Employment contract

It is common for workers to believe that they do not have an employment contract unless they have a signed piece of paper in their possession. This is not necessarily true. If you perform work for someone else in return for money, you may have an employment contract. A number of factors affect whether or not someone is working under a contract of service (which means as an employee) or under a contract for services but the existence of a written employment contract is not one of them.

The key identifying criterion of a contract of service is mutuality of obligation. This means that the employer has an obligation to provide work and the employee has an obligation to perform it. If you are working under a contract of service, you have an employment contract.

Employment contracts may be written or oral. Oral contracts can be harder to enforce due to lack of certainty about what the parties have agreed. This is why, given the choice, many people prefer the relative security and certainty of a written contract.

Whether your contract is written or oral, you have certain minimum rights, which are given to you by statute (law). These are called statutory rights, and your employer must adhere to them. No form of employment contract can override your statutory rights.

Statutory rights

Your statutory rights entitle you to:

· receive the National Minimum Wage;

· protection against unlawful deductions from your wages or salary;

· receive the statutory minimum amount of paid holiday;

· receive the statutory minimum length of rest breaks;

· protection from being made to work more than 48 hours per week;

· decide to work more than 48 hours per week;

· protection against unlawful discrimination on the grounds of age, race (including ethnic or national origin, colour, or nationality), disability, religion or belief, sex, sexual orientation, gender reassignment, being married or in a civil partnership, or being pregnant or on maternity leave;

· protection for whistleblowing (which means reporting wrongdoing in your workplace); and

· not to be treated less favourably if you are a part-time worker.

You may also have statutory rights to sick pay, maternity, paternity or adoption pay, and to shared parental pay.

Written statement of employment particulars

All employers must provide their employees with a written statement of their terms and conditions of employment if that employment is due to last for one month or longer. Employers who provide written employment contracts almost always incorporate this written statement into the contract. However, employers who rely on an oral contract still have an obligation to provide a written statement of employment particulars. They must ensure their employee receives this document within 2 months of the start of their employment. However, if the employee is to be working abroad (for example, a nanny who accompanies her charges to another country due to a parent’s overseas’ job posting), the employer must provide this written statement before the employee leaves the United Kingdom.

As a minimum, the written statement of employment particulars must include:

· the business’s name;

· the employee’s name, start date, and either their job title or a description of their work duties;

· if a previous period of employment with the same employer counts towards a period of continuous employment, the starting date of that period;

· salary details (amount and frequency of payment);

· working hours, including any obligation to work weekends, nights, public holidays and to undertake overtime;

· holiday entitlement (which must also stipulate whether this includes public holidays);

· regular place of work, and whether the employee has any obligation to relocate if requested to do so;

· if the employee is expected to work in different places (for example, a nanny share alternating location between two separate addresses), details of the relevant addresses and the employer’s address;

· the notice periods that the employee or employer must give in order to end the employment relationship;

· if the job is temporary, the expected end date of employment;

· if the job is fixed-term, the end date of employment;

· details of pension arrangements;

· details of any relevant collective agreements;

· details of who to take a grievance to and how to complain about the handling of a grievance; and

· how to complain about a dismissal or disciplinary decision taken by the employer.

The Acas helpline is an excellent source of free guidance for employees with questions about their employment.