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Understanding Your Employment Contract

By: Dave Howell - Updated: 2 Oct 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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[Add a Comment]
I have a 30 hour contract and have always work more than this for the past year. Our hours have now been reduced as the setting has less children attending. We have been given less hours than our contracted hours and have been told that our hours are worked out over the year and not weekly meaning we’ll of had our ‘contracted’ hours. Can they do this?
Sandbag - 2-Oct-18 @ 8:06 AM
I have a contract which clearly states 50hrs per week average, and no definition that that average is over 17 weeks or any other figure, my interpretation of this is that my average working week, week to week should not exceed 50hrs, is this correct please, as some weeks they are now expecting me to work up to 60-70 hours with no additional pay, as I am on shift pay. Thanks.
Mark - 27-Sep-18 @ 11:01 PM
I have a signed and notarized contract agreement between me and my employer, now that the case that he asked me to work for him with is almost over he doesn't want to pay me. He than said he will give me his house and a 100k, and than now he change his mind again. what should i do ?
Ladylynn - 25-Sep-18 @ 11:42 PM
I have signed 35h contract. Employer won,'t give more than 20hrs because their cutting down labour. Please help. How should i adress my employer.
Gab - 23-Sep-18 @ 5:18 PM
Hello, I'm contracted to two 10 hour shifts a week on a flexable contract. My employer is trying to get me to agree to FIVE 4 hours shifts can they do that ? Regards John
Boomer - 22-Sep-18 @ 8:41 AM
Work for a large logistics company for 11 years, always been on 39hour contract. Recently the business is slowing due to customer demand. Now they are forcing us to take 3 weeks off with 50% pay. 50% pay would take us below national min wage, is this legal? Do we have to agree to the 3 weeks off?
Whyno - 20-Sep-18 @ 4:12 PM
I have signed a 20 hour contract have completed induction (7 days) however waiting for my days/hours to be set. Do they still have to pay me as its been 3 weeks now and not had any hours. (Waiting on my DBS to be sent then can do shadow shifts) I could have been working elsewhere
Mikky - 16-Sep-18 @ 8:28 AM
My contract states I work 30 hours a week but I have been rotated in 33 hours for the past half year. I did not realized the discrepancy till now. my employer is refusing to pay out the monies owed (over £600) and insists i take it as time back. I am not happy with this decision, as i have worked the hours and thus want the money.
karen - 14-Sep-18 @ 7:21 PM
9yrs in ago july i signed a contract at work for 37.5hrs per week.a few weks later the manager asked me to increase my hours to 48per week.i agreed and also signed the 48hr working directive.recently i have been suspended with full pay but they have only paid me for 37.5 hrs per week.i explained ive worked the 48hrs a week since september 09 and my payslips etc would reflect this and they would owe overtime for the 9yrs but they have just shrugged their shoulders and fobbed me off.are they allowed to this
putt68 - 10-Sep-18 @ 1:52 PM
I have to work shifts, and sometimes I am doing lone working. The company I work for is asking someone from the contracted cleaning company to work extra hours so that I'm not in the premises alone.Can the cleaner work for the cleaning company and when I need help, which is likely in my role, can they also work for the establishment I work for? Is this legal? The person has not had the relevant training for the position. Thanks
PCH - 8-Sep-18 @ 6:32 PM
Place of work has merged with another and we have been issued with new contracts.We work shifts. 8 hours a day. 1pm - 9pm. Can the employer amend our shift times say 2-10pm without us first discussing the changes and/or signing the new contracts?Not sure what the law says.
Tel - 8-Sep-18 @ 11:25 AM
Hi our contract says that we will work 14 days then have 7 days off most rotations we end up losing a days pay because of our pick up time and getting on site can they pay us 13 days if our we are contracte to 14 ?
themuts - 30-Aug-18 @ 3:56 PM
bergatronnn - Your Question:
Hi I work as a sales assistant and I'm on a 8hr contract and they've put me on over 20 hours constantly with me even telling me that I want to just do my contracted hours can I refuse to go over my contracted hours?

