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Understanding Your Employment Contract

By: Dave Howell - Updated: 14 Jun 2018 | 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]
Aly - Your Question:
Hi.I work for a home care company and I have a couple of questions about my contract as I so not believe I am being paid fairly. When I attended my job interview they offered me a 36 hour a week contract and said I would be required to complete a weeks training which would be fully paid. Based on what I was told and what they offered me I accepted and quit my other job as this was more hours. Only once I had resigned I discovered that the full paid training was actually only £30 a day where it was my belief paid training had to be at least the minimum wage still so I am wanting to know if this is legal paying £30 a day for training from 9am - 5pm for 5 days. Then on the Friday of training when we received put contracts to sign I discovered that even though they were giving me a 36 hour a week contract I would probably not get those hours. They said they could pay me for 36 hrs each week and then they would deduct the hours I actually worked and I would then have to bank the remainder hours and owe them. So I could be called in at anytime on any day and be expected to work to repay the hours, should I refuse or be unavailable they would then deduct the money from those hours from my next pay. I am very confused as I have been told that if they took me on with a contract for 36 hours and they do not have work available but I am able to work then I should still be paid and not have to owe anything being on a contract. My typical day starts at 7.40am and ends at 9.15pm, approx 14 hours yet I only get paid for approx 6-7 hours a day as I do not get paid for any gaps between calls. I am just wanting to know what the law is as far as contracts go.can they give me a 36 hours a week contract and if they don't give me the hours ask me to work them on another day at their will or ask for,the wages back? Very confused here hoping for some guidance. Thank you

Our Response:
You need to show your contract to someone who can advise (such as Citizen's Advice or ACAS) about the hours and pay etc, you should have been made aware of this before signing/starting your employment. As for the training, if you were told your contract was for 36 horus and week and that a week of training would be fully paid, you would expect the pay to be the same as your usual wage. Again ACAS may be the best organisation to give more detailed/personalised advice.
SafeWorkers - 15-Jun-18 @ 11:55 AM
Aly - Your Question:
Hi.I work for a home care company and I have a couple of questions about my contract as I so not believe I am being paid fairly. When I attended my job interview they offered me a 36 hour a week contract and said I would be required to complete a weeks training which would be fully paid. Based on what I was told and what they offered me I accepted and quit my other job as this was more hours. Only once I had resigned I discovered that the full paid training was actually only £30 a day where it was my belief paid training had to be at least the minimum wage still so I am wanting to know if this is legal paying £30 a day for training from 9am - 5pm for 5 days. Then on the Friday of training when we received put contracts to sign I discovered that even though they were giving me a 36 hour a week contract I would probably not get those hours. They said they could pay me for 36 hrs each week and then they would deduct the hours I actually worked and I would then have to bank the remainder hours and owe them. So I could be called in at anytime on any day and be expected to work to repay the hours, should I refuse or be unavailable they would then deduct the money from those hours from my next pay. I am very confused as I have been told that if they took me on with a contract for 36 hours and they do not have work available but I am able to work then I should still be paid and not have to owe anything being on a contract. My typical day starts at 7.40am and ends at 9.15pm, approx 14 hours yet I only get paid for approx 6-7 hours a day as I do not get paid for any gaps between calls. I am just wanting to know what the law is as far as contracts go.can they give me a 36 hours a week contract and if they don't give me the hours ask me to work them on another day at their will or ask for,the wages back? Very confused here hoping for some guidance. Thank you

