Home > Employment Law > Understanding Your Employment Contract

Understanding Your Employment Contract

By: Dave Howell - Updated: 17 Apr 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.

You might also like...
Share Your Story, Join the Discussion or Seek Advice..
[Add a Comment]
Matt - Your Question:
My contract states 40 hours per week but this has always been Monday to Friday with weekends being paid as overtime. I have been working here for 4 years. Recently, they have changed it to include weekends which means we are losing all of our overtime as we are getting a day off in the week. Should the contract specify 40 hours including weekends as the normal UK working week is considered to be Mon-Friday or is it correct that we have to work anytime within the 7day period? Thanks

Our Response:
This really depends on the wording in your contract. In general, "a worker can’t be made to work on Sundays unless they agreed it with their employer and put it in writing (for example, changed the contract)."
Ask a union rep or ACAS to take a look at your contract.
SafeWorkers - 18-Apr-18 @ 2:28 PM
My contract states 40 hours per week but this has always been Monday to Friday with weekends being paid as overtime. I have been working here for 4 years. Recently, they have changed it to include weekends which means we are losing all of our overtime as we are getting a day off in the week. Should the contract specify 40 hours including weekends as the normal UK working week is considered to be Mon-Friday or is it correct that we have to work anytime within the 7day period? Thanks
Matt - 17-Apr-18 @ 3:08 PM
I am ment to be on a 12 hour contract but each week my hours are at least 20 plus do i need to work them ?
Danni - 14-Apr-18 @ 2:50 AM
I was working on a 4 on 4 off shift with banking hours I got a promotion and started working a 5 over 7 but my company are still banking my hours, they say my contact has not changed so the are still banking my hours are they allowed to do this
Wayne - 12-Apr-18 @ 5:01 PM
JT - Your Question:
Hi. I'm on a 60hr a week contract and have been for 5years I signed an opt out of 48hrs agreement. I was wondering can I legally change this to 48hrs so in other words opt back in??

Our Response:
Yes you can cancel your You can cancel your opt-out agreement whenever you want. You need to give your employer at least 7 days’ notice - this notice period might be longer if you have a written opt-out agreement.
SafeWorkers - 11-Apr-18 @ 3:00 PM
Hi. I'm on a 60hr a week contract and have been for 5years I signed an opt outof 48hrs agreement. I was wondering can I legally change this to 48hrs so in other words opt back in??
JT - 11-Apr-18 @ 8:32 AM
I’m currently on a 24hr per week contract. I regularly work a 40hr+ week. When I take holidays the company only has to pay me 24 hrs. Am I entitled to a larger contract?
Cbl - 10-Apr-18 @ 6:29 PM
Mrs parry - Your Question:
Hi, in all previous 45 hour contacts I have had my breaks have been included in that 45 hours. My current job however states in my contact that I have a 45 hour contact to be worked 9 hours over 5 days, however it does not state anything about break entitlements. My area manager is trying to get us to work 9.5 hour days in order to allow us to take a break, as he claims that our entire 45 hours should be working time. I do not believe this is fair. What advice can you give?

Our Response:
That's an employer's choice. As long as it was clear when you agreed to work there or it's clear in your contract, there isn't much you can do about it. In generalif your contract is described as a 45 hour contract it will involve working for 45 hours.
SafeWorkers - 10-Apr-18 @ 3:42 PM
Keys - Your Question:
My contract is 25 hours a week I get cancelled a lot and I still get paid for 25 hours but I owe them the hours, that I have to pay back in my own time can they make me do this.

Our Response:
This depends on the nature of your contract. Without seeing it, we can't really help. It might be worth taking your contract to Citizens' Advice or ACAS etc
SafeWorkers - 10-Apr-18 @ 12:17 PM
Hi, in all previous 45 hour contacts I have had my breaks have been included in that 45 hours. My current job however states in my contact that I have a 45 hour contact to be worked 9 hours over 5 days, however it does not state anything about break entitlements. My area manager is trying to get us to work 9.5 hour days in order to allow us to take a break, as he claims that our entire 45 hours should be working time. I do not believe this is fair. What advice can you give?
Mrs parry - 10-Apr-18 @ 8:50 AM
manchie7 - Your Question:
Hi I have a contract that states that I must work up to 48 hrs/week and occasionally I will be expected to work over 48 hours but this will be un paid. I am on average working 58/wk for the past 6 years is this legal , my contract says my salary is also based on 48 hours/week ?

