The first thing to note is that employer/employee rights may differ quite dramatically from country to country, and often even within regions of that country. However, there are a few main components1 of these rights that will be considered in some form in most countries' business laws:
- employ ability - many places outlaw discrimination in an employer's choice of workers that has to do with their ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender and age, though there are practical exceptions (e.g. physically demanding jobs may have an upper age limit, though some believe that they should be tested solely for their ability to perform the task)
- workplace conditions - the building must meet regulations according to its location. In jobs like construction and warehousing, workplace safety can be a huge factors. It's also important to know if an employee can sue the company for injuries received on-site. Employers also often have a responsibility to accommodate an employee's individual needs up until it causes them undue hardship
- termination - how much notice is required, employee discipline, severance packages, warnings systems, and defining just cause are all points to consider to protect a company from being sued for wrongful termination
- business interests - who owns the content an employee creates while he works there, non-disclosure policies, confidentiality of passwords and data, non-competition clauses, etc.
- benefits/compensation - depending on the region, employees will be entitled to a certain amount of time off, a minimum wage, overtime pay, regular breaks, daily and weekly work hour limits, company pension plans and health benefits all come under this area of employer/employee rights
Unions are groups of professionals that band together to ensure their rights as employees are upheld. If a member feels their rights are violated (being asked to work unpaid overtime, or not receiving compensation for an injury sustained at work) they can contact their union and often settle the disagreement this way as many employers would face blacklisting by that union otherwise. Public service unions can also go on strike to demonstrate that they believe they are lacking rights, or that their wage/benefits packages are unreasonable. If you are part of a union, no matter what your personal experience or beliefs are, you are obligated to join in strikes and not work for blacklisted companies as the support must go both ways. You could be cut off from the union if you do not support them in return.
Beyond legal requirements, employers usually have the right to conduct their business in whichever manner they see fit. There is no real equivalent to the union for employers however, and they are more often the defendant in court cases, but as long as they have adhered to the country's laws, frivolous law suits brought against them should dissolve quickly after an investigation.
1. Minken (). Employer and Employee Rights and Obligations. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.minkenemploymentlawyers.com/employment-law-issues/employer-and-employee-rights-and-obligations/. [Last Accessed 8/5/2014].