Contracts of Employment
The law requires that all employees should receive the minimum of a statement of terms and conditions of employment within two months of commencement of employment.
Contracts will vary in their length and complexity ranging from very simple statements of terms and conditions to detailed and lengthy contracts including Directors' Service Agreements. Employers should ensure that the contracts prepared are consistent with the terms in any offer of employment.
Basic Information Required
Particulars of Employment must contain certain minimum information including:
- hours of work
- rate of pay or salary details
- sickness and holiday provision
- place of employment
- notice periods
Failure to provide such minimum information entitles the employee to make an application to an Employment Tribunal to decide what the relevant terms are (which might not be to the employer's liking if there is confusion or disagreement).
Basic particulars of employment can (and in many cases should) be amplified by separate policies and procedures including :
- disciplinary and grievance procedures
- health and safety policies
- child care/maternity leave
- equal opportunities
- other job specific similar policies.
Disciplinary and Grievance Procedures
Disciplinary and grievance procedures can be included in the Contract, and have contractual effect, or be referred to in the contract but set out in a separate document, when they may or may not have contractual effect (there are some advantages to the procedures being separate from the contract and non-contractual)
Other policies, such as Equal Opportunities, Health sand Safety, Maternity and many others specific to the particular industry or workplace should be contained in separate documents, or even gathered together in an "Employee Handbook"
Employment Contracts are a Benefit to the Employer
Contracts of Employment / statements of Particulars of Employment will be relevant in other less obvious ways. E.g.
- In a redundancy exercise, they will be used to determine what the employee can be required to do and whether the employee can be asked to change his/her place of work, which in turn will affect redundancy entitlement.
- In an Equal Pay claim, defining the employee's job will affect the "like with like" comparison that such claims involve.
- Perhaps most importantly of all, if a Tribunal claim of whatever sort is made, it is embarrassing at best for the employer to admit that not even the most basic documents are in place, and at worst may colour the Tribunal's attitude to the employer when it comes to its decision. A well organised employer is bound to find it easier to justify decisions than a disorganised employer will.
What can possibly be worse than not having proper contracts and policies?
Having them and :
- Not understanding them (get advice at the outset)
- Not following them (you've just wasted your money getting them drawn up, and worse is to come)
- Applying them inconsistently (you've just wasted your money etc.)
- Failing to review them regularly (new laws coming in, so get advice regularly)
- All or a combination of the above (oh dear)