Contract of Employment Guide

 

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What is a contract of employment?

What is a contract of employment?


If you think a contract of employment is just another bit of box ticking and no one ever looks at them, think again. Whilst you don’t need to have one in writing it certainly helps to clarify things, especially if there is a dispute down the line.

A contract of employment exists between employer and employee and forms the basis of the employment relationship. Generally speaking, it will cover things such as hours to be worked, scope of the job, holiday entitlement, sick pay, benefits and an employee’s duties and responsibilities.

A contract, whether written down or not, comes into force as soon as the employee accepts their job offer.

Why employers need to provide their employees with a contract of employment and the legalities around it

While you don’t need to have a contract of employment in writing it is always preferable so the terms are clear for both sides. With the best will in the world, not all business relationships work out positively. If this happens in your business, having comprehensive employment contracts can protect both parties and avoid costly litigation down the line.

Most terms will be set out in writing between an employer and employee – these are explicit contract terms and they will include things like rights, responsibilities and duties, remuneration, legal requirements and benefits.

However, there are also implied terms which may not necessarily be written explicitly but are considered part of the contract. For example, they could be very obvious things such as an employee not stealing from an employer or having a safe place to work in, things needed to make the contract of employment work e.g. like a driver having a driving licence and terms which have been established as custom and practice over time e.g. paying a Christmas bonus.

In addition, there will be statutory terms included in a contract, either implied or explicitly imposed by an Act of Parliament or statutory instrument, such as the right to be paid the minimum national wage.

If someone works for you for more than a month, as a minimum you’ll have to provide them with a written statement of employment within two months of their start date. This isn’t an employment contract but it will include the main conditions of employment.

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Benefits of providing employees with a contract


Employment guide 1-minAn employment contract allows you to be specific about terms. This can be especially important if you want to protect trade secrets, include non-compete agreements or if they will be working with sensitive or copyrighted material. It also allows both you, and your employee, to refer back in the event of a future dispute and can be used as evidence if necessary.

It also helps promote good working relationships between you and your employee, painting you as an organised and efficient employer and providing a solid working structure.

In most cases your HR representative should be able to draw up a standard contract of employment for your business, but if you do require more legal clauses these may warrant specific employment law support.

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Types of employment contracts


There are many types of contracts and you should take the time to review your requirements with an HR or legal professional. There are a few of them to chose from and they are each written slightly differently to ensure they cover the relevant job type, so think it through before you decide what you need. This document is a very important one to protect your business and your employees.

Employment guide 2-min

These contracts are for those employees who are employed by the business.

  • Permanent
  • Fixed-term
  • Part-time
  • Temporary
  • Director service agreement
  • Senior level
  • Employment guide 3-minApprentice or work-experience
  • Shift work
  • Homeworker
  • Term-time
  • Job-share
  • Zero-hours
  • Young worker
  • Compressed hours

 

Consultancy contracts

These contracts are for services provided for third party suppliers who are not employed by your business.

  • Independent consultancy
  • Contract for services

Once you know the type and level of contract you need you will be able to start building it. You will need to know everything about working for your company, joining processes, employee benefits, location, job role, confidentiality levels, GDPR compliance requirements, restrictive covenants and exit processes.

All this information will be used in the contract to outline specific clauses.

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Advice for creating employment contracts


  • Make sure they are issued on your company branded headed paper – present it well, after all its showcasing your business.
  • Make sure you have spellchecked the document before sending (Especially the employees name and address to ensure correct)
  • Double check any contract terms that you change. Remember once signed this is a legal document so if anything is incorrect its often only picked up when the individual either resigns or is terminated. By then its too late to change anything that isn’t quite right.
  • Have the same contract for all employees (Management level may differ, but all employees of the same ilk should have the same contracts to ensure fairness and ease of management and upkeep)
  • Build in the right level of compliance you need for your business, GDPR, Internal processes and confidentiality.

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What to do if the contract of employment needs to be varied/terminated

A contract can be varied by both the employer and the employee. An employer might do so because of changes in economic conditions or business reorganisation. An employee might wish to negotiate better terms e.g. pay, job role or benefits.

Changes can only be made with the agreement of both parties and should ideally be in writing. You should consult with your employee and explain any changes you wish to make.

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Download the Contract of Employment Guide PDF for our contract of employment guide.

This contract of employment template is a basic contract overview to give you an outline of what you should have in place for your employees.

Please make sure if you are drawing a contract up and are not an HR or legal professional with employment law experience we would urge you to seek professional support to make sure this document fully protects you and provides all the compliance elements that you will need to support your business.

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