Our Response:
You cannot be forced to work over the number of hours in your contract and may legally refuse to do so if you are asked to do this too often. See our guide for more information
SafeWorkers - 29-Aug-18 @ 11:12 AM
If I sign a contract that states that compensation is TBD later through negotiations, and then those later negotiations don’t result in an agreed compensation amount is the original contract with no stated compensation binding. In other words, am I stuck with whatever pay they determine, or can I get out of that contract?
Jay - 29-Aug-18 @ 12:25 AM
steve - Your Question:
My contract says im contracted a "standard" of 20 hours a week but get rota of anywhere from 22-40 hours. which is not an issue but the wording of standard hours seems very broad and is what has me worried that, whilst the rota usually puts me at working 4pm till midnight with 30min unpaid break, I'm frequently kept till 1am or later without my consent. As its a new job and it seems the standard for everyone there to be kept later and I'm not discriminated against in any way I don't feel I can complain but still feel taken advantage of.my contract does not make any mention of mandatory overtime it only says any overtime is paid at the basic rate of pay.do I have to work past the hours given to me each rota week?

Our Response:
If you are not in a senior management position and you are regularly expected to work additional hours, you should be paid for these hours. If your contracted says your hours of work are 20,then you should only be asked work more than these hours occasionally or if you give your consent.
SafeWorkers - 28-Aug-18 @ 2:57 PM
Hi I work as a sales assistant and I'm on a 8hr contract and they've put me on over 20 hours constantly with me even telling me that I want to just do my contracted hours can I refuse to go over my contracted hours?
bergatronnn - 26-Aug-18 @ 6:21 PM
my contract says im contracted a "standard" of 20 hours a week but get rota of anywhere from 22-40 hours. which is not an issue but the wording of standard hours seems very broad and is what has me worried that, whilst the rota usually puts me at working 4pm till midnight with 30min unpaid break, i'm frequently kept till 1am or later without my consent. As its a new job and it seems the standard for everyone there to be kept later and i'm not discriminated against in any way I don't feel i can complain but still feel taken advantage of. my contract does not make any mention of mandatory overtime it only says any overtime is paid at the basic rate of pay. do i have to work past the hours given to me each rota week?
steve - 25-Aug-18 @ 2:39 PM
I have a 30 hour contract but only given 20 hours work does the company have to pay me the other 10 hours
Ally - 18-Aug-18 @ 11:45 AM
Hi my contract states that we should get a three week rolling rota I have worked for the company for a year and a half and never had one somethings I get a rota a day or two before the week starts I have a child it’s also the summer holidays I can never plan anything or even have time to swop my shifts if needed what can I do everytime it’s brought up we are told that it been started on now but o have been waiting for well over a year what are my rights I feel if I go about my managers head I will be penalised no extra hours etc as I know she done this to other people or just moves then to places they don’t want to go and work out of spite ???
Jk - 18-Aug-18 @ 11:08 AM
If I have been contracted to work 4 nights 23:00-08:00, but I have been constantly working 5 nights 23:00-08:00 for over 6 months. Am I entitled to having my contract changed to show this?
Ghost - 16-Aug-18 @ 8:29 PM
Hi i have a contract for 30hrs a week i am getting 17 a week sometimes do they have to pay the 30hrs they have agreed coz I want more shifts they are not giving me this?
Steph - 16-Aug-18 @ 7:44 AM
beet - Your Question:
Hi, I currently work 40 hours 9-5 Mon- Fri. Have done for the last 18 months. My contract states only working 40 hours it doesn’t say times or shifts. My employer is now trying to say I must work 7-3 including weekends. Do I have to agree with this.

