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Understanding Your Employment Contract

By: Dave Howell - Updated: 10 Dec 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 have an 8 hour contract but have worked 35 + hours for the last 12 months. How will my sick pay be worked out?
D - 10-Dec-17 @ 3:24 PM
Daughter just turned 18 has worked for kfc for a year signed paper workbut has never been given a contract turned 18.. she's asked for it but gets the brush of iv even spoke with manager who promised to post one and still to this day nothing..is this aloud? Also as soon as she turned 18 they put her to work till 1..2 in the morning every week but surly she doesn't hav to do considering she hasn't been given a change of contract due to her age so she hasn't signed anything...
Jam - 9-Dec-17 @ 7:55 PM
Mogsy - Your Question:
I work 70 hours a week but only get paid a basic weeks holiday pay which is 39 hours is this right as it wouldnt be worth me taking my holiday as id be on less money. Im full time empoyment for 14 years. Iv heard lately that im meant to be paid holiday pay based on my last 12 weeks earnings

Our Response:
Yes in general your holiday pay should be based on your average earnings in the weeks leading up to your holiday. There are exceptions to this but in general if you are paid for the overtime you've done, your holiday pay should reflect that.
SafeWorkers - 5-Dec-17 @ 2:22 PM
I work 70 hours a week but only get paid a basic weeks holiday pay which is 39 hours is this right as it wouldnt be worth me taking my holiday as id be on less money. Im full time empoyment for 14 years. Iv heard lately that im meant to be paid holiday pay based on my last 12 weeks earnings
Mogsy - 4-Dec-17 @ 5:40 PM
I work a contracted 45 hrs per week. I am also told the job is 'job and finish'. I have been told by one of the directors that if I work 11 hrs one day I will get 2 hours back another day. I have now work 65 hours over without getting any time back. Is this legal
Chris - 30-Nov-17 @ 12:41 PM
Stuck- Your Question:
I have recently been dismissed from a job, after receiving my p45 I went to file this with my contract and noticed that my contract stated 25hrs per week. From my pay it is apparent that o have not been getting the full 25hpw recently. Is there anything I can do about this now that I am no longer employed by this company?

Our Response:
You may still be able to take this to a tribunal as your employer breached the contract. The best advice is to contact ACAS or Citizens' Advice with your contract to hand.
SafeWorkers - 29-Nov-17 @ 12:22 PM
I have recently been dismissed from a job, after receiving my p45 I went to file this with my contract and noticed that my contract stated 25hrs per week. From my pay it is apparent that o have not been getting the full 25hpw recently. Is there anything I can do about this now that I am no longer employed by this company?
Stuck - 29-Nov-17 @ 12:58 AM
Trace - Your Question:
I have worked a regular work pattern on a reniewd yearly temporary contract for the last 3 years. Due to a company restructure I was told that my position of service coordinator would no longer be required however they said at a 1-2-1 that I would be offered the position of lead project worker but the hourly rate would be less and the contracted hours would increase from 30 to 39 hrs a week.As I look after my elderly disabled mother the increase in hrs would be hard but as I needed the income and enjoyed my job I waited for further information from my employer. Today the 27th of November without any prior communication I was sent my rota that shows from the 1st of December 5 days before expected start I will in fact be working 32 hrs one week and 46 the next.I have had no meeting to agree or even acknowledge my availability to be able to commit to these hours.I have not seen a contract or even been asked if my personal commitments would allow me to meet these expected hours.Can I refuse these changes? Without prior agreement

Our Response:
You should seek advice from a trade union representative or ACAS about this. If an employer wants to renew a fixed-term contract on less favourable terms they must negotiate with you, the employee to reach an agreement. If the contract ends and an agreement has not been reached, you may be able to claim unfair dismissal.
SafeWorkers - 28-Nov-17 @ 3:40 PM
DJ - Your Question:
I have worked for the same employer since 1991. We are about to be bought by another company. MY employer cannot find my original contract, however I have an amendment to my original contract dated 1997 which increases my hours from 35 hours per week to 37.5 hours per week. I have another contract dated 2000 which again states my hours are 37.5 per week. My employer has no record of the contract signed in year 2000, they only have a copy of the 1997 contract. My payslip states that my contracted hours are 35 hours per week, therefore I am not being paid for my contracted hours. I have taken this to employers HR and they do not know how to deal with this. What is the legal position ? as I have been and continue to be underpaid for my contracted hrs.