Our Response:
This is unreasonably, you should not be expected to work unpaid overtime of 10 hours per week on a regular basis. Contact ACAS for advice.
SafeWorkers - 9-Apr-18 @ 3:28 PM
My contract is 25 hours a week I get cancelled a lot andI still get paid for 25 hours but I owe them the hours,that I have to pay back in my own time can they make me do this.
Keys - 9-Apr-18 @ 3:25 PM
LR - Your Question:
I was working for 7 months before my employer issued me with a written contract, can I are this 36 hours guaranteed contract as starting at the beginning of my employment or only from the contract start date on it?

Our Response:
The contract is relevant from when you first start working for your employer.
SafeWorkers - 9-Apr-18 @ 11:44 AM
Hi I have a contract that states that i must work up to 48 hrs/week and occasionally i will be expected to work over 48 hours but this will be un paid . I am on average working 58/wk for the past 6 years is this legal , my contract says my salary is also based on 48 hours/week ?
manchie7 - 8-Apr-18 @ 11:57 AM
I was working for 7 months before my employer issued me with a written contract, can I are this 36 hours guaranteed contract as starting at the beginning of my employment or only from the contract start date on it?
LR - 6-Apr-18 @ 10:10 PM
I recently left a position at a local food retailer by handing in my month long notice. I only work 15 hours at the weekend. The first week of the notice I worked my 15 hours, 2nd called in sick for the 15 hours, then as I arrive to the first day of the weekends 15 hours I was told that my hours has been allocated to someone else and I can no longer have then and don't have to work, should I still be getting payed for these shifts?
Giv - 31-Mar-18 @ 11:50 PM
I've just started working with a new company and have a contract that states I get 37.5 hours per week, yet my manager has given me 10 hours stating that they need to give more hours to younger workers due to school and education term times finishing. How can I dispute this as I am still within my probation period?
Kel - 31-Mar-18 @ 3:30 PM
My contract is 36 hours I started college. So I could only do 24 hours a week I've been doing 24. Hours a week for the last 9 months but my contract still states 36 hour's should I be paid for the extra 12 hours per week as my contract still states 36 hours thanks
Maz - 29-Mar-18 @ 4:36 PM
My contracted says your pay for 25hours per week is guaranteed but I have only been given 11 hours do I still get paid 25hours guaranteed
Avahlulu - 29-Mar-18 @ 3:38 PM
My employer has stated that they will now be making us take unpaid breaks within our contracted hours which means I will loose 5 hours pay a week. Where do I stand on this ?
Sash1234 - 27-Mar-18 @ 6:04 PM
Unknown3000 - Your Question:
I am contracted 20 hours a week, if I work less, will I get, should I still get paid 20 hours a week?

Our Response:
If you contract says you work 20 hours per week and your employer cannot give you this many hours' work, you should still be paid for 20 hours.
SafeWorkers - 27-Mar-18 @ 1:51 PM
Moo moo - Your Question:
Hello I have been offered a 30hr week job, start at 8.30am to 18.30pm, only 30min lunch? I feel 10 hrs work and 30 min lunch is too short to relax but it’s a long day to be on my feet for 9 half hours, what do you think?I will be phoneing the area manager to ask as I’m a bit put off as we need time to relax from standing and need energy to focus.

