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Understanding Your Employment Contract

By: Dave Howell - Updated: 23 Feb 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]
If my contract states that for a special event I am paid 2 hours, yet I ended up working 3 hours at that event.Can my company only pay me the 2 hours or do they have to pay the hours actually worked?
Casey - 23-Feb-18 @ 4:20 PM
Hi, My brother has got a job in a factory warehouse, he signed a contract to say he would be working night shifts (9:45pm - 7:30am) on a high wage. However, he has not worked one night shift - he has been put on the day shift which is less pay - are they allowed to do this? I can't see on his contract anywhere that he has to be flexible with shifts or anything. Also, his contract doesn't actually state anything about lunch breaks - he does take a lunch break but his contract doesn't actually say anything. Again - is this allowed? Thank you.
... - 22-Feb-18 @ 8:05 PM
Hi I work for a company and it has gone quiet, I'm on a 40 hour contract but only have about 7 hours work or so a day , iv been told to put this on my job sheets, but I will still be paid my contract hours, am I in breech of contract??
deanopg83 - 22-Feb-18 @ 9:09 AM
nu95 - Your Question:
Hey, i've been on a 35 hour contract for 2 years with the same placement of work, however. I do not get paid my contracted hours, I work in a dental place and if the dentist is off im off with out pay is this correct? as I presumed it was illegal not to be paid my contracted hours.

Our Response:
If your contract says you work 35 hours per week then that is what you should be paid for. Raise a formal complaint with your employer - for breach of contract. If they do not respond, contact ACAS with a view to taking it further via an employment tribunal.
SafeWorkers - 21-Feb-18 @ 12:30 PM
Vas - Your Question:
Good day ppl of the world. My question is, my mom works as a maid in a hotel, but she is not employed by the hotel, but by a subcontractor. She started more then a year ago. At first there was no contract, or an oral one. Suspiciously she was paid by hand(he assured her tax and nino are payed). I pushed her to make her employer pay her by bank so she has some records of the payments. After 3-4 months he did started paying her By bank and stared giving her payslips(quite strange payslips) with nino contributions and tax, but still no contract. To this day more then a year now, she doesn't have any contract or agreement. Employer always says "you are going to sign it next month, then his accountant was sick, then something else. And this goes on. But she likes her job and doesn't want to quit. How shady is it?

Our Response:
Tell her to contact ACAS. It could be that the employer just hasn't got round to creating a formal contract but this is still unlawful and needs to be addressed.
SafeWorkers - 20-Feb-18 @ 3:32 PM
hey, i've been on a 35 hour contract for 2 years with the same placement of work, however... i do not get paid my contracted hours, i work in a dental place and if the dentist is off im off with out pay is this correct? as i presumed it was illegal not to be paid my contracted hours.
nu95 - 20-Feb-18 @ 2:52 PM
Daniela- Your Question:
Hello, I am working in a restaurant. My contract says 30+. Is the company allowed to pay me for less than 30 worked hours?

Our Response:
If it is a standard contract (not a zero hours contract), yes you should be paid for a minimum of 30 hours.
SafeWorkers - 19-Feb-18 @ 3:41 PM
Hello,I am working in a restaurant.My contract says 30+. Is the company allowed to pay me for less than 30 worked hours?
Daniela - 17-Feb-18 @ 3:08 PM
Good day ppl of the world. My question is, my mom works as a maid in a hotel, but she is not employed by the hotel, but by a subcontractor. She started more then a year ago. At first there was no contract, or an oral one.Suspiciously she was paid by hand(he assured her tax and nino are payed). I pushed her to make her employer pay her by bank so she has some records of the payments. After 3-4 months he did started paying her By bank and stared giving her payslips(quite strange payslips) with nino contributions and tax, but still no contract.To this day more then a year now, she doesn't have any contract or agreement. Employer always says "you are going to sign it next month, then his accountant was sick,then something else. And this goes on. But she likes her job and doesn't want to quit. How shady is it?
Vas - 16-Feb-18 @ 9:27 PM
charlie nicholson - Your Question:
My wife started work on an minimum 8hr contract but always gets asked to work more. sometimes 2hrs. she dosnt mind as she loves her job and is a valuable paft of a team. been there 6 months now and theve now advertising for staff for minimum 12hr contract. should my wife be firstly offered this contract of 12hrs and advertise to replace my wifes 8hr contract. this has really upset her as she's gone in on he days off and also stopped late to help out when busy. we're dose she stand please as she feels peanalised

