A question we are often asked here at View HR is “Do I really have to issue my staff with an employment contract?”. Technically, the answer to this is no. However, by law you do have issue them with a written statement of the terms of conditions of their employment. This must include the following details:
- The employer’s name;
- The employee’s name;
- The start date;
- The date that ‘continuous employment’ started;
- Pay, including how often and when;
- Working hours;
- A brief description of the duties of the job;
- The employer’s address;
- The places or places where the employee will work;
- Job title;
- Holiday and holiday pay, including an explanation of how its calculated if the employee leaves.
In addition to the above, the following information should also be provided. It may be contained within the same document, or supporting documents, however, it should be made clear where the employee can find the information:
- The amount of sick leave and pay;
- Pension arrangements;
- The period of notice required from either party when employment ends;
- How long the job is expected to last (if its temporary or fixed term);
- Details regarding any ‘collective agreements’;
- If the employee will be required to work abroad, any terms that apply;
- Disciplinary and grievance procedures.
We find that it is more often than not it is preferable to include legal obligations of both the employer and the employee within a contract of employment and have separate non-contractual disciplinary and grievance procedures. The employee intranet can be a good place to store procedures, however, printed documents should be provided if employees do not have regular access to a computer as part of their usual duties at work.
In addition to information about employment rights, employers may use a contract to protect themselves by adding in clauses around topics such as intellectual property, data protection and confidentiality to name a few.
At the moment, employers are required to issue the written statement (in whatever form) within the first two months of employment. However, from 6th April 2020 the law is changing to require employers to issue the written statement from the first day of employment.
The legislative changes in April are part of a wider package known as The Good Work Plan, also require further information to be added to the employment contract, that is not currently required by law. These are:
- The days of the week on which the employee will be expected to work (e.g. Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, rather than just “three days per week”);
- Whether working hours are variable (and if so, how they will be determined);
- All benefits provided by the employer;
- Details of the probationary period, including the duration and conditions for passing;
- Details of training, including any mandatory training, and that which is not funded by the employer.
These changes are being introduced by the Government following the 2017 Taylor review, which made recommendations to improve employee rights.
If a contract is breached by either party, this may give the other party the right to bring a legal claim. As a result of this, employers need to think carefully about the commitments they make within a contract, particularly given the new requirement to include details of all benefits. For example, the statement “Pay reviews will be conducted each May on an annual basis” can be written with good intentions, but if May is busy one year and you overlook this, then it can create problems in the future!
Your employees may have had the same employment contract for years. The team at View HR recently encountered one that had been typed on a typewriter! If this is the case, now is probably time for a review, as even if you have included all of the details listed above, employment law is likely to have been updated during that time.
Under circumstances like this, and for other valid reasons, employers do sometimes need to make changes to contracts of employment and in these instances, employees should be consulted about any changes.