Legal insight contracts of employment

What you need to know about Employment Contracts

One of the primary aims of employment law is to clearly set out the minimum standards by which an employer must treat an employee. As a broad generalisation, it is fair to say that employment law is drafted in favour of the employee, as it is drafted on the assumption that there is a power imbalance in favour of the employer.

Employment contracts are essential documents for both employees and employers, required by law. They should clearly lay out the core details of the working relationship.

The absence of an employment contract or the legally required provisions therein, offers low hanging fruit for an employment law solicitor advising an aggrieved employee.

Within 5 days of commencing employment, an employer must provide an employee with a written note of the following details;

  1. The full names of the employer and employee.
  2. The address of the employer.
  3. The expected duration of the contract (where the contract is temporary or fixed term).
  4. The rate or method of calculating pay and the pay reference period for the purposes of the National Minimum Wage Act 2000 (for example, a week, a fortnight, or a month).
  5. What the employer reasonably expects the normal length of your working day and week to be, in a normal working day and in a normal working week.

Within 2 months of commencing employment, an employer must provide an employee with a more comprehensive written statement of the terms of their employment, e.g. sick pay policies, notice periods, or any specific terms relating to the employee’s specific obligations and rights. The employer must sign this document and retain a copy for at least one year following the termination of the employee’s employment.

An employer cannot unilaterally vary an employee’s contract of employment without notifying and obtaining consent from the employee. It is worth remembering that not all of the terms of employment will be written down, some terms may develop through custom and practice in the workplace. These are known as “implied terms”.

Within 28 days of commencing employment, an employer must give an employee a written copy of their policies and procedures, setting out how they will deal with grievances and disciplinary issues.  These policies and procedures must be fair, reasonable in the circumstances, and comply with the principles of natural justice. The employer must follow their own procedures, as per the written document they have given their employee. Many employers do not, and this is where they will trip up and fall foul of the legislation. It is not the alleged offence which will cause problems but how the employer has dealt with it.

Employment law legislation enumerates a multitude of obligations with which the employer must comply, ignorance of the law or your obligations is not a valid defence. The purpose of this article is not to cause fear, but to provide some food for thought for employers to consider. A common-sense approach will see you right in most circumstances. However, if in doubt or for more information on specific queries, contact your Solicitor.