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Contracts of employment (written statements of particulars)

What is the difference between a contract of employment and a statement of written particulars of employment?

The law requires you to issue each employee with a month or more service with a statement of written particulars of employment. This is a minimum statement concerning their employment. It covers issues related to pay and conditions, place of work, basic discipline and grievance, job title etc. A contract is more detailed document that will define a more stringent set of expectations on the employee and obligations on the employer. It is generally issued before employment commences and forms a written agreement of the nature of the offer and acceptance. Whilst a written statement is quicker to produce, you should use a fuller contract for permanent employees, key roles and more senior people. Get written statements and contracts from the appropriate section in our products list.

Contact us if you want a bespoke employment contract to be drafted or call 01628 820515 to discuss your needs.

Why should my staff have contracts rather than written particulars?

A full contract is often a safer option than written particulars because it contains more details about the terms and conditions of employment and on the employer’s expectations of the employee. Written particulars can leave important aspects of the employment relationship open to interpretation and ultimately if the relationship were to turn sour, it will be for a tribunal to interpret those missing or controversial aspects.

Contact us if you want a bespoke employment contract to be drafted or call 01628 820515 to discuss your needs.

Who do I need to give written particulars (as a minimum) to?

All staff with more than 1 months service. This applies to full time, part time, temporary or fixed term employees.

Contact us if you want a bespoke employment contract to be drafted or call 01628 820515 to discuss your needs.

Do I need to give written particulars (as a minimum) to staff before they start work for me?

No. You can wait up to 2 months before issuing minimum statutory information, but the right to a statement of minimum written particulars accrues after 1 month. This means that even if an employee leaves in their second month of service, they are still entitled to receive a copy of their written particulars. After 2 months the right to further information accrues, so a full statement of particulars must be issued by the end of the second month of employment. It is good practice though to ensure that all new employees receive a full contract of employment before they start work for you.

Contact us if you want a bespoke employment contract to be drafted or call 01628 820515 to discuss your needs.

What does ‘breach of contract’ mean and what can happen as a result?

A breach of contract can be committed by either employer or employee. It basically means that one or other has done something which breaches an express (i.e. written) or an implied term of the employment contract. If serious enough the breach could lead to either party declaring the contract to be broken, leading the employer (in the event of the employee's breach) dismissing the employee with or, in the case of gross misconduct, without notice.  If the employer has committed a serious breach of contract the employee may regard themselves as having been dismissed with or in the case of a very serious breach, without notice.  This is known as a 'constructive dismissal.'

Contact us if you want a potential breach of contract (or how to approach managing a change to a contract), or call 01628 820515 to discuss your needs.

What is the penalty for not providing a written contract or a statement of written particulars within 2 months?

In the event of a tribunal claim for another reason (e.g. unfair dismissal) the failure to provide a statement of written particulars will normally be added to the claim with a potential penalty of 4 weeks' pay.  

Contact us if you want a bespoke employment contract to be drafted or call 01628 820515 to discuss your needs.

What do I need to do with the contract once I've produced it?

You should issue each employee or worker with a copy of their own contract of employment and ask them to sign and return a copy to you. You should familiarise yourself with all of the clauses and make sure that you do not operate in ‘breach of contract’, i.e. by acting in a way that is at odds with what you have written in the contract. You should also ensure that all of your employees understand their obligations under the contract. In Scotland the contract should also be witnessed by another person.

Contact us if you want a bespoke employment contract to be drafted or call 01628 820515 to discuss your needs.

Do I need to issue a new contract every year or every time something changes?

No. Minor changes in the law will be viewed to be incorporated within your contract of employment, whether they are written in or not. When you buy new contracts (e.g. for new employees) these will be updated where necessary, but you need not update old contracts. However, where a major change or development in the law, or the person's terms (e.g. a promotion) occurs we do recommend you issue a new contract.

Minor changes to terms of employment (a pay rise) can be covered by a note to the employee, a copy of which should be kept on their personnel file.

Contact us if you want a bespoke employment contract to be drafted or call 01628 820515 to discuss your needs.

