Guide

Continuous employment and employee rights

What does continuous employment mean?

Continuous employment usually means working for the same employer without a break, or with short breaks that don't interrupt continuity of employment. These may include time out of service due to strikes, lock-outs and even unfair dismissal where the employee is reinstated or re-engaged into the service.

Employment can sometimes also be treated as continuous if your employee has previously been with a different employer, for example following the transfer of a business or undertaking. See responsibilities to employees if you buy or sell a business.

When does continuous employment begin and end?

To work out how long an employee has been continuously employed, you should firstly establish the date on which they qualify for a particular right - their qualification date - for the entitlement in question. The qualification date is defined differently for each entitlement.

See a table showing minimum periods of continuous employment and qualification dates for employment rights.

Once you have established the qualification date, you should count back from that date to the date of their first day of work with you.

However, remember that time with a previous employer can sometimes be added to the time with a present employer - see the effect a change of employer has on continuous employment.

Within the period of continuous employment, there may be:

  • breaks in employment that don't break continuity of employment
  • periods which don't count towards the total length of continuous employment but also don't break continuity

See continuous employment and breaks in work.

An industrial tribunal can settle any dispute about the length of an employee's continuous service. Generally, the tribunal will assume the employment was continuous until it is shown otherwise.

Notice periods and continuous employment

The 'effective date of termination' - for the purpose of calculating length of service - is the date on which employment ends following the notice period. If you do not give an employee any notice, the effective date of termination will be the date on which that statutory notice would have expired if you had given them notice.

See issue the correct periods of notice.