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Understanding Your Employment Contract

By: Dave Howell - Updated: 20 Aug 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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[Add a Comment]
I'm on a 6 hour contract, and have no specific days, although I've opted to work my 6 hours on a Sunday, anything else I work is overtime. How does this affect my holiday? As they take the entire week I'm away, meaning I only have a few days of holiday left, but should they only take off the Sunday? Thanks, becca.
Becca - 20-Aug-17 @ 9:00 AM
Biela102 - Your Question:
I work 4 on 4 off days and one week I work 36 hours and second week 48 hours and the avarega is 42 hours which is fine but the overtime is paid one week after my 36 hours and then another week after 48 hours. Is it legal? It is difficult to understand it and I think that my overtime should be paid over 42 hours every week.

Our Response:
No, we would say that if your hours are 36 one week and 48 another week, then overtime applies to each week after completion of the respective working hours. Check with ACAS for clarification
SafeWorkers - 18-Aug-17 @ 12:34 PM
Andy T - Your Question:
I started a new job 2 months ago in a cafe, I am still in my probation period. When I started the job I was told it was a full time 30 hour minimum contact, however after a week I started to get sent home during my shift due to little custom. As a lot of the staff are on 0 hour contracts I asked my area manager whether that was the case to which he replied yes. Now I've read my contact it states that " your normal hours are four days in each week, worked on days and times agreed". Now I have found a new job and which to hand my notice in. They are demanding me to give a months notice. My question is can I hand a notice in and refuse hours offered or am I contracted to 30 hours a week?

Our Response:
If it says you are contracted to work four days in each week then that's what your contract is for. You should really give the required notice period (which will be stated in your contract). If however, you have not been given/paid for the hours detailed in your contact, you could claim that your employer has been in breach of contract, in which case they may not pursue it should you decide not to work your full notice period.
SafeWorkers - 17-Aug-17 @ 11:03 AM
I work 4 on 4 off days and one week I work 36 hours and second week 48 hours and the avarega is 42 hours which is fine but the overtime is paid one week after my 36 hours and then another week after 48 hours. Is it legal? It is difficult to understand it and I think that my overtime should be paid over 42 hours every week.
Biela102 - 16-Aug-17 @ 9:35 PM
Baz1402 - Your Question:
My working time on my contract is 45 hours Monday to Friday. For the past 2.5 y are I have worked 60 hours per week (5 12 hour days Monday to Friday). Is it safe to assume my contract would now have changed to these working hours? I do not receive over time about the 45 hours contracted

Our Response:
No, you are contracted to work 45 hours and your employer should not expect you to work 60 hours on a regular basis for no extra pay. Talk to you employer about this. If you're not happy with the response, raise a formal grievance.
SafeWorkers - 16-Aug-17 @ 1:47 PM
BCT - Your Question:
Hi I've just signed a contract for a new job. It was advertised as 15 hours a week 6am-9.45am. However they asked me what days I am available and said if required you will work till 12pm and give 24 hour notice. Issues is my mum is my childcare as she starts work at 10 so she will have my son untill I finish. I can afford to pay for him to go childcare all the morning I work till 1 incase I get asked to work. Can I refuse to work the hours additional or are the compulsory. I've not yet started but I'm panicking about it and want to work out if there is any point in going if I will be made to work those hours. I'm also studying so leaves no time for my son or my studies and running a household. Thank you

Our Response:
If a condition of the job is that you are available until 12 occasionally then it would not be sensible to accept it if you will not be able to meet that condition. Discuss it with the employer, or look around for alternative childcare that you can call upon occasionally (with 24 hours notice).
SafeWorkers - 16-Aug-17 @ 11:06 AM
Tricia wyatt - Your Question:
How much notice would I need to give working 26 hours a week and have worked there for 7 years

Our Response:
This will depend on your employer's policy and should be written into your contract. If there is nothing available, themininum notice periodfor an employee who has been employed by their employer continuously for two years is two weeks' notice. There is an additional week's notice for each further complete year of continuous employment, up to a maximum of 12 weeks.
SafeWorkers - 15-Aug-17 @ 2:22 PM
I started a new job 2 months ago in a cafe, I am still in my probation period. When I started the job I was told it was a full time 30 hour minimum contact, however after a week I started to get sent home during my shift due to little custom. As a lot of the staff are on 0 hour contracts I asked my area manager whether that was the case to which he replied yes. Now I've read my contact it states that " your normal hours are four days in each week, worked on days and times agreed". Now I have found a new job and which to hand my notice in. They are demanding me to give a months notice. My question is can I hand a notice in and refuse hours offered or am I contracted to 30 hours a week?
Andy T - 15-Aug-17 @ 10:09 AM
My working time on my contract is 45 hours Monday to Friday. For the past 2.5 y are I have worked 60 hours per week (5 12 hour days Monday to Friday). Is it safe to assume my contract would now have changed to these working hours? I do not receive over time about the 45 hours contracted
Baz1402 - 14-Aug-17 @ 6:32 PM
Née- Your Question:
I was hired as 25 hour per week supervisor in the spring of 2016. This past summer, my hours were cut to 13-18 per week. Was my employer legally allowed to do this?

