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Laying the ground work in an employment relationship!

We’re often found advising businesses on HR matters who, for various reasons, avoided taking advice or involving outside resources at an early stage but instead contact us when they’re embroiled in a dispute or process, which could have so easily been avoided. We therefore felt this was a prime time to take everything back to the roots and cover some basic, but very common, queries.

Employment contracts

There is no legal obligation to provide an employment contract (except for during an apprenticeship), however, there is an obligation to provide all employees with a written statement of their terms and conditions of employment which contains certain legal information (known as a section 1 statement) and so most employers do this in the form of a contract.

The statement must be given within two months of the employee starting work and it doesn’t need to be signed by the employee, although it is good practice.

Handbooks and policies

As a bare minimum, employers are must have a disciplinary policy (and rules), grievance procedure and provide certain information about pensions, unless these matters are already covered in the section 1 statement (although we would advise against including full disciplinary and grievance procedures in the statement). If you employ five or more staff members, you are also required to have a health and safety policy.


All employees must be provided with a statement showing their gross and net pay, as well as any deductions, together with the reasons for the deductions (e.g. tax and National Insurance).

Sick pay

Generally, there is no legal right for employees to receive full pay whilst they are off sick. They may however be entitled to receive statutory sick pay (subject to certain eligibility criteria) and, if the contract provides for it, they may also be entitled to receive contractual sick pay.

Statutory sick pay is a specified amount (which is subject to tax and National Insurance) available for up to 28 weeks. An employee must earn a certain amount before being eligible for statutory sick pay and it is not payable for the first three days of sickness absence.


The amount of notice to be given by either party must be stated in the section 1 statement. If no notice is stated, the minimum period an employee must give you is one week, and the minimum you must give an employee is one week for each complete year of service (up to a maximum of 12 weeks).


All employees with two years’ service are entitled upon request to written reasons for their dismissal, although it is advisable to provide written reasons automatically upon dismissal. If an employee is dismissed whilst pregnant or on maternity, adoption or shared parental leave, you must provide the reasons, regardless of their length of service and without the need for them to make a request.


Generally, there is no legal obligation for an employer to provide a reference. There are exceptions to this rule, for example if there is a contractual obligation, if the individual is applying for certain roles within the financial services sector, or if a refusal to provide a reference is discriminatory.

It is possible to give a bad reference, but only if you genuinely believe it to be true and accurate, and you have reasonable grounds for that belief. There is no obligation to provide a comprehensive reference, but any information you do give must not be misleading. If in doubt, check!

View HR have a wealth of experience in all areas of HR and employment law and can provide advice and assistance at every stage of the process, including drafting contracts and policies as well as advising on disciplinary and grievance processes. Gemma Murphy, Director commented that “in recent month’s I have been working with a new client to introduce contracts as they had previously come unstuck in the Tribunal, the Judge hadn’t looked very favourably upon them!”

ViewHR is an HR and Employment Law Consultancy, working with businesses to provide specialist independent HR and Employment Law guidance and support. The team has experience within the Garden Centre industry.

For any enquiries, please contact ViewHR at or on 01425 205391 or visit our website at