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Understanding Your Employment Contract

By: Dave Howell - Updated: 23 May 2017 | comments*Discuss
 
Contract Employment Employee Employer

Once the excitement of landing your job wears off, you now have to think clearly about the contract of employment you'll be offered. Once you accept an offer of employment a contract of employment comes into effect. This can be an oral agreement or a written document.

If your employer does not normally issue a formal contract, you are entitled by law to a written statement of your employment within two months of starting work. A written statement isn't a legal contract, but if you do find yourself in an Employment Tribunal, evidence of your terms and conditions could come in very handy indeed.

What is a Contract of Employment?

The terms of your employment are usually set out in a formal document that gives written details of your responsibilities and duties. The contract binds you and your employer together legally after you have both agreed the terms of the contract. When you get your contract it should include this information as an absolute minimum:
  • The legal name of your employing company.
  • Your employer's address.
  • Your full name.
  • The date your employment began.
  • Your salary and how it will be calculated and when it will be paid.
  • Your hours of work.
  • What your holiday entitlement is.
  • Your full job title.
  • The period of notice you have to give.

Some of this information may need further detail. If you will be working at different offices for instance, ensure this is stated in your contract. If your employer will allow you to Work From Home for a percentage of your working week, this should be clearly stated as well. The basic idea behind the contract is to give you and your employer a document that you can both refer back to if any disputes arise. Note that if you are a freelance or contract worker your employer is not legally bound to issue you with a contract of employment, even though this might be a good idea for both parties so you understand the terms of the current working relationship.

Other information that you should be aware of but that is often not included in a contract of employment or an employment statement that is handed to you is usually contained in your employer's handbook. The human resources department or company secretary should have a copy of this if they don't normally issue one to each new employee. The handbook usually includes:

  • Your employer's disciplinary, dismissal and Grievance Procedures.
  • How injury is handled.
  • How sickness is handled.
  • What your employer's view is regarding trade union membership.
  • What pension scheme arrangements may be available.

Before you sign your contract of employment, or agree to the oral contract you have entered into, check the handbook to ensure you understand these extra elements of your employment. If you've never seen a contract of employment before it's a good idea to familarise yourself with the usual layout. You can read an overview of contracts of employment and how they are structured on the ACAS website: www.acas.org.uk

Changing Your Contract of Employment

If your employer wants to change the terms of your employment as they are set out in your contract, they must first obtain written permission from you. This applies to whatever type of contract you have including written or oral. If you are not consulted before changes are made, you may be able to sue for breach of contract. Any changes that you agree to must be backed up with a written statement within one month of the changes taking place. You can read more about changing your contract of employment on the ACAS website: www.acas.org.uk

Working Hours

You contract of employment should clearly set out your hours of work. These are governed by the Working Time Regulations. Your employer has a legal responsibility to ensure that:
  • You don't work more than 48 hours a week within any 17 week period. Some workers will need to work longer hours. If this applies to you, you must have this agreement in writing with your employer, who must also allow you to bring that agreement to an end if you need or want to.
  • You have 11 hours of rest between each working day.
  • You have 24 hours rest in any given seven days - usually taken as the weekend.
  • You have a break of at least 20 minutes if you work longer than six hours.
  • You have four weeks paid leave per year.
  • You only work eight hours in 24 if you are a night worker.

Don't forget that you and your employer can agree that you opt out of weekly working time limits. You both must agree to this. More information about the Work Time Regulations is on the BSI website.

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Share Your Story, Join the Discussion or Seek Advice..
[Add a Comment]
Em - Your Question:
Hi, the company I work for have just hit us with the bombshell that they are reducing our contracted 52 weeks to a 48 weeks contract, with a 30 day consultation to discuss. So in short forcing us to pay for two more weeks leave therefor reducing our wages and our pro rata payed leave. Are there any suggestions that could prevent the company from doing so? Thankyou

Our Response:
If the company is struggling financially this may be a way of them alleviating the problem. The only alternative for them may be to make people redundant. Seek advice from your union or whoever is is representing you in the consultation.
SafeWorkers - 23-May-17 @ 2:21 PM
I have a contract that states I work 4 days out of 7. My manager said to me i need to work 5, "you can either agree now, or we'll go down the HR route", thesee were her words. I have been working 5 days but it's affecting my family life, I gave a young child, can I go back to working 4 days as stated in my contract without being penalised by my manager?
Pop - 23-May-17 @ 6:01 AM
Hi, the company I work for have just hit us with the bombshell that they are reducing our contracted 52 weeks to a 48 weeks contract, with a 30 day consultation to discuss.... So in short forcing us to pay for two more weeks leave therefor reducing our wages and our pro rata payed leave.... Are there any suggestions that could prevent the company from doing so? Thankyou
Em - 22-May-17 @ 3:27 PM
Ellie - Your Question:
Hi, my manager recently cut my contract from 24 to 16 hours hours, last month and this current month I have only been receiving 8 hours every week, I have spoken to him about this twice with no result, am I able to claim my contract wage since he did not stick to the agreed contract leaving me with half of my agreed wage each month, thanks in advance x

Our Response:
Yes if your contract is a standard employment contract then your employer cannot reduce your hours without your consent. You should be able to take action for breach of contract - see our guide here for more information.
SafeWorkers - 19-May-17 @ 2:43 PM
Deb - Your Question:
If a contract says hourly rate is £9 and for 13 years I have had £8 am I able to claim this back. Only just looked at my contract as I am leaving due to no pay rise is over 10 years What can I do pls ?

