Your employer is required by law to provide all employees with a written copy of their contract of employment. It should detail the main and most important terms and conditions of your employment.
This is very important. Your terms of service provide clarity about what is expected of you and your employer and provide protection for you both if things go wrong. In short, your written contract should ensure everyone knows where they stand.
Consider the terms of your agreement carefully
Although your employer is legally obliged to provide you with a written copy of the main terms of your employment, this document does not have to include everything. Most contracts usually contain what are known as express terms (i.e. those that are written down in your contract or that you agreed verbally between you and your employer) and implied terms.
Implied terms are not necessarily written down but are still binding. These might include things both parties are legally required to do or are obvious as a result of the circumstances of your employment.
Finally, there are other places where you may find essential information about the conditions of your employment. These include the staff handbook and your disciplinary and grievance policy documents.
So, what must – and should – be included in your contract?
Your written contract of employment
In the first instance, your employer must provide you with a written statement of terms (also sometimes known as particulars of employment) within one month of you starting work. This is not the same as your contract of employment but usually gives you a good idea of what you can expect your contract to include.
The written contract provided to you should contain details of the following:
Employer’s details and start date
It perhaps goes without saying that your employment contract should contain your employer’s full details, namely their name and address, your details and the start date of your employment. Your contract may also sometimes include the details of any probationary period that your job is subject to.
Job title and description
This will normally include your place of work and may allow you and your employer some flexibility about where you work from.
Employment hours and salary
Your contract should include details of your gross salary (i.e. before tax, National Insurance, and any other deductions) and when your salary is paid. This should also include details of your employer provided pension scheme.
In addition, your contract should set out the hours you are expected to work, up to a maximum of 48 hours a week. You can agree to work longer than your contracted hours if it is reasonable to do so.
You may find additional information in this section such as what deductions your employer is entitled to make from your salary. There are restrictions on what your employer can deduct from your salary. If you are in any doubt about this, you should seek advice.
Your contract may also include details of what work-related expenses you will be able to claim back and what documentation you will need to support your expenses claims.
Finally, you can expect your contract to include details of your holiday entitlement, including how much holiday you are entitled to and when you can or can’t take it. There is a legal minimum of 28 days a year; your contract should clarify whether this includes public holidays or not (and whether you can carry forward any unused holiday into a new year).
Sick pay and absences
Although you may be entitled to statutory sick pay, your contract may also provide further sick pay entitlements over and above the statutory minimum. If so, the details of when and what you’ll be entitled to should be clearly set out.
The circumstances under which your employer can suspend or terminate your employment are important and should be made clear, including the notice period required. Note that the circumstances in which you may be dismissed are often contained in the staff handbook or the organisation’s disciplinary polices.
Legal terminology used in a contract
You may find that at the end of your contract there are various paragraphs entitled “severability” and “jurisdiction”. These are standard clauses. The severability paragraph refers to the fact that each paragraph, subparagraph or clause of your contract stands independently and will be unaffected if other paragraphs are found to be invalid. The jurisdiction paragraph normally confirms the laws by which your contract is governed, for example, in England, it will usually be English law and law courts.
You should always take the time to read through your contract and make sure you understand what it contains. If you have any concerns about it, or the terms and conditions of your employment, please get in touch with us.