Our Response:
You should discuss this with someone to whom you can show the contract really (Citizens' Advice, ACAS etc). There are no set rules about pay for training but if you were told you were being offered a 36 hour week contract and training would be fully paid, you'd expect the normal pay for that training week.
SafeWorkers - 15-Jun-18 @ 11:37 AM
Hi i work from home for 4 hrs of an evening a few times a week. Im paid half my hourly rate and its classed as a retainer. Im on duty and could either be busy or not...it varies a great deal. Im quite sure this isnt legal can you advise? Acas doesnt seem to have an answer
fedupwithit - 14-Jun-18 @ 10:31 PM
Hi...I work for a home care company and I have a couple of questions about my contract as I so not believe I am being paid fairly. When I attended my job interview they offered me a 36 hour a week contract and said I would be required to complete a weeks training which would be fully paid. Based on what I was told and what they offered me I accepted and quit my other job as this was more hours. Only once I had resigned I discovered that the full paid training was actually only £30 a day where it was my belief paid training had to be at least the minimum wage still so I am wanting to know if this is legal paying £30 a day for training from 9am - 5pm for 5 days. Then on the Friday of training when we received put contracts to sign I discovered that even though they were giving me a 36 hour a week contract I would probably not get those hours. They said they could pay me for 36 hrs each week and then they would deduct the hours I actually worked and I would then have to bank the remainder hours and owe them. So I could be called in at anytime on any day and be expected to work to repay the hours, should I refuse or be unavailable they would then deduct the money from those hours from my next pay. I am very confused as I have been told that if they took me on with a contract for 36 hours and they do not have work available but I am able to work then I should still be paid and not have to owe anything being on a contract. My typical day starts at 7.40am and ends at 9.15pm, approx 14 hours yet I only get paid for approx 6-7 hours a day as I do not get paid for any gaps between calls. I am just wanting to know what the law is as far as contracts go..can they give me a 36 hours a week contract and if they don't give me the hours ask me to work them on another day at their will or ask for,the wages back? Very confused here hoping for some guidance. Thank you
Aly - 14-Jun-18 @ 11:32 AM
Hi...I work for a home care company and I have a couple of questions about my contract as I so not believe I am being paid fairly. When I attended my job interview they offered me a 36 hour a week contract and said I would be required to complete a weeks training which would be fully paid. Based on what I was told and what they offered me I accepted and quit my other job as this was more hours. Only once I had resigned I discovered that the full paid training was actually only £30 a day where it was my belief paid training had to be at least the minimum wage still so I am wanting to know if this is legal paying £30 a day for training from 9am - 5pm for 5 days. Then on the Friday of training when we received put contracts to sign I discovered that even though they were giving me a 36 hour a week contract I would probably not get those hours. They said they could pay me for 36 hrs each week and then they would deduct the hours I actually worked and I would then have to bank the remainder hours and owe them. So I could be called in at anytime on any day and be expected to work to repay the hours, should I refuse or be unavailable they would then deduct the money from those hours from my next pay. I am very confused as I have been told that if they took me on with a contract for 36 hours and they do not have work available but I am able to work then I should still be paid and not have to owe anything being on a contract. My typical day starts at 7.40am and ends at 9.15pm, approx 14 hours yet I only get paid for approx 6-7 hours a day as I do not get paid for any gaps between calls. I am just wanting to know what the law is as far as contracts go..can they give me a 36 hours a week contract and if they don't give me the hours ask me to work them on another day at their will or ask for,the wages back? Very confused here hoping for some guidance. Thank you
Aly - 14-Jun-18 @ 9:25 AM
Hi...I work for a home care company and I have a couple of questions about my contract as I so not believe I am being paid fairly. When I attended my job interview they offered me a 36 hour a week contract and said I would be required to complete a weeks training which would be fully paid. Based on what I was told and what they offered me I accepted and quit my other job as this was more hours. Only once I had resigned I discovered that the full paid training was actually only £30 a day where it was my belief paid training had to be at least the minimum wage still so I am wanting to know if this is legal paying £30 a day for training from 9am - 5pm for 5 days. Then on the Friday of training when we received put contracts to sign I discovered that even though they were giving me a 36 hour a week contract I would probably not get those hours. They said they could pay me for 36 hrs each week and then they would deduct the hours I actually worked and I would then have to bank the remainder hours and owe them. So I could be called in at anytime on any day and be expected to work to repay the hours, should I refuse or be unavailable they would then deduct the money from those hours from my next pay. I am very confused as I have been told that if they took me on with a contract for 36 hours and they do not have work available but I am able to work then I should still be paid and not have to owe anything being on a contract. My typical day starts at 7.40am and ends at 9.15pm, approx 14 hours yet I only get paid for approx 6-7 hours a day as I do not get paid for any gaps between calls. I am just wanting to know what the law is as far as contracts go..can they give me a 36 hours a week contract and if they don't give me the hours ask me to work them on another day at their will or ask for,the wages back? Very confused here hoping for some guidance. Thank you
Aly - 13-Jun-18 @ 11:29 PM
Hi...I work for a home care company and I have a couple of questions about my contract as I so not believe I am being paid fairly. When I attended my job interview they offered me a 36 hour a week contract and said I would be required to complete a weeks training which would be fully paid. Based on what I was told and what they offered me I accepted and quit my other job as this was more hours. Only once I had resigned I discovered that the full paid training was actually only £30 a day where it was my belief paid training had to be at least the minimum wage still so I am wanting to know if this is legal paying £30 a day for training from 9am - 5pm for 5 days. Then on the Friday of training when we received put contracts to sign I discovered that even though they were giving me a 36 hour a week contract I would probably not get those hours. They said they could pay me for 36 hrs each week and then they would deduct the hours I actually worked and I would then have to bank the remainder hours and owe them. So I could be called in at anytime on any day and be expected to work to repay the hours, should I refuse or be unavailable they would then deduct the money from those hours from my next pay. I am very confused as I have been told that if they took me on with a contract for 36 hours and they do not have work available but I am able to work then I should still be paid and not have to owe anything being on a contract. My typical day starts at 7.40am and ends at 9.15pm, approx 14 hours yet I only get paid for approx 6-7 hours a day as I do not get paid for any gaps between calls. I am just wanting to know what the law is as far as contracts go..can they give me a 36 hours a week contract and if they don't give me the hours ask me to work them on another day at their will or ask for,the wages back? Very confused here hoping for some guidance. Thank you
Aly - 13-Jun-18 @ 9:48 PM
Hi its working for my employer for 27months i had to put a application form in for the job i went for the interview got a letter saying there was more experienced people who went for the same job i have just found out they have tuck on a lad who haz only done the same job as me for 2weeks can i sue the compeny
Dek - 13-Jun-18 @ 12:40 PM
Jus - Your Question:
Hi, my employer has put me on two different contracts of 5 hrs for the different aspects of my job, I work in a school. Within one of the contracts I have been constantly working overtime for the past three and a half years. Am I right in thinking that those hours should now become contracted? (usually between 10 and 15 per week) if so how do I present this to him? As previously asking to have my contract changed have been fruitless.

