A written contract of employment is important because it protects you as a worker and clearly states what you can expect from your employer.
While it is not always essential to have an employment contract in writing – a verbal agreement can still be legally valid – it is far better for you to have an employment contract in writing.
It is a legal requirement for and employer to give their employees a ‘Written Statement of Employment’ if they are to be working for them for at least one month. This should be given to the employee within the first two months of the start of their employment.
Written Statement of Employment
This statement should include:
- your employer’s name
- your job title or a brief description of the work you will be doing
- where you will be working, and your employer’s address if you will be working in more than one place
- when you started work
- the date on which your continuous employment began (this is important when considering your entitlement to other benefits set out below)
- how much you will earn
- when you will be paid
On the statement you should also find details about:
- your hours of work
- your holiday entitlement (and whether this includes public holidays)
- the length of notice you and your employer have to give if you leave or are dismissed
- how long your job is expected to continue, if it is temporary
- any agreements between your employer and a trade union that affect the terms of your employment
- who to complain to and how to complain if there is a grievance
A written statement need not include information about sick pay, disciplinary and grievance procedures. However, an employer is legally required to have this information printed somewhere that employees can easily access it, for example in an employee handbook.
Employers can use contracts of employment to set out their terms in more detail. They may include covenants concerning gardening leave, should they want to reserve the right to place an employee on garden leave during their notice. An employer may also wish to detail their policies on intellectual property, trade secrets and confidentiality.
It is important to have these terms in a written contract so that you as an employee know where you stand legally with your employer and what kind of liability they will accept in various circumstances.