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Written Statements, contracts, and changing terms in your contract

All Employees are legally entitled to a Written Statement, which they must receive within two months of starting the job. This statement is a summary in writing of your main terms and conditions of employment. It is not itself a contract of employment but is evidence of the contract of employment. (For information regarding Freelancers and Contractors see below).

Updated for 2015.

What is a contract of employment?

A contract of employment is a legally binding agreement between an employer and employee, which is formed when you agree to work for an employer in return for pay. It may be made orally, but should be in writing to avoid dispute.

Your contract contains your rights and duties, and the rights and duties of your employer – called the ‘terms’ of the contract. Some of the main particulars of employment must be put in writing, i.e. in a written statement.

The written statement must include:

  • Your name and the name of your employer

  • The date your employment and continuous employment began

  • Your job title and job description

  • Your job location

  • Your pay details

  • Your working hours

  • Your holiday entitlements and rest breaks (under the Working Time Directive legislation)

  • Your sick pay entitlement and notification time-scales

  • Details of any pension scheme which your employer operates

  • The notice periods you need to give to end your employment if you want to resign. The legal minimum notice you need to give your Employer is 1 week (after 1 months continuous service). Often your contract will specify a longer notice period – if it does not you must give a ‘reasonable’ period of notice (1 week or above) depending on how long you have been there and what position you hold (how senior you are). For details of your pay rights during your notice period go to this link.

  • The notice period your Employer has to give you to end your employment, or details of the length of your contract if it is not open-ended/permanent (i.e. it is Fixed Term). If you are on a permanent contract your Employer must give you the statutory minimum notice period if your contract does not specify the notice periods they require. The statutory minimum notice period is 1 weeks notice if you have worked continuously for your Employer for between 1 month and 2 years. And 1 week for each completed year of service once you have been employed with them for 2 years or more – up to a maximum of 12 weeks notice. Your contract may specify longer notice periods that your Employer will give you. To calculate a week’s pay (which you need to do for redundancy payments, holiday pay and pay during notice periods) look at this link.

  • For details of how your Employment may come to an end and for further details about Fixed Term Contracts see our Guide here.

  • Your employers disciplinary rules and procedures, appeal rules, grievance procedures and details of any collective agreements your employer has with Trade Unions that directly affect your conditions of employment.

Examples of other items that may be (but do not have to be) included in the written statement:

  • Appraisal arrangements

  • Training and staff development information

  • Time-off and absence from work arrangements

  • Trade union membership details

  • Health and safety matters

  • Lay-offs and short-time working details

  • Maternity/Paternity and working parent policies

  • Redundancy policy

  • Company vehicles policy

  • Expenses policy

  • Outside interests – other employment – policies

  • Smoking policy

  • Plant and tools policy

  • Restraints following termination (any restrictive covenants in your contract)

  • How changes to terms and conditions of employment can be made

  • The use of mobile phones policy

  • The use of computer facilities including the internet and email policies.

Details of any Probationary Period should also be included.

From 1st September 2013, Employee Shareholders, a new form of employee contract, were introduced – and these contracts will be slightly different. Full details are here.

If you are not provided with a Written Statement after 2 months then our advice would be to firstly talk to your Manager(s) or your Trade Union if you are a member. If this is not successful then your only recourse is to lodge a claim with an Employment Tribunal that you have not received your Written Statement (this is called making a ‘reference’ under the Written Statement Requirements). The tribunal would decide what employment particulars you should have been given and these will take effect, as if your employer had given them to you. There is no financial compensation for employees in this instance at Tribunal.

If you are an Apprentice your Contract will be slightly different – see our Guide to Apprenticeships here.

Other Information About Contracts

A contract is an agreement with two or more parties, that can be written, oral, implied or a combination of these.

A contract of employment is an agreement between you and your employer. There is always a contract between you and your employer, even if you do not have anything in writing, because you have agreed to work for your employer in return for them paying you. The terms of an employment contract set out what you and your employer have agreed and what you can expect of each other; your rights and duties. For more details about ‘express’ and ‘implied’ terms of a contract (and details about the duty of trust and confidence that exists within a contract) see our Guide here.