Our Response:
No this doesn't automatically follow and depends on the nature of your contract(s). Since we don't know what kind of contract you have it's very difficult for us to advise. ACAS may be your best option.
SafeWorkers - 12-Jun-18 @ 12:41 PM
Hi, my employer has put me on two different contracts of 5 hrs for the different aspects of my job, I work in a school. Within one of the contracts I have been constantly working overtime for the past three and a half years. Am I right in thinking that those hours should now become contracted? (usually between 10 and 15 per week) if so how do I present this to him? As previously asking to have my contract changed have been fruitless.
Jus - 9-Jun-18 @ 11:00 AM
Fedup - Your Question:
Hi I wrote to my employer to ask to reduce my hours over 8 weeks ago to care for my autistic son. My manager verbally agreed. I also emailed my request to HR. My manager kept telling me afew more weeks, week after week but didnt give me a date after me keep asking. After waiting 8 weeks I put another request in for him to begin my reduce hours from 3rd june. asking him to change my contract to suit my working hours otherwise all my wages and holiday will be incorrect. I also need proof of my contract to support my carers claim for my disabled child. so my boss has made everyone aware that I dont need to be in work but has not changed my contract. apparently this is because he wants to make his wages totals look better for himself. this now means I have lost hours and also cannot claim the benefit because he wants to keep me contracted to 16 but working 8. this is going to cause me a world issues, with holiday usage, wages, hmrc declarations as they will be incorrect. surely to keep your contract on more hours than you will be working would be fraud. my boss is currently on holiday so I cannot speak with him. I spoke with HR who just said only my manager can change my hours. another mangager did try but couldnt do it. where do I stand now if my own manager said yes and will let me loose the time but wont change my contract over.