My (existing) employees won't sign the contract! What do I do?
  1. Meet each individually, or together if more appropriate to ascertain why they are objecting.
  2. If they have a valid reason for the objection, e.g. you are trying to change an existing term of employment for the worse, you should consider reverting to the original terms, or seek advice on how to proceed.
  3. If there is no valid reason (just a fear of paperwork?), explain carefully why you are trying to implement the contracts (see the employer's guide for help with this) and consult both collectively and individually to try to put employee minds at rest.
  4. If they will still not sign, but do not appear to have any valid reasons for not doing so, write to all employees informing them that you regard the contracts to be in place and in force at a date in the future (say 4 weeks), but giving them the right to pursue the matter through the grievance procedure if they have any valid reason for wishing to challenge this. Write again after 4 weeks (assuming no valid grievances have changed matters) confirming that the contracts are valid and issuing a further copy. KEEP ALL letters and paperwork.

Contact us if you want to discuss what to do in the event of 1 or more employees refusing to sign contracts (or you want to start the process of implementing new ones) or call 01628 820515 to discuss your needs.

What does 'Continuous Service' mean & why is it significant?

Continuous service is the date the employee originally joined the Company OR transferred into the Company under a TUPE arrangement in this period of employment:

Ex 1: An employee joined Ace Ltd on 1 Sep 1988 and has not left the Company at any time. He was promoted in October 2004. His continuous service date will be recorded as 01/09/1988. 
Ex 2: An employee joined the Red Lion Pub Holding Co Ltd on 3rd March 2000. On 5th March 2005 Alphabet Inns bought the Red Lion Pub Holding Co Ltd, and all of Red Lion's staff transferred to Alphabet under TUPE. The employee's start date with Alphabet is the original date he started with Red Lion, i.e. 3rd March 2000, not the transfer date. 
Ex 3: An employee joined Ace Ltd on 15th April 1992. He left Ace in 1994, but returned into a new job with Ace on 1st Oct 2001 and has been employed there ever since. His start date for continuous service purposes is 1st October 2001, since his earlier service was broken by his leaving in 1994.

Continuous service is important since many employment rights are based on length of service:

- The right to submit a claim to an employment tribunal applies to staff with 2 years + service (except unlawful discrimination where there is no minimum service)
- The right to a redundancy payment applies to staff with 2 years+ service
- The amount of redundancy pay an employee is entitled to increases with age and service
- The amount of notice an employee is entitled to receive from their employer in the event of termination of their employment increases in line with their service up to a maximum of 12 weeks for 12 years service (or more if their employment contract says more.)

Contact us if you want to discuss service terms, or call 01628 820515 to discuss your needs.

What type of contracts should I use?

There are many types - permanent, temporary, fixed term, casual, zero hours, self employed...to name just a few. You can read more about employment contracts here.

Contact us if you want a bespoke employment contract to be drafted or call 01628 820515 to discuss your needs.

Can I write my own contractual clauses?

We do urge caution - writing contractual clauses (or indeed changing standard clauses) is a skilled business and we would advise you to email us a copy of the clause or change you would like to make so that we can check that it might not have any potentially damaging implications. In most cases we can do this for you as a part of your support package (HR Access/HR OUtsource), but if the changes are major, or demand a major re-write or research we will agree with you a fee for doing this before we undertake the work.

Contact us if you want a bespoke employment contract or clause to be drafted or call 01628 820515 to discuss your needs.

What is a contractual amendment?

The contract of employment states the terms of the relationship between you and your employee. Changing one of those terms requires a contractual amendment, or in some cases (e.g. a promotion) a new contract altogether. Some changes are so minor that only an amendment to contract might be required, rather than issuing a complete new version. For example, if you increase an employee's pay, you should send them a 'side letter' confirming the new rate of pay. A copy of the letter should be kept on file, and this will constitute a 'contractual amendment'. Myhrdept.co.uk contains various template letters to achieve contractual amendments (these are not available to 'free pack' users of myhrdept.co.uk).

Note that whilst minor contractual amendments caused by changes to the law or increases in pay etc are unlikely to cause difficulty, employers must not unilaterally change the terms of employment without agreement. To do so could give rise to a fundamental breach of contract, allowing the employee to resign and claim they have effectively been dismissed as a result of your breaching their contractual rights. This is known as 'constructive dismissal'. See our employer's guide to varying contracts of employment for more on this.

There are ways of effecting contractual change without an employee's consent, but these are necessarily quite involved processes.

Contact us if you want to discuss amending contract terms, or call 01628 820515 to discuss your needs.