The main elements of a valid contract of service (that employees have) AND a contract for services (that those who are self-employed have) are:

  • The intention to enter into legal relations

  • The offer (of work) and its acceptance (an agreement)

  • Consideration (e.g. in return for doing work/providing a service the ‘worker’ receives payment).

When agreeing to a contract if you are self-employed – be clear of the services that you are carrying out and the timescales. The contract is the legal document but it can be supported by other documents that are referred to in it, these include:

Changing Terms in a Contract (for Employees)

Sometimes it may be necessary for your Employer to change your terms and conditions of employment; this should normally be after they consult with you (or a recognised Trade Union), explain their reasons and listen to any alternative ideas you may have. If your Employer is trying to change something that is NOT written into your contract then have a look at our new article about custom and practice and changing terms and conditions.

  • Your employers may have business reasons that mean they need to change your pay (basic rate, overtime, bonus) working location, hours/days of work (see short-time working below), holiday or sick-pay entitlement, your job or its duties and responsibilities. Your Employer must have valid business reasons for making any change.

  • Your contract may also change due to new legislation or regulations.

  • Your contract or Company Handbook may include a ‘variation’, ‘flexibility’ or ‘mobility’ clause that allow your employer to make changes if they are reasonable.

  • Your contract may also change where your Employer recognises a Trade Union that has bargaining rights at your work-place and a change has been agreed between your Employer and the Trade Union. If you don’t belong to the Union this change will still apply to you and you may not be able to stop this change.

  • In some circumstances, e.g. after the outcome of a disciplinary hearing, your employer can make changes to your contract i.e. demote you or cut your pay, without your agreement.

  • Certain changes to a contract can also be seen as an Employers prerogative, e.g. making changes to methods of working.

  • You can also ask to change the terms in your contract e.g. pay (you have no automatic right to a pay rise unless this is written in your contract), different working hours. See our Guide to Flexible Working here.

  • Changes to your terms and conditions of employment should be put in writing if they alter anything in your written statement of employment.

  • In theory, changes should generally not be imposed without you the employee agreeing and your agreement must be explicit, otherwise your Employer has breached your contract. However, in practice, you may be faced with the choice of accepting the change or losing your job.

  • Even where changes are agreed there has to be ‘consideration’. Where changes include improvements to the employee’s terms and conditions, that will be the consideration. But where the change is to the employee’s detriment (such as the introduction of restrictive covenants, that prevent the employee for example working for a competitor if they leave) it may be hard to establish ‘consideration’ without for example an accompanying pay rise that is only related to the change (and would not have happened normally) – e..g. there must be evidence that the benefits being given were conditional on acceptance of the covenants (Re-Use Collections Limited v Sendall & May Glass Recycling 2014)

  • Employers should ensure they receive a signed copy of the new contract from the employee to confirm the employee has accepted the changes.

  • If your contract is altered without your consent and you continue working in accordance with the new terms of your contract, without objecting, you will be seen to have accepted the changes.

  • If your contract is altered without your consent and you are unhappy with the changes you can make it clear, in writing, that you are working under protest and explain your reasons.

  • You should then raise a grievance detailing your complaint (you cannot work ‘under protest’ indefinitely without bringing a grievance or making a complain to an Employment Tribunal). You will then be in a position to bring a claim against your Employer for breach of contract and/or, if you have resigned, constructive dismissal although you must make a complaint to an Tribunal within 3 months of the ‘event’ normally. This is a last resort option so please take advice from the Citizens Advice/ACAS/a legal advisor before bringing any claim/resigning.

  • If you do not wish to raise a grievance or make a claim to an Employment Tribunal then you may eventually have to accept the changes.

