Employment Contracts

Most employees will be given written Contracts of Employment by their employers and perhaps also a Staff Handbook containing their employers’ policies and procedures.

However, if you have not been given a written Contract of Employment, a contract will still exist between you and your employer nevertheless.  If your employer does not have a Staff Handbook setting out its policies and procedures, you are still entitled to expect your employer to conduct fair processes, and to provide you with the rights and protections that you are legally entitled to.

Contract of Employment / Statement of Terms

Contract of Employment If your employment is intended to continue for more than one month, your employer is obliged to provide you with written confirmation of specific terms of your employment within 2 months of your start date.

You should be provided with a single document (or “principal statement”) setting out the following information:

  • Your name and the name of your employer;
  • The date your employment starts/started and the date your period of continuous employment began;
  • Your pay (or the method of calculating it) and interval of payment;
  • Your hours of work;
  • Your holiday entitlement and holiday pay;
  • Your job title or a brief description of the work; and
  • Your place of work.

The following further specific information can either be included in the principal statement, or can be provided in other accessible documentation (such as a Staff Handbook):

  • Terms relating to absence due to incapacity and sick pay;
  • Notice periods for termination by either side;
  • Information about disciplinary and grievance procedures; and
  • Terms as to pensions and pension schemes.

If your employer does not provide you with this information, you are entitled to complain to an Employment Tribunal, who can amend the particulars as it thinks appropriate.  Additionally, if you succeed with another substantive claim, e.g. unfair dismissal, the Tribunal may award you 2 or 4 weeks’ pay by way of compensation.

Contract of Employment

If you are provided with a written Contract of Employment, it is likely to contain terms that go beyond the terms in the principal statement that your employer is obliged to provide you with.

For example, your Contract of Employment may contain clauses relating to:

  • The protection of your employer’s confidential information;
  • Property belonging your employer;
  • Post-termination restrictions designed to protect your employer’s business after you leave; and
  • Intellectual property.

You should make sure that you fully understand your contract, and the implications of each clause, before you sign it.  An Employment Tribunal will always use the written terms as a starting point for determining the relationship between you and your employer and it would require compelling evidence for it to conclude that the written terms and conditions have been varied, perhaps by oral agreement or by custom and practice.  So, if you are unhappy with any of the terms, raise your concerns before signing and, if a change to the contractual terms is agreed between you and your employer (like a pay rise), make sure it is confirmed in writing.

If you have already signed a contract of employment and believe that one of the clauses is particularly unfair and you want to know whether it is enforceable, then contact a member of our team.

Employee and Staff Handbooks

Staff Handbook

Most employers will have a Staff Handbook setting out their key policies and procedures.

Often the Staff Handbook will include the following policies:

  • Disciplinaries & Grievances (see our guide to Disciplinary & Grievance Issues);
  • Holidays;
  • Sickness Absence;
  • Capability;
  • Equal Opportunities;
  • Anti-Harassment and Bullying;
  • Family friendly policies, including maternity, paternity and shared parental leave (see our guide to Family Friendly Rights);
  • Whistleblowing (see our guide to Whistleblowing);
  • Health and Safety;
  • Data Protection;
  • Bribery;
  • Workplace Rules;
  • IT and Communications Systems; and
  • Social Media.

The Staff Handbook is important because it sets out the procedures which your employer should be following in a given situation.  If your employer fails to follow its own procedures, this may assist you with any potential claims you have in the Employment Tribunal, such as unfair dismissal.

If your employer does not have written policies and procedures in place, then it would be helpful for you to get advice on what you are legally entitled to in the circumstances.  For example, in a disciplinary or grievance situation, your employer should follow the ACAS Code of Practice on Disciplinary and Grievance Procedures.

Let Us Help

If you do not have any written particulars of employment and you have been with your employer for longer than two months, if you think there is an unreasonable term in your contract of employment, if your employer is trying to unilaterally change your contract of employment, or trying to deny a change which had been agreed orally, then please contact a member of our team.