Our Response:
You have a copy of the contract amendment for 1997 stating your hours of 37.5 per week. If your payslip says 35 hours per week that's what you should be paid for. In theory you should be paid for all the hours you've worked and not been paid for (backdated to the earliest record you have). However, the question as to why you have not queried this before will certainly be raised at some point. ACAS should be able to help with this.
SafeWorkers - 28-Nov-17 @ 2:24 PM
I have worked a regular work pattern on a reniewd yearly temporary contract for the last 3 years. Due to a company restructure I was told that my position of service coordinator would no longer be required however they said at a 1-2-1 that I would be offered the position of lead project worker but the hourly rate would be less and the contracted hours would increase from 30 to 39 hrs a week.As I look after my elderly disabled mother the increase in hrs would be hard but as I needed the income and enjoyed my job I waited for further information from my employer. Today the 27th of November without any prior communication I was sent my rota that shows from the 1st of December 5 days before expected start I will in fact be working 32 hrs one week and 46 the next.I have had no meeting to agree or even acknowledge my availability to be able to commit to these hours.I have not seen a contract or even been asked if my personal commitments would allow me to meet these expected hours.Can I refuse these changes? Without prior agreement
Trace - 27-Nov-17 @ 11:42 PM
I have worked for the same employer since 1991.We are about to be bought by another company.MY employer cannot find my original contract, however I have an amendment to my original contract dated 1997 which increases my hours from 35 hours per week to 37.5 hours per week.I have another contract dated 2000 which again states my hours are 37.5 per week.My employer has no record of the contract signed in year 2000, they only have a copy of the 1997 contract.My payslip states that my contracted hours are 35 hours per week, therefore I am not being paid for my contracted hours.I have taken this to employers HR and they do not know how to deal with this. What is the legal position ? as I have been and continue to be underpaid for my contracted hrs.
DJ - 27-Nov-17 @ 12:46 PM
Hi if I am contracted for 42.5hrs a week and my companygive me set shifts which are 10 hrs a day (5 days) how does this work, do i have to do them or am I within my rights to leave work after doing my actual shift pattern. Also if the compnay I work for loses the contract and we get taken over do the new company have to pay us the same hourly rate as their employees or are they allowed to pay us nearly £2 an hour less because thats what we were on for our previous company?
Racky34 - 22-Nov-17 @ 5:16 PM
BhoyJ - Your Question:
Hi, my wife is on a 20hr per week contract. If her work only puts her in for 16hrs one week what should she expect to be paid? The 16hrs she has worked or her contracted 20hrs. The reason for asking is I was under the impression that if you have a contract then you get paid your contracted hours even if they don’t have you working them.

Our Response:
Yes this sounds like a breach of contract. Please follow the steps in our guide here
SafeWorkers - 15-Nov-17 @ 3:18 PM
Hi, my wife is on a 20hr per week contract. If her work only puts her in for 16hrs one week what should she expect to be paid? The 16hrs she has worked or her contracted 20hrs. The reason for asking is I was under the impression that if you have a contract then you get paid your contracted hours even if they don’t have you working them.
BhoyJ - 14-Nov-17 @ 8:31 PM
I have just received a contract that states “my working hours are 1955 annually” does this include breaks and lunches. The reason I ask is that they expect us to take a 45 minute unpaid break would this count to the total hours or is the 45 additional per day to the 7.5 hours of the course of a day? Thanks in advance
Lee - 13-Nov-17 @ 9:32 PM
i work for the council on a 20 hr contract this i have done for 15 years, my work hours always total over 30hrs a week and when i take holiday i only get my contract 20 hours paid this will apply to any sickness and pension entitlement also, extra staff have joined since me and been given the full 30 hours contract but as we now officially work outside the council for another company through there cost saving ideas and the new staff have terms and conditions that are worse than ours they will not make the staff on original contracts up to the 30 hours, i feel this is discriminating what do you think.
max - 13-Nov-17 @ 10:31 AM
Flake- Your Question:
Hi, I used to work for a company where there a contract in place, I didn't sign the contract but worked for them for a year. After finishing with them they sent me an invoice to pay back for overtaking my annual leave. It says in the contract I can have 28 days a year but on the system the annual leave is reset in April and on the system I had a balance of annual leave I can request to take. So as I was leaving there was a remainder of annual leave I could take and the manager never once told me I'd be overtaking it as they all knew but I didn't know this. My question is do I legally have to pay the overtaken leave back as I didn't sign the contract, am I still legally binded by the contract? Thank you.

