They’ve not signed it so there’s no contract, right?
An employee has a contract of employment with their employer whether or not they have it in writing and whether or not it is signed. Whilst most contracts do not need to be in writing to be legally valid, it is better for both the employee and the employer if they are – it can save a lot of potential confusion / misunderstandings in the future.
The contract of employment starts when the offer of employment is accepted, regardless of whether or not the written contract (if there is one) is signed. The employee starting work proves that they have accepted the terms and conditions offered.
Written statement of particulars
Employees have the statutory right to receive a Written Statement of Particulars within 2 months of their employment starting. The main terms of employment are contained here – pay, working hours, notice period, holidays etc..
Express and implied terms
Most terms and conditions of employment will be set out expressly in the contract of employment. However, some conditions are implied into all contracts of employment because, for example, they are a requirement of the job (driving licence required for a driving job) or because they are too obvious to mention (the employee should not steal from their employer) or because certain conditions have been established through custom and practice and over time.
Examples of terms commonly included in particular contracts
Many terms contained in a contract of employment will be obvious but there are others that businesses should consider depending on the level of the employee and on the nature of the business – for example –
- Post-termination restrictions to prevent your employee soliciting business or clients from you for a set period of time following the end of their employment
- Payment in lieu of notice clause
- Provisions for “garden leave”
- Intellectual property rights
- How expenses are dealt with
How can I change the terms of a contract of employment?
A contract of employment can only be varied with the agreement of both parties. The best way to do this is to discuss the changes with your employees, if appropriate, and then provide a brief letter outlining the changes being made – which will be signed by you and each employee in duplicate. The employee can then keep a copy for their records. Any unilateral change to the terms of a contract of employment would not be advised.
In addition to the contract of employment, it is advisable to have in place policies, usually in the form of a staff handbook. A staff handbook can be as detailed as you want it to be and can be tailored to your business. For example, heavily regulated industries will require more specific policies.
All businesses should consider including more general policies such as:
- Disciplinary and grievance
- Anti-bullying and harassment
- Drugs and alcohol
- Bereavement leave
- Social media
- Adverse weather
- Equal opportunities
This is, of course, not an exhaustive list.
The advantages of setting up written policies
Including, for example, the bullying and harassment policy and bringing it to the attention of your employees ensures that you, as an employer, have taken the necessary steps to prevent bullying or harassment taking place in the workplace. Short of adopting a ‘Big Brother’ approach to monitoring employees’ every move (not to be advised!), having these policies and procedures in place is evidence of a responsible and reasonable employer who wants to prevent certain behaviours which can cause stress and disruption for everyone involved.
Having policies in place (and following them) not only ensures clarity for both parties but, in the unfortunate event that you find yourself in an Employment Tribunal, a failure to comply with, for example, the Acas Code of Practice on Disciplinary and Grievance Procedures can, in some cases, result in a 25% uplift in any award. A company policy that reflects the Acas Code, when followed, can therefore go a long way to preventing a successful claim in the first place and also prevent any uplift.
Some further issues to consider when drafting a staff handbook are:
- Do you want the policies to be contractual or non-contractual? The benefit of a non-contractual policy is that it can be changed easily – e.g. when the law changes – without having to get the agreement of each individual employee
- Which parts will apply to all staff (e.g. including agency staff) and which parts will only apply to employees?
Get in touch with us for help
If you would like to have a chat about any aspects of contracts of employment, feel free to contact us.
You can phone us on 01343 544077 or you can complete and send us an online enquiry form by clicking HERE. You can use the form as a way of asking for someone to call you back to discuss matters. There is no charge for this and it is without obligation. Similarly you can click the button below to get in touch –