With employment law increasingly weighted in favour of employees, ensuring that you have a proper contract of employment in place is vital to protect your interests as an employer.
Surprisingly, it is not a legal requirement to provide a written contract of employment; but if you don’t, standard employment terms apply, and these are rarely favourable to the employer (for example, the law states that an employee only has to give one week’s notice, unless there is a contract in place stipulating a longer notice period).
There are lots of types of contract, from permanent open-ended employment through to zero hours contracts and apprenticeship agreements. The one you provide must reflect what happens in practice, so it is important to get it right.
Even where there is a contract in place, any clauses must be exercised reasonably – it doesn’t give an employer carte blanche to enforce terms as they want. There is an implied clause of trust and confidence, and the employer is expected to abide by this just as much as explicit written clauses in the contract.
An employer cannot unilaterally make changes to a contract of employment. There must be consultation (collective consultation if 20 or more employees are affected by any change), and failure to do this properly can lead to claims for unfair dismissal, on the basis that the employer has effectively sacked their employee and taken them on again on a new contract.
Employment contracts are important to protect yourself as an employer, and you need to ensure that the contracts you have in place are fit for purpose and comply with the latest legislation.
Lovewell Blake offers free, no obligation HR Healthchecks for businesses, reviewing contracts, staff handbooks and other documents to ensure they comply with current legislation and best practice. For more details, contact Vicky Webber.