Our Response:
There are no rules to say an employer must do this, but your wife should ask her employer if she can work extra hours in light of the increased need for staff.
SafeWorkers - 16-Feb-18 @ 3:21 PM
my wife started work on an minimum 8hr contract but always gets asked to work more . sometimes 2hrs.she dosnt mind as she loves her job and is a valuable paft of a team. been there 6 months now and theve now advertising for staff for minimum 12hr contract.should my wife be firstly offered this contract of 12hrs and advertise to replace my wifes 8hr contract. this has really upset her as she's gone in on he days off and also stopped late to help out when busy. we're dose she stand please as she feels peanalised
charlie nicholson - 14-Feb-18 @ 6:49 PM
Dollynala - Your Question:
Hi, my contract is for 16 hours a week, I have been working in the company for over 10 years, my manager is trying to cut my hours. Can she do that ?

Our Response:
No, if you have a contract of employment that details specific hours, then your employer can only reduce them with your consent. Please see our guide to Objecting to Changes in your Employment Contract for further information.
SafeWorkers - 14-Feb-18 @ 12:51 PM
ICharger - Your Question:
I currently work 8am - 4.30pm Mon to Fri with a current contract saying I have to be flexible.I have heard from a manager that my boss wants to change my contract to work a shift pattern 6am - 2pm with any overtime after 2pm not paid.If I refuse to sign this new contract I will have to reaply for my position, with the high chance that I won't be successful.Where do I stand with this?

Our Response:
A change from regular hours to a shift pattern is more than "having to be flexible" - it is a change to your contract, to which you must give your consent. Take a look at our guide to objecting to changes in your contract for more information.
SafeWorkers - 14-Feb-18 @ 9:58 AM
Hi, my contract is for 16 hours a week, I have been working in the company for over 10 years, my manager is trying to cut my hours. Can she do that ?
Dollynala - 13-Feb-18 @ 5:00 PM
ChrisA - Your Question:
Hi my partner works in a care home but has recently been offered a job within the NHS. She handed in her 4 weeks notice but extended her notice period with the management's permission due to not yet having a start date for her new job. They have now took her off all rotas without consultation and placed her on bank (apparently meaning work when needed) therefore she now has no hours this week however she is contracted to 18 hours per week. She agreed with the line manager and wrote her name for 3 days overtime this week but now is being told she has been took off them. Are they in breach of contract?

Our Response:
Yes she should be paid for her contracted hours. If she's not paid them she can pursue this via an employment tribunal (ACAS is always the first step here).
SafeWorkers - 13-Feb-18 @ 3:24 PM
I currently work 8am - 4.30pm Mon to Fri with a current contract saying I have to be flexible. I have heard from a manager that my boss wants to change my contract to work a shift pattern 6am - 2pm with any overtime after 2pm not paid. If I refuse to sign this new contract I will have to reaply for my position, with the high chance that I won't be successful. Where do I stand with this?
ICharger - 12-Feb-18 @ 6:49 PM
Hi my partner works in a care home but has recently been offered a job within the NHS. She handed in her 4 weeks notice but extended her notice period with the management's permission due to not yet having a start date for her new job. They have now took her off all rotas without consultation and placed her on bank (apparently meaning work when needed) therefore she now has no hours this week however she is contracted to 18 hours per week. She agreed with the line manager and wrote her name for 3 days overtime this week but now is being told she has been took off them. Are they in breach of contract?
ChrisA - 12-Feb-18 @ 3:48 PM
YoungJustice - Your Question:
Hello, I'm asking a question on behalf of my father-in-law. He is an Agency Worker employed by a large retail company, and has recently signed a new contract. However, at the beginning of his employment (18 weeks ago), him and his colleagues were informed that they would be signing this new contract - which guarantees 7.5 hours, 5 days a week, and states they will be paid their hours in the event they are sent home early or not required to come in - at 12 weeks. In this 6 week interim, there have been multiple occasions where Agency managers have mentioned signing the contract, but no moves have been made to get this done until this week (week 18). I am aware his rights aren't as clear as an employees, being a zero-hour contract worker, but I was wondering if he is entitled to back pay for these 6 weeks, as he and his colleagues have lost several hours and full days due to lack of work. Does he have any legal basis for back pay?

