Contract of Employment - What are your employment law rights

Caragh Bailey
9 min read
Contract of Employment advice from employment law friend
When you accept a new job, you and your employer agree to terms, covering:

  • Conditions: where you work, the hours and schedule you will work, and your rate of pay (see: written statement of particulars)
  • Rights: your freedoms which must be honoured by your employer, by law such as minimum wage or sick pay
  • Responsibilities: the aspects of your job which you, yourself must ensure are achieved (eg. ensuring the safety of yourself, colleagues and third parties)
  • Duties: the specific tasks or actions that you must undertake (what you are employed to do)

These will be provided by your employer and agreed by you. These may be as simple as a verbal agreement or single page document, or they may be outlined in your offer letter, in a separate written, signed document, or appear in an employee handbook.

Without a written employment contract the employee and employer are exposed to a future legal dispute by not having a clearly defined document that sets out the relationship between the parties.

As well as the terms in your contract, there are certain terms which are required by law. These are applicable even if they are not included in your contract, as well as implied terms (for example, it is implied that an employee must not steal from their employer, even if this isn’t explicitly written into your contract) as well as collective agreements, which are negotiated between employers and trade unions or staff associations.

Working without a contract of employment

Even if you have not been given a written contract, you and your employer are bound by a verbal contract as soon as you accept the job offer. If you have agreed to do a one-off job you do not have a verbal contract of employment. This is, instead, a contract to provide services.

What are the different types of employment contracts?

    Full-time and part-time contracts
Whether you are working full time or part time (there is no official number of hours for this, but is generally understood to mean more, or less than 35 hours per week) you are entitled to:

  • minimum wage (as minimum)
  • statutory holiday pay (as minimum)
  • statutory length rest breaks (as minimum)
  • statutory sick pay (SSP) (as minimum)
  • a payslip outlining all deductions (Pay As You Earn tax, National Insurance Contributions)
  • statutory maternity, paternity and adoption pay (as minimum)

Your employer is also responsible for making sure:

  • you do not work for longer than the maximum hours for your job
  • you are covered by your employer’s liability insurance
  • you have a safe work environment
  • they have enrolled you with HM Revenue & Customs (they will handle payroll, tax and national insurance)
  • that they give fair consideration to flexible working requests (flexi-hours, working from home)
  • avoid discrimination in the workplace
  • make reasonable adjustments to your place of work if you have any disabilities.

    Zero hour contract
A zero hour contract, or casual contract, means that:

  • you are on call to work when your employee needs you.
  • your employer is not obligated to provide you with any work. (0 hours)
  • you have the right to refuse the work/shifts they ask you to do.
  • you can look for work elsewhere even if your zero hour contract with your employer prohibits this.
  • you can accept work from another employer even if your zero hour contract with your employer prohibits this.

(Click here to read about zero hours contracts)

    Fixed term contract or temporary contract
A fixed term contract lasts for a limited time, set and specified at the time of employment. They end either when a specific task is completed or when a specific event has taken place. According to employment law you are entitled to the same treatment as full-time permanent staff.

    Permanent contract or open ended contract
A permanent contract, is ongoing, and ends when terminated by the employer or employee.

    Self employed contract
If you are self employed, you are not covered by most employment law. However, you still have some protection for your health and safety and you may be protect against discrimination. You are responsible for setting out your rights and responsibilities in a contract with your client.

If you are not sure whether you should be covered by an employee contract or a self employed contract, seek advice before your employment begins. If your employment status is wrong, you and your employer may have to pay unpaid tax, plus penalties and you may lose your benefit entitlement.

When should I expect my contract of employment?

Your contract consists of several documents, the main of which is the ‘written statement of employment particulars’ but also includes further documents such as your employee handbook, and specific written procedures.

Standard practise may even contradict written aspects of the documents comprising your contract. For example, if your contract states that you are entitled to four weeks holiday, but the company has given all employees 5 weeks holiday over the past year, standard practise would likely overrule in a court of law.

Your employer must provide the main part of your written statement of employment particulars (called a ‘principal statement’) on the first day of employment. They must provide the wider document by the end of your second month.

