The relationship between employer and employee is based on the law of contract. However, unlike some types of agreement, only certain aspects of a contract of employment are required by law to be in writing. This has been the cause of confusion and disagreement, and is one of the main causes of employment tribunal claims.
As they based on the law of contract, you can be forgiven for thinking that a contract of employment consists of only those things that are set out in writing between an employer and an employee.
In fact, contracts of employment often consist of these elements:
1. The terms and conditions that have been agreed between the employer and employee;
2. Terms and conditions that have been negotiated through a collective agreement;
3. Terms and conditions that are set by legislation, such as the National Minimum Wage and the minimum number of paid holidays the employee is entitled to in year;
4. Terms and conditions that have been established by custom and practice;
5. Terms that are necessary to make the contract work. For example, if you are employed as a driver it is assumed that you have a valid driving license; and
6. Terms that are too obvious to mention. For example, that the employee should act in good faith, and that the employer should have trust and confidence in the employee.
Written statement of employment particulars:
It is a legal requirement to give your employees a written statement of certain particulars of their employment. This statement must be given with two calendar months of them starting work. The statement, which can be contained in more than one document, must give the following information:
** The business’s name;
** The employee’s name, job title or a description of work, and start date;
** If a previous job counts towards a period of continuous employment, the date the period started;
** How much and how often an employee will get paid;
** Hours of work (and if employees will have to work Sundays, nights, or overtime);
Holiday entitlement (and if that includes public holidays);
Where an employee will be working, and whether they might have to travel for work. If an employee works in different places, where these will be and what the employer’s address is.
A written statement must also contain information about:
** How long a temporary job is expected to last;
** The end date of a fixed-term contract;
** Notice periods;
** Collective agreements;
** Who to go to with a grievance;
** How to complain about how a grievance is handled; and
** How to complain about a disciplinary or dismissal decision.
The written statement doesn’t need to cover the following, but it must say where the information can be found:
** Sick pay and procedures;
** Disciplinary and dismissal procedures; and
** Grievance procedure.
It is good practice to have:
1. A written contract of employment that sets out the terms and conditions of employment agreed between the employer and employee, including sick pay and procedures;
2. An employment handbook that sets out the employers policies and procedures, including your disciplinary and dismissal procedures, and your grievance procedure.
The policies and procedures in your employment handbook will reflect statutory procedures and entitlements, such as maternity and adoption leave, parental leave and shared parental leave, and a policy on requesting flexible working. It will also include your policy on the acceptable use of I.T. equipment, the use of company vehicles, and reclaiming expenses, amongst may others.
The written contract of employment will, in addition to the information you are legally required to provide, include other provisions of a contractual nature. These might include the benefits you provide, such as payment of salary or wages during sickness, life assurance, private medical insurance, personal use of a company vehicle, and a bonus scheme.
The contract ‘starts’ as soon as an offer of employment is accepted. Although it is good practice to get the employee to sign the contact before they start work, starting work signifies their acceptance of the terms and conditions.
It is always best for contracts of employment to be writing. Having written agreements avoids potential confusion and disagreement about what terms and conditions of employment were, and were not agreed. Providing your employees with a written contract of employment also removes one of the main causes of employment tribunal claims.