Our Response:
Yes if that's the case, you should first speak to your employer about it, then seek advice from a solicitor about how to claim for this breach of contract.
SafeWorkers - 19-May-17 @ 11:42 AM
Hi, my manager recently cut my contract from 24 to 16 hours hours, last month and this current month I have only been receiving 8 hours every week, I have spoken to him about this twice with no result, am I able to claim my contract wage since he did not stick to the agreed contract leaving me with half of my agreed wage each month, thanks in advance x
Ellie - 18-May-17 @ 7:20 PM
If a contract says hourly rate is £9 and for 13 years I have had £8 am I able to claim this back. Only just looked at my contract as I am leaving due to no pay rise is over 10 years What can I do pls ?
Deb - 18-May-17 @ 7:55 AM
Hi there... I am on a 40 hour contract but the store I work opens until 6pm and I am made to be in for 8.30 am. I seldom get a lunch because there aren't enough staff for me to get one and end up doing between 47 and 50 hours a week.... How are my employer getting away with this?
JmJ1984 - 17-May-17 @ 8:09 PM
Dawn - Your Question:
My contract states I am expected to work for at least 32 hours per 4 day working week. At the moment I'm working mon-fri 8:30-5pm 2 roles. I'm now being told they are making that redundant and giving me one role but thurs-mon 11-7:30pm but only allowing me to interview for the office hours role I actually want. Is there anything I can do?

Our Response:
Giving you a role that is not in the normal working week is outside/breach of your contract (if the contract specifically states a "working week") - so you could possibly accept redundancy in this case. If there is an alernative post available at the hours you normally work, but more than one person to take it, then it may be fair to interview. You should call ACAS with specific information to hand when you contact them.
SafeWorkers - 16-May-17 @ 11:48 AM
My contract states I am expected to work for at least 32 hours per 4 day working week. At the moment I'm working mon-fri 8:30-5pm 2 roles. I'm now being told they are making that redundant and giving me one role but thurs-mon 11-7:30pm but only allowing me to interview for the office hours role I actually want. Is there anything I can do?
Dawn - 15-May-17 @ 11:12 AM
I was in full time employment. I was given a zero hour contract but full time hours on the contract. They said 45 hours. Made me leave work now they only have me 24 hours in a whole week. What can I do?
Sahn - 14-May-17 @ 8:16 PM
b - Your Question:
I want to book time off of work for 3 weeks but my manager wont let me. there isn't anything in my contract that says I cant take 3 weeks off at a time. am I entitled to take my holiday whenever I want for however long I want and what action should I take to get it. they haven't really provided a reason as to why I cant have only that one other person on my team as like two days off in the period I want. thanks

Our Response:
An Employer can restrict when an employee takes leave. Ask your employer why they don't want you to take 3 weeks at once and what solution they can suggest.
SafeWorkers - 9-May-17 @ 1:49 PM
Shan - Your Question:
I have started a job were I have a contract for 7.20 hr after working for a month waiting for my first pay check. They asked me to sign a new contract for less money as they said I was only 20 and they paid me minimum wage. Can they do this

Our Response:
No if you take a job having agreed a particular wage and your contract details what that wage is, your employer will be in breach of contract if they change it without your consent. Our article onobjecting to changes in an employment contract gives more information.
SafeWorkers - 9-May-17 @ 10:20 AM
wizard - Your Question:
My company just changed our hours of work from a 45hrs week over a 5 day week to 45 hrs one week to 54hrs 2nd week witch they say works out to be about 48hrs a week over the year , can I say no to more hours after completting 54hrs in 5 days , and not work the 6th day ? my shift works out at 5 day week 12 hrs mon , 9 hrs tue , 12 hrs wed , 9 hrs thr , 12 hrs fri, and on a 6 day week another 9 hrs for sat ? and sometimes longer this is just the average hours , I dont want the 6th day of work as I am left feeling burnt out after the 5 days therefore still going over the 48hrs per week