Terms and Conditions of Employment: What terms should my contract cover?
Employment contracts vary from employer to employer. Some will have been drafted by a solicitor and others will be drafted by the employer (and may even be unenforceable). The following are what should be included within your employment contracts:

Employment Contract

  • Name of your employer
  • Your name, job title (or description) and date your employment began. If you are continuing employment with the same employer under a different role or contract, the principal statement must also include the date you started the previous job.
  • Rate of pay (how much you will be payed, and when/how often you will be payed)
  • (Click here to read about unlawful deduction of wages)
  • Working hours (which days and what hours you will work, and how they may vary, including Sundays, nights and overtime)
  • Holiday entitlement
  • Place of work, and whether you may be required to relocate. (any other places you may work, if applicable, and your employer’s address.) - Working abroad? If you are required to work abroad for a period of more than one month, your employer must also outline how long you’ll be abroad, the currency in which you will be payed, any additional benefits (eg. accommodation) and the terms relating to your return to the UK.
  • The length of your employment (how long your job is expected to last or the end date for a fixed term contract.)
  • The conditions of your probation period, if any. (how long this period lasts, and the conditions upon which you may pass or fail, in order to continue your employment)
  • Employee benefits (fringe benefits) such as childcare support, mileage expenses, free or subsidised meals
  • Obligatory training and whether your employee will pay for this.
  • Your notice period (how many weeks notice you must provide to terminate your contract and leave your job, this may increase with the length of time you are in this role.

Additional documents to the contract

Within or additionally to the principal statement, on the first day of employment, your employer must also provide:
  • Sick pay and procedures
  • Maternity/paternity/adoption leave, parental leave and other paid leave

Policies and Procedures

The wider statement (to be provided by your employer within 2 months) must include:
  • Your pension and pension scheme
  • collective agreements, if applicable
  • Your right to non-compulsory training, provided by the employer
  • Disciplinary procedure
  • Grievance procedure

Changing employment contract

Your employer can change the written statement but they must notify you within one month of making the change. You may even find that through custom and practice you change your employment contract. For example:

"Mohammed was employed to work from 8am to 5pm Monday to Friday and this was stated within his employment contract. His boss, Michael, asks Mohammed to start earlier at 7.30am and ever since this is the time Mohammed turns up for work. By agreeing to turn up for no extra money Mohammed is agreeing to a variation in his contract through custom and practice. Mohammed should have agreed to either change his finish time or get paid more for the extra time worked."

The best advice is to always put in writing any changes to your employment contract and if you are giving up something or being asked to do more work then use this as a chance to negotiate better terms or remuneration.

Frequently Asked Questions
TUPE usually occurs when a business is taken over by a new company. Your new employers take over your contract as it was previously, including continuous employment (your start date is the same as it what before the takeover).

The new employer takes on responsibility for any failures of the previous employer, and liability if you need to make a claim against them.

They must honour your holiday entitlement and any collective agreements previously made.

Read more: Breach of Employment Contract

If you or your employer fail to meet any of the terms in your contract, you may find that you are able to resolve this issue informally.
If further action is required to reach a resolution:
If you have breached your contract your employer may choose to issue you with a formal disciplinary, which will likely stay on your employee records for a set time. If the breach of contract amounts to gross misconduct, this may be grounds for dismissal. (see terminating your employment contract)

If your employer has breached your contract and you may resign (see constructive dismissal,) take out a grievance, or, if this fails, take the issue to the employment tribunal.

There is a time limit for you to bring a case to tribunal, so check whether you have time for the completion of any grievance procedure before the limit expires.
Your contract of employment can be terminated by:

Have you got a problem with your employment contract?

if you are in a dispute with your employer regarding your contract of employment you can get in contact and see how we can help you.

Whether you need help drafting your Grievance Letter or want us to handle your application to the Employment Tribunal, our solicitor provides specialist advice at competitive rates. We will even help you work out whether you have a case worth pursuing.

Employment Law Specialists | Competitive Quotes | Straight Talking Legal Support

This content is provided free of charge for information purposes only. It does not constitute legal advice and should not be relied on as such. No responsibility for the accuracy and/or correctness of the information and commentary set out in the article, or for any consequences of relying on it, is assumed or accepted by any member of our company. For employment law advice please get in contact and speak to your employment law solicitors.
This content is provided free of charge for information purposes only. It does not constitute legal advice and should not be relied on as such. No responsibility for the accuracy and/or correctness of the information and commentary set out in the article, or for any consequences of relying on it, is assumed or accepted by any member of our company. For employment law advice please get in contact and speak to your employment law solicitors.
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