Our Response:
It's acceptable to allow a break of only 30 mins. We're assuming it's only three days per week if it's 30 hours, so you do have days in which to recover.
SafeWorkers - 26-Mar-18 @ 10:54 AM
I am contracted 20 hours a week, if I work less, will I get, should I still get paid 20 hours a week?
Unknown3000 - 25-Mar-18 @ 12:18 PM
Hello I have been offered a 30hr week job, start at 8.30am to 18.30pm, only 30min lunch? I feel 10 hrs work and 30 min lunch is too short to relax but it’s a long day to be on my feet for 9 half hours, what do you think? I will be phoneing the area manager to ask as I’m a bit put off as we need time to relax from standing and need energy to focus.
Moo moo - 23-Mar-18 @ 10:45 AM
Trigger234 - Your Question:
My contract states that my employer has to provide me with a minimum of 25% of my availability each week, the place I was working at has closed and we have all been given 4 weeks notice, I have always worked my full availability each week which was two shifts = 22 hours per week. I have not been required to work during my notice period and my employer is telling me that they only have to pay me for 25% of my availability rather than the equivalent of what I would be working if it was still open and to reflect what I have been working every week up until it closed. Who is right?

Our Response:
You are entitled to 4 weeks at your contracted rate (which we assume is 25% of your availability) but it would be worth speaking to ACAS or a union rep for confirmation.
SafeWorkers - 20-Mar-18 @ 12:26 PM
Rob1996 - Your Question:
Im contracted to 25 hours a week but I have only been given 17.5hours for this coming week. Iv over heard a manager saying ‘as long as over a 4 week period your hours average at 25 a week we can give you less’ is this true or do they legally have to give me 25hours every week as that is in my contract?

Our Response:
Check the wording on your contract. If it says 25 hours per week, that's what you should work/be paid for. It the contract says something different like 100 hours per month etc, then it may be acceptable. Contact ACAS with your contract to hand if you're unsure.
SafeWorkers - 20-Mar-18 @ 12:22 PM
Rob - Your Question:
My contract states my hours are 15 a week but I actually work 37 per week. My holiday entitlement is 14 days written in my contract. Because I work more than 15 hours per week what should my holiday entitlement be.

Our Response:
You are entitled the holidays based on your contractual hours. If you regularly work extra hours because your employer expects/demands you to, then you ask to renegotiate your contract to reflect the addtional hours.
SafeWorkers - 20-Mar-18 @ 11:57 AM
caz - Your Question:
I am contracted to 33 hours a week I went on annual leave I wasn't down on the rota before going on my annual leave I ask the deputy manager to have a look at my rota because I wasn't down on the rota she said she was busy she didn't have time so the day after I ask her again to look at the rota as I was going on annual leave and I needed to know when I got back what days I was working she replied again I am busy I've not had time to look this went on for 3 days and I still hadn't been put on the rota so I left a note for the manager before I went on my annual leave asking her can she please have a look at the rota as I wasn't down for any shifts wen I got back of my annual leave I still wasn't put on the rota I came back from my annual leave and wasn't put on the rota till the week after I got back so am I entitled to the 33 hours pay even though I wasn't put on the rota as I have lost 33 hours pay not threw any fault of my own.

Our Response:
What does your contract say? If you are contracted to work 33 hours per week, that is what you should be paid for. If you're on a zero hours contract then that will not apply.
SafeWorkers - 19-Mar-18 @ 9:53 AM
Sue - Your Question:
I have a 12 hour contract but for the past 16 months I have been doing 30 hours each week can my employer drop my hours to 24

Our Response:
Yes if your contract is for 12 hours, that's all your employer has to offer you.
SafeWorkers - 19-Mar-18 @ 9:51 AM
My contract states that my employer has to provide me with a minimum of 25% of my availability each week, the place I was working at has closed and we have all been given 4 weeks notice, I have always worked my full availability each week which was two shifts = 22 hours per week. I have not been required to work during my notice period and my employer is telling me that they only have to pay me for 25% of my availability rather than the equivalent of what I would be working if it was still open and to reflect what I have been working every week up until it closed. Who is right?
Trigger234 - 18-Mar-18 @ 7:11 PM
Share Your Story, Join the Discussion or Seek Advice...
Title:
(never shown)
Firstname:
(never shown)
Surname:
(never shown)
Email:
(never shown)
Nickname:
(shown)
Comment:
Validate:
Enter word:
Latest Comments
Further Reading...
Our Most Popular...
Add to my Yahoo!
Add to Google
Stumble this
Add to Twitter
Add To Facebook
RSS feed
You should seek independent professional advice before acting upon any information on the SafeWorkers website. Please read our Disclaimer.