Our Response:
If you contract doesn't specify particular days or times, then yes your employer can do this. If you have a offer letter or something else that led you to believe the job was 9-5 Monday to Friday, you might be able tochallenge this; you'd be advised to seek professional advice on this.
SafeWorkers - 10-Aug-18 @ 11:33 AM
Hi, I currently work 40 hours 9-5 Mon- Fri. Have done for the last 18 months. My contract states only working 40 hours it doesn’t say times or shifts. My employer is now trying to say I must work 7-3 including weekends. Do I have to agree with this.
beet - 8-Aug-18 @ 10:12 PM
Leah - Your Question:
Hi, I have recently been having a problem at work. I suffer with a health condition to my stomach which also links with my bowels. I have been sick a few times from work and now my temp manager has chosen to not grant me overtime for a month as it always has been. However now she has allowed me to have overtime but only on a day off and she has stated I can not work a long day which is a regular shift following an overtime shift or vise versa. I feel this is targeting me as I have explained many times of my health and they do not seem bothered until I am sick. I have always worked overtime and have my own pattern of completing overtime with normal shifts. Because she has allowed me overtime but only on a day off I see this as not allowing me to any as she already knows I prefer days off to rest. I feel this is now forcing me to work days off as I need overtime. I don’t know what to do and now I want to leave my job as I do not see my normal hours beneficial without the extra shifts.

Our Response:
Is the overtime compulsory or optional?
SafeWorkers - 6-Aug-18 @ 2:51 PM
Hi, I have recently been having a problem at work. I suffer with a health condition to my stomach which also links with my bowels. I have been sick a few times from work and now my temp manager has chosen to not grant me overtime for a month as it always has been. However now she has allowed me to have overtime but only on a day off and she has stated I can not work a long day which is a regular shift following an overtime shift or vise versa. I feel this is targeting me as I have explained many times of my health and they do not seem bothered until I am sick. I have always worked overtime and have my own pattern of completing overtime with normal shifts. Because she has allowed me overtime but only on a day off I see this as not allowing me to any as she already knows I prefer days off to rest. I feel this is now forcing me to work days off as I need overtime. I don’t know what to do and now I want to leave my job as I do not see my normal hours beneficial without the extra shifts.
Leah - 4-Aug-18 @ 3:33 PM
Paulo- Your Question:
I have been taken on as a trainee carpenter from my employer, I have been doing this since March, one of my site mangers sat me down last night and said that I am on my way out and they don’t think I am good enough for the job it self., and to start looking for a new jobI have a contract and have been taken on as a trainee, I’m looking for advise as where I stand with this situation

Our Response:
Did you have a probationary period? Are there training guidelines laid down? We can't really comment without more information but if you take your contract to Citizens' Advice or contact ACAS they can give more individual help.
SafeWorkers - 1-Aug-18 @ 10:47 AM
I am contracted to work 45 hours but now they have changed my contract to 40 hours and will not pay my break of 5 hours should they still state in my contract I will be working 45 hours ?
Jay - 31-Jul-18 @ 12:31 PM
bam bam - Your Question:
Job advert asked for a Centre Superintendent to supervise cleaners etc I applied and got the job. Training was identified in my first staff appraisal and then in all of them up to 2011. I never got the training. like for like work was turned down because supvision was not in my job description. the training was a supervisor course. Then they told me I didn't supervise. Job I was doing for 6 years. What can I do

Our Response:
Did you make attempts to secure any of the training required? A centre superintendent job would obviously involve the need to supervise. If you can prove that your employer has not followed correct procedures or has failed to provide you with something that was promised in your contract you may be able to take this further. We don't have enough information about your situation to comment further but if you feel you have been unfairly treated, contact ACAS for advice on how to proceed.
SafeWorkers - 31-Jul-18 @ 10:50 AM
I have been taken on as a trainee carpenter from my employer, I have been doing this since March, one of my site mangers sat me down last night and said that I am on my way out and they don’t think I am good enough for the job it self., and to start looking for a new job I have a contract and have been taken on as a trainee, I’m looking for advise as where I stand with this situation
Paulo - 31-Jul-18 @ 6:59 AM
Job advert asked for a Centre Superintendent to supervise cleaners etc I applied and got the job. Training was identified in my first staff appraisal and then in all of them up to 2011. I never got the training. like for like work was turned down because supvision was not in my job description. the training was a supervisor course.Then they told me I didn't supervise. Job i was doing for 6 years. What can I do
bam bam - 30-Jul-18 @ 8:48 AM
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