Our Response:
Sorry it's not clear whether the contract is in place already? Or has he just been told about it/hearsay?
SafeWorkers - 9-Feb-18 @ 10:45 AM
Hello, I'm asking a question on behalf of my father-in-law. He is an Agency Worker employed by a large retail company, and has recently signed a new contract. However, at the beginning of his employment (18 weeks ago), him and his colleagues were informed that they would be signing this new contract - which guarantees 7.5 hours, 5 days a week, and states they will be paid their hours in the event they are sent home early or not required to come in - at 12 weeks. In this 6 week interim, there have been multiple occasions where Agency managers have mentioned signing the contract, but no moves have been made to get this done until this week (week 18). I am aware his rights aren't as clear as an employees, being a zero-hour contract worker, but I was wondering if he is entitled to back pay for these 6 weeks, as he and his colleagues have lost several hours and full days due to lack of work. Does he have any legal basis for back pay?
YoungJustice - 8-Feb-18 @ 11:55 AM
You don’t - Your Question:
Hi I work for a security company, I’m 21 years of age and I’ve not got s contract. I work in apartments sometimes doing 40-54 hours a week. My boss didn’t tell me I was doing a 16hour shift he just said someone will be there soon. The next day I did 14 hours. But already that week I already did 16 hours. Can someone please help me if I have not got a contracted do I have to give any notice for me to quit. And will I still get my pay if I quit. I’m worried because I’ve not got a contracted he won’t pay me what I’ve worked. I’ve not even got a security badge or a cctv badge to do the job and I’m working with the equipment.

Our Response:
You should be paid for any work you do. All employers must provide you with a written statement of particulars within 2 months of you starting, so you should have this even if you don't have a formal contract yet. You may be on a zero hours contract...see our guide for more information
SafeWorkers - 6-Feb-18 @ 11:55 AM
Hi I work for a security company, I’m 21 years of age and I’ve not got s contract. I work in apartments sometimes doing 40-54 hours a week. My boss didn’t tell me I was doing a 16hour shift he just said someone will be there soon. The next day I did 14 hours. But already that week I already did 16 hours. Can someone please help me if I have not got a contracted do I have to give any notice for me to quit. And will I still get my pay if I quit. I’m worried because I’ve not got a contracted he won’t pay me what I’ve worked. I’ve not even got a security badge or a cctv badge to do the job and I’m working with the equipment.
You don’t - 5-Feb-18 @ 10:56 AM
HawkinsBDK - Your Question:
If I’m contracted to 40 hours a week, if for some reason I do not work that amount hours because the work is not there, am I still entitled to 40 hours pay?

Our Response:
In general yes, although without seeing the full details of your contract it's difficult for us to say.
SafeWorkers - 2-Feb-18 @ 2:51 PM
If I’m contracted to 40 hours a week, if for some reason I do not work that amount hours because the work is not there, am I still entitled to 40 hours pay?
HawkinsBDK - 1-Feb-18 @ 6:40 AM
Shez - Your Question:
Hi there,I work shifts on a 4 on 4 off basis and I work 12 hour days (48 hours a shift). I am contracted on a 42 hour contract for these four days so I assume the 6 hours difference is break entitlement (1.5 hours per day).If I take take a 4 day shift holiday, my employer deducts 48 hours holiday from my entitlement. My argument is that I only get paid for 42 hours so why am I being deducted 48 hours?I have been advised that my breaks are paid breaks but this has confused me even further :-(Any advice would be appreciated.Kind regards.

