Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 24 April 2014

Contracts of Employment

Lucy Cochrane

One of the most frequent violations of statutory employment rights reported to CAB is the failure to receive a written statement of the main terms and conditions of employment.

Some employees are provided with a very detailed contract of employment while others may not have anything in writing.

A contract of employment is an agreement between an employer and a worker setting out the terms under which they will have a working relationship. An employee always has a contract of employment with their employer and while the employee may not have anything in writing a contract will still exist. An employer and employee can agree to whatever terms they wish to be in the contract but an employee cannot normally agree to a contractual term which gives fewer rights than they have under law (called statutory rights).

All employees, irrespective of the number of hours they work, are entitled to a written statement of their main terms and conditions of employment within two months of starting work. The written statement should contain the following information:

  • the names of the employer and the employee;
  • the date when the employment (and the period of continuous employment) began;
  • the scale or rate of pay and the intervals at which it is to be paid;
  • hours of work;
  • holiday entitlement;
  • entitlement to sick leave and sick pay;
  • pensions and pension schemes;
  • the entitlement of employer and employee to notice of termination;
  • job title or a brief job description;
  • disciplinary and grievance procedures;
  • where it is not permanent, the period for which the employment is expected to continue or, if it is for a fixed term, the date when it is to end;
  • either the place of work or, if the employee is required or allowed to work in more than one location, an indication of this and of the employer’s address;

details of the existence of any relevant collective agreements which directly affect the terms and conditions of the employee’s employment including, where the employer is not a party, the persons by whom they were made.

Where there is no information to be given for one of the items to be covered in the statement (for example, where there is no pension entitlement) this must be stated.

Employees are also entitled to receive written notification when a change occurs to anything contained in the written statement. The notification must be given at the earliest opportunity but no later than one month after the change occurs.

Some employers treat new employees as being in a probationary period when they first start work and try to argue that during this period employees do not have the usual employment rights, for example, the employer does not have to pay statutory sick pay, statutory maternity pay or pay in lieu of notice. There is no such thing in employment law as a probationary period and the employee will start to acquire their statutory rights from the first day of their employment not from the time when a probationary period is over.

Further information is available from your local CAB or on the Department for Employment and Learning website at delni.gov.uk. Further Information on Contracts of Employment can be found on www.nidirect.gov.uk if you are an employee or worker and www.nibusinessinfo.co.uk if you are an employer