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A contract between an employee and their employer forms the basis of the employment relationship and states the rights and duties of both parties. An employment contract can be either written or verbal. Even though a verbal contract has the same legal authority as a written contract it is hard to prove if there should be a dispute further down the line, so our advice would always be to provide a written contract of employment which is agreed and signed by both parties.
Don’t be put off by paperwork. We understand that contracts take time to prepare, but they really are a crucial foundation for building a mutually trusting relationship by outlining clear expectations and responsibilities which both the employee and the employer must adhere to.
A change in the law
Currently, an employer must provide an employee with a statement of terms of employment within 2 months of their start date, this details only the basic terms and conditions such as:
From April 2020 it will become law that an employer must provide a statement of terms of employment from an employee or worker’s first day. In addition, the list of mandatory information to be included in the statement will expand.
What needs to be included from April 2020?
All contracts include a mix of express terms and implied terms. Express terms are things like pay, hours and holiday entitlement and are specifically stated, either spoken (usually at the interview stage) or in writing. The implied terms refer to issues that are obvious to maintain a trusted and respectful relationship between employer and employee. These may not necessarily be spoken or written but are considered to be part of the contract, for example, to be provided with a healthy and safe environment in which to work in, not to steal from the organisation and so on.
From April 2020 all ‘workers’ (any individual who works for an employer: an employee, a worker or self-employed) are to receive a statement of terms of employment from day one, this should include:
It is good practice to clearly set all the terms applicable to the individual and their role and for the contract / statement to be given to the employee even before they take up their position. Taking this action will help to avoid any uncertainty or dispute.
An employee may bring a claim in an employment tribunal for breach of s.1 of the Employment Rights Act 1996 if a contract/statement of terms of employment is not provided within the timescale; is incorrect; or not kept up to date.
Review employment contracts regularly
Employment law changes frequently so it pays to keep abreast of what is going on and regularly review contracts to keep both parties protected. Ensure that any changes and the reasons for them are fully communicated to employees, whether or not you need their consent.
Things to consider when reviewing contracts include employee status, equal pay, minimum wage, part-time and fixed-term working, flexible working, working hours and parental leave.
Making changes to contracts
A change to a contract of employment should only be made with the agreement of the employee. In instances where an individual is changing their job role, all details of the new position must be discussed prior to the re-writing of the contract. All new terms and conditions must be negotiated and agreed prior to the new appointment.
It is important to check the employment history before proposing any changes, for example if the employee has been subject to a TUPE transfer it may be more difficult to vary their contract.
There are some instances where employees need to be consulted before changes can be made, these include changes to hours, pay, pension, redundancy, health and safety issues, works councils and transfers of business.
We’re here to help
If you believe your organisation would benefit from using the services of our HR professionals, please contact us on 0161 941 2426. We can save you time and give you peace of mind by reviewing your contracts and checking that all the clauses are relevant and legal.
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