Our Response:
Discuss this with your employer, perhaps your contract is wrong and it should actually be 48 hours?
SafeWorkers - 31-Jan-18 @ 10:41 AM
Hi there, I work shifts on a 4 on 4 off basis and I work 12 hour days (48 hours a shift). I am contracted on a 42 hour contract for these four days so I assume the 6 hours difference is break entitlement (1.5 hours per day). If I take take a 4 day shift holiday, my employer deducts 48 hours holiday from my entitlement. My argument is that I only get paid for 42 hours so why am I being deducted 48 hours? I have been advised that my breaks are paid breaks but this has confused me even further :-( Any advice would be appreciated. Kind regards.
Shez - 29-Jan-18 @ 8:39 PM
Morgan - Your Question:
Hi I am a service manager and our company has recently started to employ new service engineers on an any 5 from 7 contractThese engineers work from home and our work is 75% planned servicing and 25% reactive and always at little or no notice at all, in other words it is always urgent. l have concerns about applying this contract on the basis of operational needs requently change rapidly and unpredictably so for example an engineer could have something planned on his or her days off, say Friday / Saturday and a short notice request for a Sunday working comes in, and the demand is short notice. Given that our engineers are at liberty to plan private scheduled time activities can we demand that they switch days off irrespective of the effect on the person? Of course this could be any combination of days off.

Our Response:SafeWorkers - 26-Jan-18 @ 12:32 PM
Hi I've just been offered a job, which is great, but one of the conditions is that I must opt out of the 48 hour average work hours working time directive, Is this legal ? Thoughts please ? Many thanks
JCP - 25-Jan-18 @ 9:57 PM
Tell- Your Question:
I have worked for my employer for 11years, I do shifts including weekends full time, I am allowed the equivalent of 7 weeks (35 days) holiday. After a recent stretch of sickness I have returned to work and been informed by my superior that the contract has now changed and although I still get 35 days holiday I am now only allowed to take 2 Saturdays and 2 Sundays holiday out of this entitlement with the other 31 days to be taken during the week. I often have a Saturday off as my wife also works weekends and we take turns with childcare if we can not get an alternative babysitter, this new contract means that my wife will now be taking most of her annual leave on weekends to look after the children which will leave her with nothing to take if we decided to go abroad etc. I had not been informed of any impending changes and have not agreed to any changes on my contract, any help and advice would be appreciated.

Our Response:
Was it written into your contract that your holidays could be taken any time? If so you can object to the change read our guide for more information. In general an employer can say when employees should take their annual leave.
SafeWorkers - 24-Jan-18 @ 12:26 PM
Hi I am a service manager and our company has recently started to employ new service engineers on an any 5 from 7 contract These engineers work from home and our work is 75% planned servicing and 25% reactive and always at little or no notice at all, in other words it is always urgent. l have concerns about applying this contract on the basis of operational needs requently change rapidly and unpredictably so for example an engineer could have something planned on his or her days off, say Friday / Saturday and a short notice request for a Sunday working comes in, and the demand is short notice. Given that our engineers are at liberty to plan private scheduled time activities can we demand that they switch days off irrespective of the effect on the person? Of course this could be any combination of days off.
Morgan - 24-Jan-18 @ 12:12 PM
I have worked for my employer for 11years, I do shifts including weekends full time, I am allowed the equivalent of 7 weeks (35 days) holiday. After a recent stretch of sickness I have returned to work and been informed by my superior that the contract has now changed and although I still get 35 days holiday I am now only allowed to take 2 Saturdays and 2 Sundays holiday out of this entitlement with the other 31 days to be taken during the week. I often have a Saturday off as my wife also works weekends and we take turns with childcare if we can not get an alternative babysitter, this new contract means that my wife will now be taking most of her annual leave on weekends to look after the children which will leave her with nothing to take if we decided to go abroad etc. I had not been informed of any impending changes and have not agreed to any changes on my contract, any help and advice would be appreciated.
Tell - 23-Jan-18 @ 7:14 PM
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