Archive Website of the UK government

Please note that this website has a UK government accesskeys system.

Archive brought to you by Cross Stitch UK

Main menu

Wednesday, 3 October 2023

Your rights: an introduction

Find links to information about your rights and responsibilities depending on your situation in life. For example, you might have different rights if you are married, if you are a parent or if you are a carer for someone who needs help.

Couples living together

Although cohabitants are given legal protection in several areas, they have significantly fewer rights and responsibilities than couples who are married or who have formed a civil partnership. There is no such thing as common law marriage or common law man and wife.

If you and your partner are living together or are thinking about living together as a couple there are issues you should consider in the event that you split up or if one of you were to die.

Married couples and civil partners

All marriages and civil partnerships need to be registered for the legal rights to come into force. This affects several areas including tax, benefits and, in the event that the marriage or partnership breaks down, your duty to provide reasonable maintenance for your partner and any children.

Check the link below for more information on rights and relationships for couples living together, married couples and civil partnerships.


Parents do not automatically have rights over their children - these depend on 'parental responsibility’. If as parents of a child you are married to each other or you have jointly adopted the child, then you both have parental responsibility. This is not automatically the case for civil partners or unmarried fathers. Mothers, whether married or not, are always deemed to have 'parental responsibility' for their children.

Victims of domestic violence

Domestic violence is not acceptable under any circumstances. Domestic violence causes physical and emotional harm and not just to you. Children can also be affected by it, even just from witnessing it.

If you are thinking about leaving an abusive relationship and are worried about your safety and that of your child, there is help available, whatever your relationship status. If you are a couple living together, whether heterosexual or same sex you have the same rights as you would do if you were married or civil partnered. Men and women both have a right to be safe in their own homes and are entitled to the same level of help, support and protection.


If you are in employed in work, even if it is part-time, temporary or fixed term you are entitled to certain rights. In some cases there may be conditions to these rights but there are processes in place to ensure you have fair treatment. Your rights cover issues such as:

  • age
  • disability
  • sex or gender
  • race or religion
  • sexual orientation
  • the length of your contract
  • the length of your employment
  • part-time work
  • ex-offenders

You also have responsibilities as an employee according to the terms of your contract.

Disabled people

The disabled people’s section has information about the rights of disabled people, including information about the Disability Discrimination Act and rights in relation to access to goods and services, employment, health and education.

Children and young people

Under the United Nation's Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) all children and young people aged 17 and under have certain basic human rights. These include the right to life, nationality, contact with parents and also freedom of expression and the right to have their views respected.

Older people

Certain basic rights apply more and become more relevant to you as you get older. These include rights in terms of pensions and benefits as well as your right to certain services.

Employment and work-related training
The Age Regulation Act has formalised your right to be treated fairly in employment and work-related training and not to be discriminated against because of your age. Other rights apply specifically as you approach retirement.


There are some specific rights that relate to carers. These include employment rights, the right to an assessment and receipt of direct payments.

Specifically for young carers, there is extra support available to make sure they:

  • do not have to carry out a regular and substantial amount of caring for a disabled person
  • do not take on similar levels of caring responsibilities as adults

Local authorities should ensure that the education, development and general well-being of young carers is not affected by caring responsibilities.

Additional links

Simpler, Clearer, Faster

Try GOV.UK now

From 17 October, GOV.UK will be the best place to find government services and information

Access keys