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Understanding Your Employment Contract

By: Dave Howell - Updated: 13 Feb 2019 | 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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Hi I have a contract to work 40 hours a week over 5 days but they are trying make me work more but I don't want to as I want to spend time my family can they make me do more hours or am I right in thinking they can't because I have a 40 hour contract ?
Tony - 13-Feb-19 @ 9:18 PM
My son has worked on an 8hr contact but the last 12 months he’s been working 30hrs over 5 days. But his employment says he will only get holiday pay for his contacted hours, surely this is wrong, I thought you would acure extra holidays? Mum
Mum - 12-Feb-19 @ 8:31 PM
Hi I am contracted to 30 hours per week. If I don’t not get 30 hours and fall below this due to my employer am I still entitled to 30 hours pay?
Hailstone123 - 4-Feb-19 @ 4:53 PM
Hi I've been working an average of 45 hours a week for 18 month on a verbal contract Now they have offered me a written Contract for 30 hours only but will expect me to work over 30 hours surely this isn't correct
Skinny - 24-Jan-19 @ 7:22 PM
I am in a 16 to 20 hour contract. My boss has changed his buisness nane to limited then after a few months changed it back to the original buisiness name. I verbally asked for no more than 16 hours due to my father being ill. Which he still is and this was agreed. I have a text message telling me I have now more hours. But still under 20 hours. Where do I stand in this situation as I'm physically shattered
Squeeky - 24-Jan-19 @ 1:20 PM
Just been offered a 30 hour job was gonna try and keep 10 hour job on to but isbad idea . Because of tax
Shelle - 23-Jan-19 @ 3:21 PM
I have an 18hr contract with William Hill. Last 6 weeks I have only been getting 16.5, losing at least a day a month. I have chased my District Manager for correct hours & still cant get full hours. Should I not be paid for full 18hrs?????
Debbie - 21-Jan-19 @ 7:46 PM
I am contracted 16hours weekly. Over the Christmas period 3x8hour shifts were taken from me and given to people at a new foreign call centre my boss has started using. What are my rights?
Tracy Oakley - 14-Jan-19 @ 9:32 PM
Employers are trying to change our work hours after 5 years of starting @ 6:45 & finishing @ 3:15 ,,We are not agreeing with this ,What can we do ,We have no Union in work for protection against a bully boy Manager ?
None - 10-Jan-19 @ 7:27 PM
I have a 37.5 hour contract per week, 11am-7pm Mon- fri,butthis week they had no work for me for on 1 off my work days they have told me I'll only be paid for this when they tally my monthly hours up and if i havnt reached my monthly hours, should this not be tallied up weekly, I'm paid monthly,it happened before and they refused to pay because I had worked overtime on a weekend to help them out.Seems unfair as I was available to work butthey had no placement for me for that day.
P - 3-Jan-19 @ 9:32 AM
Hi - my daughter who has just turned 18 has a contract to work 8 hours - however the shop often has her in over 18 hours per week. She is in full time education. They are not sticking to the 11 hour break between shifts (in 5-11 night, next day start at 9am - taking into account travel she is getting little rest) Secondly - if she is on 8 hour contract can she refuse to work additional hours? They have her in on holiday over 38 hours which to my mind is too much. Last thing, she says that there is a fair bit of sexual harrasment on the floor, including from managers! What is the best way to approach this? She is pretty new to work and I feel the company are taking advantage (including underpaying)
Mum - 21-Dec-18 @ 1:09 PM
I need some advice iv been working for this company for half a year now and they have given me a contract which I signed and handed back a few months ago. In the contract it stated my pay increase and contract duration and possition held which is a 4yrs contract as they will be paying for both my HGV licences which iv just completed and im contracted for 4yrs as the cost of the licences are expensive but if i want to leave earlyer than 4yrs i have to pay a persentige of the cost 100% first year 75% the second year 50% the third year and 25% forth year and few days after passing the boss calls me talking about having a chat after xmas as he want to talk about the possition within the company (stated on the contract) and also talk about the amount ill be getting payed, I'm worried that he doesn't want me for the manager position but only as a driver now and I'm wondering if he tries to pay me less than the contract states is he in breach of contract and will i be liable to pay back the licence costs in the contract if i dont except the new pay terms or amount.
Jay - 19-Dec-18 @ 6:26 PM
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
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