There is no legal requirement for your employer to give you a written contract of employment, but they do have to provide a written statement of particulars of employment. S1 Employment Rights Act 1996 gives you the right to a written statement of terms and conditions of employment. This is called a Section 1 Statement. S3 Employment Rights Act 1996 says that the Section 1 Statement must contain the disciplinary and grievance rules and procedure which apply to your employment as well as providing the main terms and conditions of employment including;
An employment contract is a document in which you and your employer agree on the work that you are going to do, how you will do it and when. Your employer agrees to pay you an amount of money in exchange for the agreed work. You have a number of rights given to you by statute, but the basic relationship between you and your employer is covered by the terms and conditions of the employment contract. Your contract can be made up of any or all of the following terms;
These can be written down in the contract or spoken. A spoken agreement is as binding as one that is written down. It can apply even if you and your employer have not signed it. You may have a grievance because your employer is trying to change an express term of your contract or is not doing what is supposed to happen under the express term. If you have a problem about an express term after you have signed the contract, then you should write a problem solving grievance to address it.
These are terms which are not written down in the contract but are as much a part of the contract as if they were. They have been developed by the courts (known as the common law) and will be implied in circumstances where it is necessary to do so, or if the parties would have agreed to those terms after discussions. Terms can be implied in the following ways;
You may have a grievance because you and your employer agreed something that was not written down, and your employer see’s things differently to what was agreed. You may also have a grievance because you need to imply a term into your employment contract to make it work better, or enable you to do your job better.
These are terms that are imposed by the courts if they are a necessary part of a particular type of employment contract. The most important ones are the term of mutual trust and confidence, and the duty of fidelity.
The term of mutual trust and confidence
Every contract of employment contains this implied term that neither an employer or an employee will act so as to breach the duty of mutual trust and confidence that exists between them without good reason. If either you or your employer breaches this term, either of you can take action against the other. If you breach the term, your employer can terminate your contract of employment after going through a disciplinary process to establish that you have indeed breached it. If your employer breaches the term, you can resign and claim constructive dismissal if a grievance does not resolve the breach, or if the problem is so serious that you are forced to leave the job immediately. You would need to show that your employer’s behaviour was likely to destroy or seriously damage mutual trust and confidence even if your employer did not mean this to happen. Most unresolved problems between employees and employer’s are a breach of mutual trust and confidence. If your employer does not follow policy and procedure in dealing with your grievance or ignores your grievance, it would be a breach of this duty. Another example is where your employer imposes changes to your working arrangements.
The duty of fidelity
Every employment contract contains this implied term that an employee will work for their employer with good faith and fidelity. The duty of fidelity requires that you should have regard to your employer’s interests. It does not mean that your employer’s interests are more important than yours. Some examples are the duty not to compete with your employer, and the duty of confidentiality.
Some terms can also be imposed into an employment contract by statute. As an example, sections 64-66 Equality Act 2010 impose a sex equality clause into the contract of employment in particular circumstances.
Terms can also be incorporated from other documents such as staff handbooks, and collective agreements.
Some other provisions that you may find in your employment contract are;
Intellectual Property – generally everything you create at work belongs to your employer. It becomes your employer’s “intellectual property”
Restrictive covenants – A restrictive covenant is a section (clause) in an employment contract which says that an employee is not allowed to compete with a previous employer for a certain period after the employment contract has ended. It can also say that the employee cannot deal with any customers of the previous employer by using information gained during the previous employment.
The types of restrictive covenants generally used are;
The Courts will generally not support a restrictive covenant against an employee on the grounds that it is a restraint of trade and contrary to public policy. If the previous employer can prove that the restrictive covenant is important to protect legitimate business interests, and it extends only as far as is reasonably necessary to protect those interests then it will be upheld and enforced by the Courts.
Garden Leave clause – this is a clause that applies at the end of your employment. You will remain an employee on full pay during your notice period, but you will not be required to work. The aim of garden leave is to keep you from working with a competitor until any information you have has expired.
Warranty confirming eligibility to work in the UK – you assure your employer through the warranty that you are entitled to work in the UK.
Reasonable amendments – a clause which allows your employer to make reasonable changes to the employment contract without your agreement.
If your employer tries to change the terms of your contract without your agreement, or without giving you anything acceptable in exchange for the changes, you would have a claim in the Employment Tribunal. You should start addressing this problem by raising a formal grievance.
ACAS – Contracts of employment
GOV.UK – Employment Contracts
CAB – Contracts of employment
Money Advice Service: Employment Contracts, your rights and key terms explained
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