A Guide to Doing Business in Scotland Employment Law in Scotland

Although Scotland is a separate legal jurisdiction from the rest of the UK, statutory employment rights are safeguarded by legislation which is applicable throughout the UK and sets standards that all employers must comply with.

Employment status

Employers can engage with individuals for work in various ways, such as an employee, agency worker, worker or self-employed individual.

There are different rights and responsibilities which apply to each category of worker. Employees have the most comprehensive employment rights, workers are provided with some but not all of the legal protections available to employees and self-employed individuals have very few employment rights.

Statutory requirements – Employers

The main statutory requirements and duties which employers must comply with in relation to employees are:

  • Check that a job applicant is allowed to work for you in the UK before you employ them. It is a criminal offence to employ someone you know is an illegal worker, or who you have "reasonable cause to belief" is disqualified from the employment due to their immigration status. Fines are potentially unlimited and imprisonment is possible on conviction. There may also be civil liabilities of £20,000 for each individual who does not have the right to work. 
  • Most workers in the UK are entitled to be paid National Minimum Wage, and from 1 April 2021 workers over the age of 23 are entitled to the National Living Wage, which is set at £8.91 and will be £9.50 from April 2022. Lower rates apply to younger workers.
  • Employees are entitled to a minimum level of statutory sick pay.
  • Employers have an obligation to automatically enroll eligible jobholders into a qualifying pension scheme and make mandatory minimum contributions.
  • Employees are entitled to family leave and pay including maternity, shared parental, paternity and adoption and parental leave.
  • Eligible employees are entitled to make a request for flexible working.
  • Employees (with over two years’ service) are protected from unfair dismissal and are entitled to receive statutory redundancy pay if made redundant. There are some circumstances in which an employee with less than two years’ service can claim unfair dismissal, known as “automatically unfair dismissals”.

Statutory requirements – Employees and Workers

The main statutory requirements and duties which employers must comply with in relation to both employees and workers are:

  • Employees and workers have the right to receive a written statement outlining their terms and conditions of employment. This is to be received on or before the start of their employment/engagement and failure to do so may result in the employer paying the employee between two to four weeks’ salary.
  • Employees and workers are entitled to a minimum number of paid holidays per year.
  • There is a limit on the number of hours per week an employee or worker can work. This is currently set at 48 hours over a 17-week reference period, but a worker can choose to “opt out” of this limit and work more hours. There are also rules on the entitlement to minimum daily and weekly rest periods.
  • Workers and employees are entitled to a minimum amount of notice of termination of employment.
  • Employees, workers and some self-employed individuals are protected from discrimination, harassment, victimisation on the grounds of age, disability, sex, sexual orientation, marriage and civil partnership, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion and belief and gender reassignment.
  • Employees in certain circumstances are given protection where a business entity or service provision activity is transferred from one organisation to another. If this applies, employees are entitled to transfer to the new organisation on the same terms and conditions of employment with continuity of service and have related protections against dismissal. There are also certain obligations to provide information and to inform and consult about the transfer measures. The position in relation to workers is currently unclear.

Our Awards & Accreditations

  • In 2016, we became one of the first law firms in Scotland to become Living Wage accredited employers.

  • Winners of Corporate & Commercial Team of the Year and Family Law Team of the Year at the Scottish Legal Awards 2020.

  • Our Real Estate team won the Property Team of the Year Award at the British Legal Awards in 2018.

  • Winner of SME of the Year at the Scottish SME Awards 2017, hosted by Scottish Business Insider.

  • Highly Commended for Commercial Team of the Year at the British Legal Awards 2016.

  • We are a proud member of the Legal Sustainability Alliance, a network of law firms committed to working collaboratively to reduce our environmental impact

  • In 2019, MacRoberts achieved Cyber Essentials Plus certification, a UK Government entry-level information security standard. 

  • MacRoberts holds the ISO 9001:2015 certification for Quality Management, the most widely recognised quality management system standard in the world.

  • MacRoberts holds the ISO14001:2015 certification for Environmental Management, demonstrating our ongoing commitment to environmental awareness.

  • MacRoberts holds the ISO27001:2013 certification for Information Security, an internationally recognised security gold standard.

  • Business continuity is a critical element of the Business Management System at MacRoberts and we hold full accreditation with the ISO 22301:2012.

  • MacRoberts is a member of IP Inclusive, a network of intellectual property professionals working to make our community more equal, diverse and inclusive.

  • We are active members of the PRIME Programme – an organisation that focuses on ensuring a career in law is open to talent from all economic and social backgrounds.

  • MacRoberts supports the Scottish Business Pledge, a values-led partnership between Government and business that is based on boosting productivity and competitiveness through fairness, equality and sustainable employment.

  • We are supporters of the Partnership for Change, a network of organisations and individuals who share a common ambition to improve diversity on boards and in senior leadership.

  • MacRoberts is a Disability Confident employer, and are committed to disability equality across our firm.

  • MacRoberts fully supports flexible working practices and supports family-friendly working practices.

  • MacRoberts became a member of the Stonewall Diversity Champions Programme in 2018.

  • MacRoberts is a member of The Glass Network, Scotland's organisation for LGBT+ allied legal professionals.
  • MacRoberts is a longstanding member of Scotland Food & Drink, the leading trade association for Scotland's food and drink industry.