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Understanding Your Employment Contract

By: Dave Howell - Updated: 15 Jun 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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[Add a Comment]
I'd like to know if I have signed an "opt out agreement" for the 48 hrs per week, does this mean they can send me any where they choose and expect me to leave at 05h30 in the morning, get to site for 08h00. Work 8 hrs, then travel another 2.5 hours home, thus being a 12 hour day, BUT... ONLY PAY FOR 8 HRS? I'm having to do this 5 days a week, declaring I've worked 40 hours on my time sheet, but actually I've done 60plus with travel. I don't have a fixed place of Work either.
Robby - 12-Jun-19 @ 8:54 PM
I work in a care home we was suppose to to be paid on 28th it’s now 30thnot in our banks the company won’t tell us anything. Can they do this ??
Danni - 30-May-19 @ 6:33 AM
Good Morning, I am looking for a little advice, I work from 8.30am - 5.30pm with an hour unpaid lunch (12.30-1.30), 40 hours per week actual working time. Over the summer months I need to drive clients to and from the airport, over weekends and out of the 8.30-5.30 working period.I don't get paid for this over time but get the hours back in lieu - 1 hour for 1 hour. Should I be getting time and a half back i.e after the 40 hours worked, 1 hour overtime should be 1 hour and a half ?? Look forward to hearing from you, Thank you
Holmsey - 28-May-19 @ 9:33 AM
Hi I worked on an ice cream van for 12 hours then packed in. Went back and done another 17 hours. Left for somewhere else I've not received a penny am I entitled to any payment the job was advertised as 8.21 an hour. Cheers
Ice king - 25-Apr-19 @ 10:44 AM
The statements about what an employer must legally ensure are misleading. There are caveats to each of these. For example 24 hours in each 7 could also be 48 in 14 . Also11 hours between working days can be less for some workers and compensatory rest can be used to make the difference. The night shift comment is also tje strictest interpretation for dangerous work.
Nickname - 22-Mar-19 @ 7:51 AM
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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 its working for my employer for 27months i had to put a application form in for the job i went for the interview got a letter saying there was more experienced people who went for the same job i have just found out they have tuck on a lad who haz only done the same job as me for 2weeks can i sue the compeny
Dek - 13-Jun-18 @ 12:40 PM
Hi quick question. I work 16 hours a week term time only but only paid for 13 hours a week to have the half terms off paid. On my working tax form do i put 16 hours or 13 hours? So confused help!
Emzk - 13-May-18 @ 2:56 PM
Also believe I’m getting paid under minimum wage.
Anth4321 - 21-Apr-18 @ 6:05 PM
Hey I work at a family owned business I’m 20 yrs old so I don’t know very many laws and regulations on that but when I started working I was never given a schedule or a starting pay and now after a year working on a schedule they put me on maybe a week after I started states I get 32 hours but I only got 13 hours this week I just want to know if this is normal.
Anth4321 - 21-Apr-18 @ 6:02 PM
I was working on a 4 on 4 off shift with banking hours I got a promotion and started working a 5 over 7 but my company are still banking my hours, they say my contact has not changed so the are still banking my hours are they allowed to do this
Wayne - 12-Apr-18 @ 5:01 PM
Hi, in all previous 45 hour contacts I have had my breaks have been included in that 45 hours. My current job however states in my contact that I have a 45 hour contact to be worked 9 hours over 5 days, however it does not state anything about break entitlements. My area manager is trying to get us to work 9.5 hour days in order to allow us to take a break, as he claims that our entire 45 hours should be working time. I do not believe this is fair. What advice can you give?
Mrs parry - 10-Apr-18 @ 8:50 AM
I recently left a position at a local food retailer by handing in my month long notice. I only work 15 hours at the weekend. The first week of the notice I worked my 15 hours, 2nd called in sick for the 15 hours, then as I arrive to the first day of the weekends 15 hours I was told that my hours has been allocated to someone else and I can no longer have then and don't have to work, should I still be getting payed for these shifts?
Giv - 31-Mar-18 @ 11:50 PM
Moo moo - Your Question:
Hello I have been offered a 30hr week job, start at 8.30am to 18.30pm, only 30min lunch? I feel 10 hrs work and 30 min lunch is too short to relax but it’s a long day to be on my feet for 9 half hours, what do you think?I will be phoneing the area manager to ask as I’m a bit put off as we need time to relax from standing and need energy to focus.

Our Response:
It's acceptable to allow a break of only 30 mins. We're assuming it's only three days per week if it's 30 hours, so you do have days in which to recover.
SafeWorkers - 26-Mar-18 @ 10:54 AM
Hello I have been offered a 30hr week job, start at 8.30am to 18.30pm, only 30min lunch? I feel 10 hrs work and 30 min lunch is too short to relax but it’s a long day to be on my feet for 9 half hours, what do you think? I will be phoneing the area manager to ask as I’m a bit put off as we need time to relax from standing and need energy to focus.
Moo moo - 23-Mar-18 @ 10:45 AM
I’m contracred to 37.5 hours a week but get paid for 35 due to 30 mins been taken off for lunch. For the last 6 years I have worked 9-4. Now I’m being told I have to work 9-4.30 and take a 30 minute break in the day. Please can you advise me of my rights. Many thanks
J - 6-Mar-18 @ 11:16 PM
I work 48 hours a week but my payslip only ever says I work 40 hours. I know this isn’t right and something dodgy going on but for what reason would my employer only want to declare me working 40 hours per week?
Micky - 5-Mar-18 @ 6:39 PM
Hi I have been taken off my 8 hour night shift to do training for 2 hours. My work are refusing to pay me the extra 6 hours is this legal
Kimberly - 28-Feb-18 @ 10:13 AM
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
Idontcare- Your Question:
Right so I’m confused about this I’m new to this job and I work eight hours a day and I work six days a week that’s 48 hours but I’m only getting paid for 32 hours a week instead does anyone know why this might be I work for them but I get paid by another company but my boss gives me the check every Friday and he signs my them so he must know how many hours I get paid every day another prob I’m having is I worked Thur fri and sat and the next week but only got paid for four days and that was Mon-Thur and I didn’t get paid for those days on this check either I don’t need the job but I can’t leave because I don’t want to have to stress about the job can anyone plz help me ASAP

Our Response:
Have you asked? You should receive a payslip or wageslip telling you what your pay is, how much tax you've worked etc. Perhaps your company outsources the payroll to another company and they have your details incorrectly. Just ask!
SafeWorkers - 18-Dec-17 @ 3:30 PM
Right so I’m confused about this I’m new to this job and I work eight hours a day and I work six days a week that’s 48 hours but I’m only getting paid for 32 hours a week instead does anyone know why this might be I work for them but I get paid by another company but my boss gives me the check every Friday and he signs my them so he must know how many hours I get paid every day another prob I’m having is I worked Thur fri and sat and the next week but only got paid for four days and that was Mon-Thur and I didn’t get paid for those days on this check either I don’t need the job but I can’t leave because I don’t want to have to stress about the job can anyone plz help me ASAP
Idontcare - 16-Dec-17 @ 4:32 AM
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