Our Response:
Assuming you are NOT on a zero hours contract, no your employer cannot change your contractual hours without your consent. See our Guide to objecting to changes in your employment contract
SafeWorkers - 14-Aug-17 @ 12:37 PM
Janitor - Your Question:
My contract has been changed showing that I work 35 hours when in actual fact I work 38 hours but I'm told that I will not be paid for 3 hours a week but will have to take it as time off, is this legal?

Our Response:
Your contract cannot be changed without your consent, please see our guide here formore information
SafeWorkers - 14-Aug-17 @ 12:28 PM
Hi I've just signed a contract for a new job. It was advertised as 15 hours a week 6am-9.45am. However they asked me what days I am available and said if required you will work till 12pm and give 24 hour notice. Issues is my mum is my childcare as she starts work at 10 so she will have my son untill I finish. I can afford to pay for him to go childcare all the morning I work till 1 incase I get asked to work. Can I refuse to work the hours additional or are the compulsory. I've not yet started but I'm panicking about it and want to work out if there is any point in going if I will be made to work those hours. I'm also studying so leaves no time for my son or my studies and running a household. Thank you
BCT - 14-Aug-17 @ 9:42 AM
How much notice would i need to giveworking 26 hours a week and have worked there for 7 years
Tricia wyatt - 13-Aug-17 @ 10:25 PM
I was hired as 25 hour per week supervisor in the spring of 2016. This past summer, my hours were cut to 13-18 per week. Was my employer legally allowed to do this?
Née - 11-Aug-17 @ 10:02 PM
My contract has been changed showing that I work 35 hours when in actual fact I work 38 hours but I'm told that I will not be paid for 3 hours a week but will have to take it as time off, is this legal?
Janitor - 11-Aug-17 @ 9:48 PM
Phillipa - Your Question:
My wife's original contract (the only one she has) says she works a 40 hour week mon-fri. A few years back she negotiated with her boss to reduce hours but still take same salary (instead of a pay rise) So she worked only a half day on Wednesdays. Shes been doing this for a couple of years with no issue. She didn't ask for a new contract or anything in writing. Now she has a new boss and he is asking her to work the full 5 days. What can she do?

Our Response:
Her contract should have been amended at the time. If there is an HR department they may have details. If she negotiated the change and it was accepted, it should now form part of her contract unless it was done on a "trial" basis.
SafeWorkers - 8-Aug-17 @ 11:37 AM
shaz - Your Question:
Hi can you please help I have signed a 36hr contract now there saying its a error its now a 24hr contract there now sending me another contract for this to me in post can they do this?

Our Response:
Not really, the contract you entered into was for 36 hours. Have you done any work for your employer yet? Follow the steps on our Guide here for breach of contract
SafeWorkers - 8-Aug-17 @ 10:10 AM
Jojo - Your Question:
I have been working at my company for 4 years.This year a different company bought us out. When we transferred over to the new company in January they somehow had that I only worked 35hrs a week however I've been working 40hrs a week for the 4 years I have been here. Since they only have me at 35hrs a week I'm losing 15hrs of PTO. I have been contacting the new company about this for 7 months & they have still not changed me to 40hrs week (even though I have been working 40hrs a week) & now I'm out of PTO but should have 2 more days so I can't take anymore time off this year. Is there something I can legally do about this since no one is willing to help me? I really don't understand why they can't change me to 40hrs a week. I figure if someone could give me some advise on the laws maybe next time I contact them they will listen. Thank you any help is appreciated!

Our Response:
Take a copy of your original contract to Citizens' Advice or contact ACAS. It's not clear to us whether your contracted to work 35 hours or not and/or whether you are still actually working 40 hours...
SafeWorkers - 7-Aug-17 @ 2:32 PM
None- Your Question:
I am contracted to 16-hours per week.my employer occasionally, but quite regularly now, ask me to go and work at another place of work that has different opening times, which means I work less than 1-hour a week. This is not my fault as I have been asked to be flexible and occasionally work from a different office. As a result, although I am contracted to 16-hours per week, I am now losing out financially for working at an office that is shorter in opening times. Is this right that? Should I not be paid my contracted hours?

Our Response:
Yes, if your contract says you are employed to work 16 hours per week that is what you should be paid for. Raise this with your employer first and if they do not address it, seek advice from ACAS about taking it to an employment tribunal for breach of contract.
SafeWorkers - 7-Aug-17 @ 12:40 PM
Paul - Your Question:
I am contracted to 45 hours a week work, is it legal for my employer to lay me off with lay off pay for a week then no pay for 3 weeks till work comes in?