Our Response:
You could make a formal complaint using your employer's grievance procedure. Follow this up if it is not addressed. ACAS will be able to help.
SafeWorkers - 5-Jun-18 @ 2:50 PM
Hi I wrote to my employer to ask to reduce my hours over 8 weeks ago to care for my autistic son. My manager verbally agreed. I also emailed my request to HR. My manager kept telling me afew more weeks, week after week but didnt give me a date after me keep asking. After waiting 8 weeks I put another request in for him to begin my reduce hours from 3rd june. asking him to change my contract to suit my working hours otherwise all my wages and holiday will be incorrect. i also need proof of my contract to support my carers claim for my disabled child. so my boss has made everyone aware that i dont need to be in work but has not changed my contract. apparently this is because he wants to make his wages totals look better for himself. this now means i have lost hours and also cannot claim the benefit because he wants to keep me contracted to 16 but working 8. this is going to cause me a world issues, with holiday usage, wages, hmrc declarations as they will be incorrect. surely to keep your contract on more hours than you will be working would be fraud. my boss is currently on holiday so i cannot speak with him. I spoke with HR who just said only my manager can change my hours. another mangager did try but couldnt do it. where do i stand now if my own manager said yes and will let me loose the time but wont change my contract over.
Fedup - 4-Jun-18 @ 6:39 PM
Mat - Your Question:
If I hand my notice In and I state I will work the required notice of 4 weeks but only will work the 8 hour contract that I have can they force me to work more hours even though I only have a 8 hour contract?

Our Response:
This really depends on the wording of your contract. If you're expected to work additional hours as instructed, it may difficult to simply refuse.
SafeWorkers - 30-May-18 @ 2:26 PM
If I hand my notice In and I state I will work the required notice of 4 weeks but only will work the 8 hour contract that I have can they force me to work more hours even though I only have a 8 hour contract?
Mat - 26-May-18 @ 4:55 PM
Hello, I’m on a 16 hour contract but I’ve been working about atleast 24 hours for over 6 weeks now does my employer have to give me a 24 hour contract? Thanks
Popey - 25-May-18 @ 11:37 PM
I'm due to start a new job and was told I'll contracted 37 hours a week....but working 160 over the month rota..equalling 40 hours a week. I think I will be getting a paid break but I presumed if I'm contracted 37 hours who do I have to work 40 hours
Le - 25-May-18 @ 10:33 AM
I’m just looking for a bit of advice formy son, he commenced employment on 25.01.18, For the first then they decided to change it to hourly. His contact states he’s contracted for 45 hours where he’s usually rota’d for less apart from an odd occasion where he’s worked 45 or more also he has only once been paid appropriately for he’s worked the rest of the times he’s paid short.
Pip - 24-May-18 @ 10:24 PM
Liam - Your Question:
I’m on a salary and contracted to work 40hours.For a good few years I used to work somewhere around 50-60 hours a week and wasn’t paid any overtime, but the stafff who worked underneath me was paid overtime over there 40hours at a hourly rate. They are also salaries but there salary is less than mine but this is because I’m the manager. So because most of them do a lot of overtime they earn close to what I earn.Is this right? Can they be paid for overtime when I do not get paid for overtime?

Our Response:
Yes this is down to your employer's policy - employers don’t have to pay workers for overtime. If you feel your salary is dropping behind in comparison with those you manage, you should raise it with your employer.
SafeWorkers - 23-May-18 @ 2:03 PM
I’m on a salary and contracted to work 40hours. For a good few years I used to work somewhere around 50-60 hours a week and wasn’t paid any overtime, but the stafff who worked underneath me was paid overtime over there 40hours at a hourly rate. They are also salaries but there salary is less than mine but this is because I’m the manager. So because most of them do a lot of overtime they earn close to what I earn. Is this right? Can they be paid for overtime when I do not get paid for overtime?
Liam - 21-May-18 @ 7:56 PM
Dee - Your Question:
My contract says upto 15 hours.Can my manager phone me and say no need to come in as quiet and not pay me.Or if it's not a zero hour contract but says upto 15 hours should I be given the 15 hours.Thanks