Our Response:
If your contract or other documenation explained that the leave year commenced in April then you'd be expected to work this out yourself.
SafeWorkers - 10-Nov-17 @ 1:43 PM
Hi, I used to work for a company where there a contract in place, I didn't sign the contract but worked for them for a year. After finishing with them they sent me an invoice to pay back for overtaking my annual leave. It says in the contract I can have 28 days a year but on the system the annual leave is reset in April and on the system I had a balance of annual leave I can request to take. So as I was leaving there was a remainder of annual leave I could take and the manager never once told me i'd be overtaking it as they all knew but I didn't know this. My question is do I legally have to pay the overtaken leave back as I didn't sign the contract, am I still legally binded by the contract? Thank you.
Flake - 8-Nov-17 @ 1:50 PM
LJ - Your Question:
I have been working for my current employer for 6 months working 15 hrs per week. I only have an offer of employment letter which states I would receive a contract of employment within 2 months of starting due to the companies lawyers working on new contracts. I still do not have a contract. I have raised this a few times but have been sent home today after raising this with the MD. He said I was not to work if I was unhappy and suggested going home sick. The offer letter only states pay, title, place of work, and holiday. I do not have Ts&Cs or anything on terminating employment or what notice they should give me. Nothing on disciplinary procedures. Where do I stand please and what action can I take if any?Thank you

Our Response:
The employer's written statement needs to contain the following information: Name of employer and employee.
Date employment and continuous employment started.
Job location.
Pay and whether it's weekly, monthly etc.
Working hours.
Holiday entitlement.
Job description / job title.
Details of any collective agreement that directly affect the employee's conditions of employment.
It doesn't need to contain information on notice periods etc but an employer can provide this in an employee handbook etc. If your employer has not provided you with any information on notice periods you can assume thatyour employer must give you the statutory notice periods as follows:
Employees must give their employer a minimum of one week's notice once they have worked for one month. This minimum is unaffected by longer service.
An employer must give the following notice:
Employed by the employer continuously for one month or more, but for less than two years = one week's notice
Employed by the employer continuously for two years = two weeks notice
One additional week's notice for each further complete year of continuous employment, up to a maximum of 12 weeks.
If you're unhappy with the terms and conditions/information provided by your employer and your employer refuses to respond to your requests, you can contact ACAS for advice.
SafeWorkers - 6-Nov-17 @ 3:53 PM
Lambert1 - Your Question:
I am a support worker I work for a company my contact is for 25 hrs a week I work outside the main office for the company but do overtime there my question is I'm not need over the Xmas period for my main client so do the company have too find me my hours within the main office

