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Understanding Your Employment Contract

By: Dave Howell - Updated: 18 Aug 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 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
I am an agency workerl drop ill at work and my employer asked me to go home and less than 48 hours l was disengage from work, what should l do?
MM - 26-Jul-18 @ 10:18 PM
sparky - Your Question:
Hello hoping you can help? I work 50 hours a week 7am to 5pm monday to friday with an hour break but I am contracted 30 hours. I have been doing this since April 2017 since I have been employed. When it comes to a weeks holiday obviously I only get the contracted time. Surely there is a legal term for them to up my contract?

Our Response:
Your holiday pay should be based your average pay in the 12 weeks prior to the holiday. Please see our article Holiday Pay and Overtime Changes for more information.
SafeWorkers - 25-Jul-18 @ 2:47 PM
Bec - Your Question:
I have just started a new job in a school, and I am being told that my salary is based on Pro rata, although my contract does not state pro rata. Should my contract legally state pro rata if that's what I'm being paid?

Our Response:
You contract just needs to give information about your salary, ie. How much and how often you will get paid. It doesn't necessarily have to state that it is pro rata etc. This should however have been clear in any discussions, job adverts and offer letter though.
SafeWorkers - 25-Jul-18 @ 2:23 PM
pweb - Your Question:
For example: If I’m contracted to 22.5 but work 36.5 hours weekly for “x” amount months. Does the employer by law have to up my contracted hours?

Our Response:
No, you should ask your employer if you can negotiate a new contract, if you feel it is warranted.
SafeWorkers - 25-Jul-18 @ 11:20 AM
Hello hoping you can help? I work 50 hours a week 7am to 5pm monday to friday with an hour break but I am contracted 30 hours. I have been doing this since April 2017 since I have been employed. When it comes to a weeks holiday obviously i only get the contracted time. Surely there is a legal term for them to up my contract?
sparky - 24-Jul-18 @ 6:13 PM
Tus - Your Question:
Job accepted after offer for role in savings team. On the Friday afternoon before my first day on Monday, the HR team called to say that the training for the saving team will not happen until they get the number of people required for the two week training. I was asked to turn up on Monday to get a two day training for the credit card team. They said I will work in that dept until the training for the role I applied for starts in about five weeks. I was ok with that until I met with the savings team manager today. She said that it most likely I will remain in the credit card team. I made it clear that I did not apply for the credit card team job and it was misleading advertising the savings role through a reputable recruitment consultancy. Should I speak to HR or the recruitment condultancy about this?

Our Response:
Talk to the agency first of all and ask them if there was any other information available that wasn't passed on at the time of your applying.
SafeWorkers - 24-Jul-18 @ 3:04 PM
I have just started a new job in a school, and I am being told that my salary is based on Pro rata, although my contract does not state pro rata. Should my contract legally state pro rata if that's what I'm being paid?
Bec - 24-Jul-18 @ 2:58 PM
Job accepted after offer for role in savings team. On the Friday afternoon before my first day on Monday, the HR team called to say that the training for the saving team will not happen until they get the number of people requiredfor the two week training.I was asked to turn up on Monday to get a two day training for the credit card team. They said I will work in that dept until the training for the role I applied for starts in about five weeks. I was ok with that until I met with the savings team manager today. She said that it most likely I will remain in the credit card team. I made it clear that I did not apply for the credit card team job and it was misleading advertising the savings role through a reputable recruitment consultancy. Should I speak to HR or the recruitment condultancy about this?
Tus - 23-Jul-18 @ 11:30 PM
For example: If I’m contracted to 22.5 but work 36.5 hours weekly for “x” amount months. Does the employer by law have to up my contracted hours?
pweb - 22-Jul-18 @ 1:59 AM
Hi, I signed a contract with an employer but there was no work for three weeks as it was an empty brand new Care home.They paid me one months salary but I have resigned now to begin a new job.The house still is empty..... it they said I have to pay it all back! There is nothing in writing to say this in my contract?..... Don,t know what to do David
Dave - 18-Jul-18 @ 6:55 PM
My son is a contractor for Australia post,he is contracted for 5 hours a day as a mail delivery driver,some days he works up to 8 hours a day but still only gets payed for 5 hours.Is this legal or should he be getting payed for the extra hours he does?
Mel - 17-Jul-18 @ 6:50 AM
Hi i am the manager of a petrol station and I have a salaried contract of 44 hours and my contract states “and such additional hours as are necessary for the proper performance of his duties. The Employee acknowledges that he shall not receive further remuneration in respect of such additional hours” how many addition hours can be expexted of me as I am about to be covering 3 nights and other till shifts totalling 62 hours this does not include weekly paperwork, invoices etc... so this will be more like 72 hours by the end of the week. This will put me on £5.80 per hour and the company will be saving £485 that week as they are not paying anyone for the 62 hours on the till that I am doing and I get paid my salary, which on a normal week does not include till hours. Where do I stand, can I refuse to do it?.
So Tired - 5-Jul-18 @ 3:47 PM
Hi there, I've gone from a salaried position to an hourly rate of minimum wage. I work in a shop and am expected to cash up of an evening on occasion. This can take me at least 15 minutes over my finish time for which the company seem to think itsNOT to pay us. There is a company culture of 'its okay it's only 15-mins here and there', with most employees accepting that the business won't pay us. Having tried with no avail to establish the policy on cashing up time and being paid for it, it comes as no surprise that no one is prepared to formally state that we do not get paid for it. For me it's not acceptable not to be paid for an essential part of the job role that takes me outside my contracted hours. The area managers view is; " it should only take you 10 minutes' irrespective of that we should still get paid. AND it does take at least 15 minutes overtime to complete cashing up. Can I demand payment for this . I'm not prepared to droll aimlessly on like everyone else accepting it. We've a right and I'd like to know if we can take them to court if they don't pay us. I'm
Seren - 18-Jun-18 @ 1:15 PM
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
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