An employment contract can contain any number of terms and conditions to which both an employer and you, the employee agree. However, there are some elements of an employment contract which hold more importance than others.
Every employer is required to comply with basic employment law. But what items should you ensure are included in your employment contract before you sign?
First, it’s important to understand that, right from the moment you are offered a job, your employer is bound by the law, even if they make only a verbal agreement to employ you. However, any employer’s legal requirement can be dissolved if you haven’t submitted evidence of suitability for the job, such as the proof of right to work in the UK and/or the providing of adequate references, and so it’s important to ensure you’ve included this information with your application.
A Written Statement
Your employer is legally bound to provide you with a written statement that includes the terms and conditions of your employment. Inside this written statement, your employer must include a statement that allows them to reserve the right to either add to the job description or amend it. Another item that should be included in the written statement is that your employer reserves the right to change your place of work.
Grievance, Discipline and Dismissal
The details of your employer’s grievance and disciplinary procedures are also required by law to be included in the employment contract. As well, contact information if you wish to file a grievance or other issue, which process to follow and the steps to come once an issue has been reported should also be included in your contract. Your contract should also state the grounds upon which dismissal from employment can occur.
Discrimination is another item that should appear in your employment contract. Both you and your employer should understand what discrimination is so that you can avoid and identify it.
The definition of discrimination is the less favourable treatment of a person because of their nationality, ethnic origin, colour, race, gender reassignment, sexual orientation, sex, disability, trade union membership or lack thereof, political leanings, philosophical or religious beliefs, pregnancy, age, parental responsibility or maternity, and marital or civil partnership status. If your employer treats you differently based on any of the above, they are breaking the law.
Your employer is also in violation of the law if they engage in indirect discrimination. This form of discrimination occurs when a criterion, provision or practice is imposed by an employer which cannot be objectively justified, but places people who are members of particular group at a disadvantage.
Statutory Requirements for Pay, Hours and Leave
There are statutory requirements in place to govern pay, hours and leave. As such, they should also appear in your employment contract.
Your employer is required to pay you at least the national minimum wage. Currently, this amount is £6.50 per hour for employees aged 21 and over, with the minimum wage rising to £6.70 on 1 October, 2015. National minimum wage does not include gratuities, cover or service charges.
The law for most employees regarding working hours is no more than 48 hours per week. This is a maximum average. Although you and your employer can mutually agree to change the rules, this agreement must exist in writing and be signed by you and your employer.
You have the right to request, in writing, flexible working hours. However, you must have at least 26 weeks service with the same employer before you can do so.
Whether working on a fixed-term or part-time basis, you as an employee has the right to be treated as favourably as your full-time counterparts. This includes entitlement to holiday on a pro-rata basis, as well as adoption, paternity, maternity and parental leave.
Now that you know what should be included in your employment contract, you can be sure of your employers adherence to the law, regardless of the position to which you apply.
Tricia Hay is Owner, Director of First Base Employment Limited