Our Response:
This will depend on the terms of your contract really, so we can't give a conclusive answer. If your contract is for 25 hours per week and your employer does not close/have other arrangements in place for the Christmas period, then you should be paid for those hours as if you had worked them normally.
SafeWorkers - 6-Nov-17 @ 2:56 PM
I have been working for my current employer for 6 months working 15 hrs per week. I only have an offer of employment letter which states I would receive a contract of employment within 2 months of starting due to the companies lawyers working on new contracts. I still do not have a contract. I have raised this a few times but have been sent home today after raising this with the MD. He said I was not to work if I was unhappy and suggested going home sick. The offer letter only states pay, title, place of work, and holiday. I do not have Ts&Cs or anything on terminating employment or what notice they should give me. Nothing on disciplinary procedures. Where do I stand please and what action can I take if any? Thank you
LJ - 6-Nov-17 @ 1:52 PM
I am a support worker I work for a company my contact is for 25 hrs a week I work outside the main office for the company but do overtime there my question is I'm not need over the Xmas period for my main client so do the company have too find me my hours within the main office
Lambert1 - 5-Nov-17 @ 8:02 PM
My contracted hours are 2091. If ive worked these hours already do i have the right to stop working? as my workplace say they owe me 80 hours either i get this back as holiday or payed out. The issue is they messed my hours up and made me work overtime (i was unaware) they wont give me all the days back as im needed at work and not long left till the end of the year, they say they can pay me out but as flat rate, at work if we do overtime its time and a half so am i right for asking for the 80 hours owed as time and a half?
Gugz - 4-Nov-17 @ 4:09 PM
bumble - Your Question:
I have been contracted 10 hrs a week, but worked 40, I left my job to do something that I went to university for and I had my shifts covered, I was a due to work 1 day in November which couldn't be covered, my manager emailed me to tell me to not bother coming back and that she will take mr to a small claims court, am I correct in thinking this is classed as dismissal and she has no case because it's in writing?

Our Response:
There isn't enough information here really. Why would she take you to a small claims court for not turning up at work? What's in writing? You really need to clarify the events leading up to this and also what your question is.
SafeWorkers - 1-Nov-17 @ 12:57 PM
Girl622 - Your Question:
I signed the opt out years ago( so I agreed to work more than 48 hours). I'm the last few weeks we are very short on staff, so I'm working 6 days a week, with more than 70 hours. Is there anything I can do to work less? My employer is saying it's going to be better when we will get more staff, but it doesn't look it's going to happen soon, and I'm literally dieing already, I'm fine with 50-55 hours, but not 75 for a month. Please let me know if there is any regulation for this.

Our Response:
You can opt back in by simply informing your employer in writing. Check your contract/other documentation to see if there is a period you must work before you can opt in after informing your employer (the max is 3 months). Here is an example of a letter, created by the TUC which we have slightly adapted:
Dear [Name of your Employer]
I wish to withdraw my opt-out from the working time limit set by the Working Time Regulations as I no longer wish to work more than 48 hours on average each week.
Can you please acknowledge receipt of this request in writing and confirm that this will take effect within [time period no longer than 3 months].
I look forward to discussing how and when my hours will be adjusted to take account of this.
Many thanks for your cooperation on this matter.
Yours sincerely
[your name]
SafeWorkers - 31-Oct-17 @ 11:15 AM
I have been contracted 10 hrs a week, but worked 40, I left my job to do something that I went to university for and I had my shifts covered, I was a due to work 1 day in November which couldn't be covered, my manager emailed me to tell me to not bother coming back and that she will take mr to a small claims court, am I correct in thinking this is classed as dismissal and she has no case because it's in writing?
bumble - 30-Oct-17 @ 2:24 PM
I signed the opt out years ago( so I agreed to work more than 48 hours). I'm the last few weeks we are very short on staff, so I'm working 6 days a week, with more than 70 hours. Is there anything I can do to work less? My employer is saying it's going to be better when we will get more staff, but it doesn't look it's going to happen soon, and I'm literally dieing already, I'm fine with 50-55 hours, but not 75 for a month. Please let me know if there is any regulation for this.
Girl622 - 28-Oct-17 @ 3:14 PM
I've been offered a new job working nights. The contract is for 30 hours per week BUT I have to work 37.5 hours per week plus overtime when required, from what I can see this means they won't have to give me as many leave days@, is this legal ?
Victor - 26-Oct-17 @ 2:06 AM
I'm contracted to 37.5 hrs salary, my contract does say more hrs ocatonal but I find I am doing nearly 50 hrs plus pr4 week.
Dazza - 25-Oct-17 @ 6:25 AM
I have a contract for 37.5 hours but for the last 18months been working 20 hours and doing a different job I and employer agreed to but should I of been given a new contract and where do I stand now they want to put my exsisting job onto a nightshift and move me to another job but still 20 hours??
Newgirl - 24-Oct-17 @ 6:55 PM
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