Our Response:
You can't simply refuse. You must take action in the appropriate way. Your employer cannot simply change the terms of your contract without your consent. Read our Guide Here which explains what you can do whenyour employer wants to change your contract.
SafeWorkers - 8-May-17 @ 11:15 AM
i want to book time off of work for 3 weeks but my manager wont let me. there isn't anything in my contract that says i cant take 3 weeks off at a time. am i entitled to take my holiday whenever i want for however long i want and what action should i take to get it. they haven't really provided a reason as to why i cant have only that one other person on my team as like two days off in the period i want. thanks
b - 8-May-17 @ 9:14 AM
I have started a job were I have a contract for 7.20 hr after working for a month waiting for my first pay check. They asked me to sign a new contract for less money as they said I was only 20 and they paid me minimum wage. Can they do this
Shan - 7-May-17 @ 12:24 PM
my company just changed our hours of work from a 45hrs week over a 5 day week to 45 hrs one week to 54hrs 2nd week witch they say works out to be about 48hrs a week over the year , can i say no to more hours after completting 54hrs in 5 days , and not work the 6th day ? my shift works out at 5 day week 12 hrs mon , 9 hrs tue , 12 hrs wed , 9 hrs thr , 12 hrs fri, and on a 6 day week another 9 hrs for sat ? and sometimes longer this is just the average hours , i dont want the 6th day of work as i am left feeling burnt out after the 5 days therefore still going over the 48hrs per week
wizard - 6-May-17 @ 12:13 PM
I am a senior carer my contract states senior carer can my boss pay my carers wage rather than seniors wage when there are 2 seniors in the building
Tree - 2-May-17 @ 11:26 PM
kenneth - Your Question:
Im contracted to 25-30 hours but my employer doesnt always rota me in for 25 am I still entitled to be paid the minimum of 25 even though im not getting the hours

Our Response:
Is this actually what your contract says? Usually a specific number of hours will be given in an employment contract. If you are on a zero hours contract, the employer may tell you you're likely to be given a certain number of hours but are not obliged to give them to you (nor are you obliged to accept them).
SafeWorkers - 2-May-17 @ 11:33 AM
im contracted to 25-30 hours but my employer doesnt always rota me in for 25 am i still entitled to be paid the minimum of 25 even though im not getting the hours
kenneth - 1-May-17 @ 3:06 AM
I am on a minimum 20 hour per week contract. For several weeks now I have worked 42 hour shifts. Does my employer have to continue paying me 42 hours a week or can he reduce my time to 20hours
Sedge - 30-Apr-17 @ 9:30 AM
Hi, I am due to start a new job and have received the contract. It states that I am contracted to work 40 hours a week with 1/2 an hour unpaid lunch. Am I entitled to a paid break as I will be working over 6 hours a day?
Julie - 28-Apr-17 @ 11:53 AM
Dan - Your Question:
Hi their,I'm working at a parcel place and my contract states I work 19 hours a weeks which comes to 2 9 and a half hour shifts. This past month my employer have told me not to come in as work is quiet. I am wondering if this happens, should I still get paid.

Our Response:
Yes - but there will be exceptions (a) if your contract has a clause that specifies otherwise or (b) You are on a zero hours contract.
SafeWorkers - 28-Apr-17 @ 10:46 AM
Hi their, I'm working at a parcel place and my contract states I work 19 hours a weeks which comes to 2 9 and a half hour shifts. This past month my employer have told me not to come in as work is quiet. I am wondering if this happens, should I still get paid.
Dan - 28-Apr-17 @ 9:08 AM
I work 30 hours a week as stated in my contact, our company has now said that we have to do a sleep in for £35 a night, this will take me above my contracted hours and is not at my normal hourly rate. Can they make me do above my contracted hours and for less than my stated hourly rate. They have put this in place without discussing it with any of the staff.
Sals - 26-Apr-17 @ 11:57 PM
Hi! I started working last wednesday in a many job. I have not sign the contract yet, and today I said my boss I don´t want to work with them any more. She say that I have contracted 6 weeks notice period, and that I have to work. After long talking, she asked me to work one more week. I can give her one more week (actually 9 days), but I am worry because I don´t know the law. If I have been working only one week, do I have to give notice period? can she denounce me for breach of contract? as i said I haver never sign the contract or even been paid. Thanks!
ltz - 26-Apr-17 @ 9:11 PM
Gem - Your Question:
I am contracted to work 35 hours a week as set out in my contract. Last few weeks I have only been given 20hours a week.Do they still have to pay me 35hours? Thank you

Our Response:
Yes if your contract says your hours of work are 35 per week, that is what you should be paid for. See guide here for more information on what do about a breach of contract.
SafeWorkers - 26-Apr-17 @ 2:32 PM
Craig - Your Question:
I have been on sick for over a month and have just been and had a well being meeting with HR and a manager and been told I am getting fazed back in to work over a 2 week period. I am contracted to 40 hours a week but been told I am only getting the hours I work which means I am 20 hours short week one. Is this right?

Our Response:
Yes this is common, your employer should pay SSP for the days that you are sick and your wage for the time you are in work.
SafeWorkers - 26-Apr-17 @ 2:11 PM
I am contracted to work 35 hours a week as set out in my contract. Last few weeks I have only been given 20hours a week. Do they still have to pay me 35hours? Thank you
Gem - 25-Apr-17 @ 6:20 PM
I have been on sick for over a month and have just been and had a well being meeting with HR and a manager and been told I am getting fazed back in to work over a 2 week period . I am contracted to 40 hours a week but been told I am only getting the hours I work which means I am 20 hours short week one. Is this right?
Craig - 25-Apr-17 @ 3:15 PM
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