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Understanding Your Employment Contract

By: Dave Howell - Updated: 14 Dec 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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I have a 30 hour a week VERBAL contract. (I have asked for a written one) Im still yet to receive 30 hours. Ive not been paid for annual leave. I feel bullied. Im a single mum with a mortgage to pay Please advise me
J.D - 14-Dec-18 @ 7:53 AM
I have a verbal 30 hour a week contract. I have yet to receive these hours. I was not paid for annual leave. What can i do please. Im a single mum with a mortgage to pay.
J.D - 14-Dec-18 @ 7:51 AM
I see on my payslip my contractual hours is 20. However i am paid by hour and only given one shift in the last couple weeks?? Is this legal? UK company
BB9 - 21-Nov-18 @ 11:53 PM
I was told I have a 38 week contract, but never seen it. Can I claim any money when I'm not working for the other 14 weeks. I don't work when it's school holidays
Sambo - 14-Nov-18 @ 1:41 PM
I have 2 children I have just started a job off 16 hours a week 2 half hour breaks will I be under a 16 hour contract or 15 hour contract because of the break any help???
Chlo - 9-Nov-18 @ 11:08 PM
My contract is 36.5 hrs over 7 days and although I have worked the same hout times and number of days for a number of years with my day off remaining the same day,my employer now wants to do a new Rota with everyone doing earlier and lates so some of my shifts might change.i also might have to work a Saturday which i haven't done before as I don't have care for my partner at weekend and that's why Sat is my day off.can they make me do it ?
Ronnie - 5-Nov-18 @ 8:07 PM
My son has signed a contract for 12hrs a week but is only getting 8, should he get paid for 12 as it’s his employer that is only giving him 8. He wants to do more.
Ange - 31-Oct-18 @ 11:41 PM
I have been working at company for 3 years on about average 20 hours a week. But contract is still only for 8 hours my holiday pay is shocking as only getting the contracted hours for holiday pay. Is it not stated that this should be changed within certain length of time. Company taking people on with higher contracts but I am still on 8 hours feel like being punished as I do not do nights because of anxiety.
Peachy2 - 28-Oct-18 @ 7:26 PM
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
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