Employment Contract Confusion


An employment contract can sometimes find itself pushed to the back of the drawer. With the news recently revealing the abuse of workers on zero hours contracts, and how many employers still fail to even pay minimum wage, it can leave you wondering about the strength of your employment contract.

Employment Contract Confusion

Legally, what should be in our contract of employment, and do we even need one?

Do I Need a Written Employment Contract?

If you accept work offered to you by an employer then in all likelihood a contract will exist, even if you have not received anything in writing. It follows that an employment contract can be entirely verbal. Although it isn't a legal requirement for a contract to be in writing , all employees are legally entitled to receive a written statement of term and conditions of employment within two months of their start date.

Written Statement Checklist

So, what is your employer legally obliged to include in your written statement?
  • Your name, and the name of your employer
  • Your start date  and your hours of work
  • Your job title and where you will be based
  • How much, when and by what method you will be paid
  • Details on sick pay
  • Disciplinary, dismissal and grievance procedures
  • How much notice you need to give your employer on termination, and how much notice they must give you
  • How many holidays you can take, and whether you will be paid for them, and
  • Any pension benefits you are entitled to
If your written statement doesn't include the details on sick pay, disciplinary, dismissal and grievance procedures, it must at least say where you can find this information, e.g. in the Staff Handbook or by contacting the Personnel or Human Resources Adviser. It is important to remember that if you haven't received any written statement, you do have the right to request one from your employer.

What if I don’t get a Statement of Terms and Conditions of Employment?

The right to a written statement is set out in the law, so your employer has a legal duty to provide this to you,  regardless of what is in the written statement.

There are a wide range of statutory rights to protect employees, they include the right to the statutory minimum wage, the right to maternity leave, the right not to be unfairly dismissed and to be protected from discrimination.

It is important to remember that not everyone who has a job is treated in the same way under the law. For instance, agency workers, freelance workers, self employed, casual workers and trainees (interns) have different rights compared with employees.

Getting Advice

Whatever type of job you do, if you experience problems at work you may need legal advice. If you are a member of a trade union, your first point of call will be your union rep and, if you are not a member of a union you might consider joining. Our employment team can advise you on your legal rights and offer help, particularly if  your employer is not fulfilling their legal duties and responsibilities toward you.

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