuous Employment and How Does it Affect Employee Rights at Work?