Your Top 10 Employment Rights

 

BATH, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 10: A detail shot of the back of the Bath scrum during the Aviva Premiership match between Bath Rugby and Newcastle Falcons at Recreation Ground on September 10, 2016 in Bath, England. (Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images)

 

In our latest Top 10 guide for rugby players, we focus on your employment rights.

If you have any questions regarding the information below or think that you will need specific legal advice on any of the topics raised, please do not hesitate to contact your PDM or the RPA Player Services Manager on Natalie Beckett nbeckett@therpa.co.uk

 

1. First Things First….

As clubs finalise their squads for the coming season, it is important that you sign the correct 2016 version of the Premiership standard contract, which contains important welfare provisions such as the 5 week break and long term injury protection. Your agent should ensure this happens but where players simply sign the 2011 version or heads of agreement or extension letters of the 2011 contract, which don’t contain these protections, you might not receive the benefit of them. If you are concerned about this, please do get in touch.

 

2. Five-Week Break

Just a reminder……After the last competitive match of your season (or last day of international summer tour), you are entitled to 2 weeks’ absolute rest followed immediately by 3 weeks’ active rest.  The club can provide you with a training programme for your active rest period but you do not have to be at the club during this 5 week period. You do need to come back in the right shape to start pre-season training. Any variations to this 5 week break require the prior written agreement of the Player, PRL and the RPA.

 

3. The Right Not To Be Released From Your  Fixed-Term Contract 

The standard Premiership contract is a fixed term contract i.e. it has a set length, normally of 1, 2 or 3 years.

Unless you or the club have the right to terminate the contract e.g. you or the club have seriously breached the contract or you’ve been injured for an aggregate period of 9 months in any 12 month period, neither the club nor you can simply decide to end the contract unless you both agree to do so.

If you do agree to being released, you will need to sign an agreement (called a Settlement Agreement – see below).

If your club tells you they want to terminate your contract early, get advice, speak to you agent and call us immediately!

 

4. Settlement Agreements

Settlement Agreements are something we help a lot of RPA members with.

If both you and the club agree to terminate your contract prematurely, this needs to be confirmed in a Settlement Agreement.

Such an agreement, terminates your contract, will settle any employment claims that you will have against the club and will also pay you a specific amount of compensation.

You will need the advice of an independent solicitor for the agreement to have effect, plus the tax treatment of Settlement Agreements is about to change as of 6 April.

Again, if you are offered a Settlement Agreement, please call us.

 

 

EXETER, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 11: A general view of the line out during the Aviva Premiership match between Exeter Chiefs and London Irish at Sandy Park on October 11, 2014 in Exeter, England. (Photo by Dan Mullan/Getty Images)

 

5. Unfair Dismissal

If you have two years’ continuous service with a club, you qualify for unfair dismissal protection. If a club terminates your contract, it must show fair reason and fair procedure. Non-renewal of your fixed term contract counts as a dismissal. Non-renewal can of course be done and justified, but in certain circumstances it can be legitimately challenged.

 

6. Disciplinary Hearings

In your contract (Schedule 3) there is a set procedure that should be followed if disciplinary action is taken against you. It is important that the club follows the correct procedure, to ensure you have a fair hearing.

The club might decide to deal with minor disciplinary matters on an informal basis. However, if the club allege that you have breached your contract and want to take formal disciplinary action against you, you have the right to attend and present your case at a disciplinary hearing. You also have the right to be accompanied at such a hearing by a colleague or RPA representative.

If the case against you is established, your contract also sets out the action that can be taken against you e.g. a range of warnings, a maximum fine of 2 weeks’ net pay for a first offence and, in the most serious cases, the right to dismiss you.

You also have the right to appeal against any sanction a club imposes against you at a further hearing.

 

LONDON, ENGLAND - MAY 25: Referee Wayne Barnes shows the red card to Dylan Hartley (R #2) of Northampton during the Aviva Premiership Final between Leicester Tigers and Northampton Saints at Twickenham Stadium on May 25, 2013 in London, England. (Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images)

7. Gross Misconduct 

If your misconduct is judged to be sufficiently serious, following a disciplinary hearing, it could amount to gross misconduct. Gross misconduct gives the club the right to terminate your contract immediately without notice (and without any further payment under your contract). Clause 11.1.2 of the Standard Contract sets out some examples (but not all) of the types of conduct that would be considered gross misconduct e.g.

– A criminal offence that results in a custodial sentence

– Bringing the club into disrepute

– Refusing to take/failing a drugs test

– Being unable to fulfil your duties due to excessive consumption of alcohol or drugs

 

8. Raising A Grievance

If you have a serious complaint to make against the club in relation to your employment, your contract has a Grievance Procedure at Schedule 3.

This Grievance Procedure provides you with the means by which you may formally raise a grievance; regarding any condition of your employment or your treatment.  This is the procedure to raise an official serious complaint that would then be considered and heard by the Club. If it cannot be dealt with informally, a grievance hearing can be held. You have the right to be accompanied at any such hearing by an RPA representative or colleague of your choice.

This is a very important right under your contract and is a step not to be taken lightly. If you think you might want to raise a grievance seek the advice of the RPA first.

 

9. National Minimum Wage

By law, you have the right to be paid at least the National Minimum Wage (NMW). The NMW is the minimum pay per hour that workers are entitled to. The NMW rate depends upon your age and needs to be calculated by considering the number of hours you work in a week. This is not always a straightforward calculation for professional sportsmen or women but if you are low paid, you should check with the RPA that you are paid above the NMW. HMRC has recently carried out National Minimum Wage investigations at many Premiership clubs and so there should be no excuse for a club paying less than the National Minimum Wage.

 

10. Workplace Pension

All employers are required to ‘auto-enrol’ eligible employees into, and contribute towards, a workplace pension. Your club must have automatically enrolled you into a pension scheme and make contributions to your pension if you’re aged 22 or over and you earn at least £10,000 per year. You can opt out if you want to, but that means losing out on employer and government contributions. Your club cannot encourage or force you to opt out of a workplace pension.

You can read more about workplace pensions here: https://www.workplacepensions.gov.uk/employee/

If you need further advice on pensions, then we can put you in contact with Sanlam UK, Official RPA Wealth Management Partner.