Our Response:
Check your contract for details of what happens if layoffs are imposed. In general an employer can ask you to stay at home or take unpaid leave if there’s not enough work for you.Government information states the following:
"There’s no limit for how long you can be laid off or put on short-time. You could apply for redundancy and claim redundancy pay if it’s been:
4 weeks in a row
6 weeks in a 13-week period
Lay-off pay entitlement and short-time working payments
You should get your full pay unless your contract allows unpaid or reduced pay lay-offs.

If you’re unpaid, you’re entitled to guarantee pay. You’re entitled to guarantee pay during lay off or short-time working. The maximum you can get is £26.00 a day for 5 days in any 3-month period - so a maximum of £130. If you usually earn less than £26.00 a day you’ll get your normal daily rate."
SafeWorkers - 7-Aug-17 @ 12:35 PM
Jbc - Your Question:
My contract states " your working hours are 37.5 hours a week, between 8am to 18:00pm. This may change to 24 hour services." If the company wants to then make our services 24 hours can they make us do this who work here already or employee night staff and weekend staff etc? Unless obviously you want to work nights or weekends.

Our Response:
We guess it means your times of work can change to inlcude working at shifts that cover other parts of any 24 hour period. It seems a bit of an unreasonable clause in a contract though, get a union rep or ACAS to take a look for you.
SafeWorkers - 7-Aug-17 @ 11:44 AM
My wife's original contract (the only one she has) says she works a 40 hour week mon-fri. A few years back she negotiated with her boss to reduce hours but still take same salary (instead of a pay rise) So she worked only a half day on Wednesdays. Shes been doing this for a couple of years with no issue. She didn't ask for a new contract or anything in writing. Now she has a new boss and he is asking her to work the full 5 days. What can she do?
Phillipa - 5-Aug-17 @ 7:32 PM
Hi can you please help i have signed a 36hr contract now there saying its a error its now a 24hr contract there now sending me another contract for this to me in post can they do this?
shaz - 5-Aug-17 @ 5:17 AM
I have been working at my company for 4 years.This year a different company bought us out. When we transferred over to the new company in January they somehow had that I only worked 35hrs a week however I've been working 40hrs a week for the 4 years I have been here. Since they only have me at 35hrs a week I'm losing 15hrs of PTO. I have been contacting the new company about this for 7 months & they have still not changed me to 40hrs week (even though I have been working 40hrs a week) & now I'm out of PTO but should have 2 more days so I can't take anymore time off this year. Is there something I can legally do about this since no one is willing to help me? I really don't understand why they can't change me to 40hrs a week. I figure if someone could give me some advise on the laws maybe next time I contact them they will listen. Thank you any help is appreciated!
Jojo - 4-Aug-17 @ 6:04 PM
I am contracted to 16-hours per week....my employer occasionally, but quite regularly now, ask me to go and work at another place of work that has different opening times, which means I work less than 1-hour a week. This is not my fault as I have been asked to be flexible and occasionally work from a different office. As a result, although I am contracted to 16-hours per week, I am now losing out financially for working at an office that is shorter in opening times. Is this right that? Should I not be paid my contracted hours?
None - 3-Aug-17 @ 8:40 PM
I am contracted to 45 hours a week work, is it legal for my employer to lay me off with lay off pay for a week then no pay for 3 weeks till work comes in?
Paul - 3-Aug-17 @ 6:47 PM
Laz - Your Question:
Hi, my contract of employment states I work 45 hours a week for the salary I am paid. Today my employer issued a change to the way they calculate my salary in that they have moved to a pro-rata method of payment, any weeks I work under my contracted hours will not be paid to me. These changes have not been made with my consent and I have received no written statement asking for my consent.Is this legal? Will it stand up in court if I were to take it that far?Thanks

Our Response:
If this is a change to your contract, you must consent. See our guide on what to do if you object to changes in your employment contract here...
SafeWorkers - 3-Aug-17 @ 2:18 PM
My contract states " your working hours are 37.5 hours a week, between 8am to 18:00pm. This may change to 24 hour services." If the company wants to then make our services 24 hours can they make us do this who work here already or employee night staff and weekend staff etc? Unless obviously you want to work nights or weekends.
Jbc - 3-Aug-17 @ 1:14 PM
Badger93 - Your Question:
If I am contracted 25hours per week but have not been rotored in or work the full 25 hours. Are they still obligated to pay me the full 25hours.

Our Response:
If you are on a normal employment contract (i.e not a zero hours contract), then yes. If your contract states that you work 25 hours, that is what your employer should pay you.
SafeWorkers - 3-Aug-17 @ 10:10 AM
Hi, my contract of employment states I work 45 hours a week for the salary I am paid. Today my employer issued a change to the way they calculate my salary in that they have moved to a pro-rata method of payment, any weeks I work under my contracted hours will not be paid to me. These changes have not been made with my consent and I have received no written statement asking for my consent. Is this legal? Will it stand up in court if I were to take it that far? Thanks
Laz - 1-Aug-17 @ 12:49 PM
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