Our Response:
If the contract says "up to 15 hours" rather than "15 hours" is not very specific and to be honest, sounds a little strange. Get a professional to look at your contract or take it to Citizens' Advice.
SafeWorkers - 21-May-18 @ 3:43 PM
My contract says upto 15 hours. Can my manager phone me and say no need to come in as quiet and not pay me. Or if it's not a zero hour contract but says upto 15 hours should I be given the 15 hours. Thanks
Dee - 21-May-18 @ 11:17 AM
Tracey - Your Question:
I work as a shopper/cleaner and last year the company I work for changed my zero hours to a 16 hour contract. now last week due to elderly clients being hospitalised, I only worked 13 hours. I've just checked my wages and they've made my missing 3 hours from contract up with 3 hours holiday pay!! Is this right. I'm more than annoyed and now debating to go back to zero hours as they will use my holiday pay as when my hours are reduced thru no fault of my own.Thanks for reading Tracey

Our Response:
Check the terms of your contract. Does it state that your employer can tell you when to take holiday etc?
SafeWorkers - 21-May-18 @ 10:33 AM
I work as a shopper/cleaner and last year the company i work forchanged my zero hours to a 16 hour contract... now last week due to elderly clients being hospitalised, I only worked 13 hours... I've just checked my wages and they've mademy missing 3 hours from contract up with 3 hours holiday pay!! Is this right.... I'm more than annoyed and now debating to go back to zero hours as they will use my holiday pay as when my hours are reduced thru no fault of my own ... Thanks for reading Tracey
Tracey - 18-May-18 @ 3:46 PM
If my contract states that the business “ has the right to alter working hours as nesscary”. Do I have to agree to this before they can change them? These hours won’t be a permanent change only for a week or two, but surely I would have to be asked if this was okay?
Blou - 15-May-18 @ 5:32 PM
Emzk - Your Question:
Hi quick question. I work 16 hours a week term time only but only paid for 13 hours a week to have the half terms off paid. On my working tax form do I put 16 hours or 13 hours? So confused help!

Our Response:
What does your contract say? If you do not work 16 hours week you cannot claim tax credits. It might be worth speaking to an adviser here
SafeWorkers - 14-May-18 @ 11:45 AM
Hi my contract states that I’m contracted to 37 hours a week but also states that they are not required to give me those hours if they are not available so to my mind it’s a zero hour contract am I correct? I had to use a lot of my holiday days up over the quiet period ( I work in a b&b ) so I did not lose out on money
Joxxjo - 13-May-18 @ 4:27 PM
Hi quick question. I work 16 hours a week term time only but only paid for 13 hours a week to have the half terms off paid. On my working tax form do i put 16 hours or 13 hours? So confused help!
Emzk - 13-May-18 @ 2:56 PM
Wellsy - Your Question:
Hi all Just quick question I signed a contract off 42 hours agreed to!! But we only work 36 hours, work 3 days Friday, sat an Sunday on12 hour shifts (nights) boss an I agreed to it.But I got a letter from my boss, saying he wants all the money back paying from the day I signed the 42 hour contract, because we don't work 42 hours which he knows about as we agreed a contract average off 42 hours, is this my problem an do I have any say in this matter please help? Thank you

Our Response:
If your contract is for 42 hours then that is what you should be paid for. If there were changes made to your contract subsequently, your consent should have been sought and your contract should have been amended accordingly. If you didn't agree to the change of contractread this guide
SafeWorkers - 9-May-18 @ 3:05 PM
Hi all Just quick question I signed a contract off 42 hours agreed to!!But we only work 36 hours, work 3 days Friday, sat an Sunday on12 hour shifts (nights) boss an I agreed to it... But I got a letter from my boss,saying he wants all the money back paying from the day I signed the 42 hour contract, because we don't work 42 hours which he knows about as we agreed a contract average off 42 hours, is this my problem an do I have any say in this matter please help? Thank you
Wellsy - 8-May-18 @ 11:37 PM
LR - Your Question:
I wonder if you can help. My son started a job at a local restaurant. Was promised 35 hours at interview and contract was sent for 35 hours a week. Forst week he got 16 hours, then second and third weeks 7 hours a week. He left a full time job to go to this job. He has also never had a break as has been told 8 hour shifts don’t qualify for a break. Is he entitled to be paid for 35 hours?

Our Response:
Yes, if the contract is for 35 hours, paying him for less is a breach of contract and he should be able to take action. Call ACAS for more advice on the next step.
SafeWorkers - 8-May-18 @ 3:36 PM
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