  • Ultimately, if you are unwilling to accept the changes your Employer wishes to bring in they may choose to dismiss you and re-hire you on a new contract with the new terms and conditions they wish to implement. As this is a dismissal you could bring a claim for unfair dismissal (whether you accept the offer of re-engagement on the new terms or not) but it is likely that your Employer will argue it was a fair dismissal for business reasons. If your Employer can demonstrate that it had a good, sound business reason for making the changes and they followed a fair procedure to introduce these (including appropriate notice periods) and acted reasonably to successfully defend an unfair dismissal claim in these circumstances. For more information about Dismissals to bring in a new contract with new terms and conditions see our article here.

This document from ACAS provides a lot more advice about contracts, changing their terms and notice periods.

In an interesting 2013 case, Borrer v Cardinal Security Ltd, Borrer was a Security Guard for Cardinal Security for 4 years. His main place of work was at Morrisons in Brighton, where he worked for 2 years on a regular 48 hour week. His Contract with Cardinal (which could be described as a zero-hours contract) did not specify his hours of work but said “your working hours will be specified by your line manager”.

When working at Morrisons Brighton he was informed about his hours of work by text message from his manager or by contacting the control centre. In October 2011 Morrisons made a complaint about Borrer and requested that he be moved from the Brighton store (as they were entitled to under the contract with the security company). Mr Borrer worked for other clients and a few weeks later was offered a full time position with Morrisons Seaford store, where he worked for the next few weeks The Manager of the Seaford store was also unhappy with him and eventually Cardinal found him shifts at another of their clients. Borrer told Cardinal he was resigning because he was not being offered enough hours – during that conversation he was offered a full-time position of 38 hours per week at another store in Brighton. A week later he wrote to Cardinal confirming his resignation, claiming Cardinal were in breach of contract and rejecting their statement he was on a zero-hours contract.

The original Employment Tribunal found that there was nothing to imply that he worked a fixed number of hours per week (48) and there was no breach of contract, so he could not claim unfair constructive dismissal. The Employment Appeal Tribunal allowed the appeal and found that Borrer had been contractually entitled to work his claimed 48 hours per week (and there was no doubt he was an employee).

Information about Short-Time Working (for Employees)

During a recession rather than make redundancies your Employer may choose to make other changes to your Employment contract. An option they may have to consider is short-time working. This is when your hours of work are reduced (by reducing the number of days per week you work, or the hours per day you work) by more than 50%, and your pay is reduced accordingly.

This change can be imposed on you only if there is a contractual right to do so or a collective agreement (with a Union) to do so. If neither of these exist your Employer should consult with your (or your Union representatives) about why this change is necessary, with a view to seeking consent.

If the change of hours is imposed on you without agreement, you may be able to make a claim at Employment Tribunal for:

  • Unlawful deduction of wages

  • Unfair dismissal

  • Breach of contract.

If you are put on short-time working you may be entitled to claim:

  • Pay if there is a contractual entitlement to this

  • A ‘guarantee’ payment (which Employers are obliged to pay under law – this is £24.20 per day from 1st February 2013 (rising to £25.00 per day from 6th April 2014)) up to a maximum of 5 days pay in a 3 month period).

  • Jobseekers allowance.

  • Any benefits, such as a company pension you are paying into, are likely to be reduced by short-time working.

  • If your hours are reduced to the level where you receive less than half a weeks pay for 4 consecutive weeks (or for 6 weeks out of 13 weeks) you can give your Employer written notice that you intend to claim a redundancy payment. If you are going to be subject to short-time working we would recommend you take advice from a Union representative or the Citizens Advice Bureau.

You can read more details in our new Guide to Short-time working and Layoffs here.

If you are an Employer and need ongoing professional help with any staff/freelance issue then talk to Lesley at The HR Kiosk – a Human Resources Consultancy for small businesses – our fees are low to reflect the pressures on small businesses and you can hire us for as much time as you need.

Please note that the advice given on this website and by our Advisors is guidance only and cannot be taken as an authoritative or current interpretation of the law. It can also not be seen as specific advice for individual cases. Please also note that there are differences in legislation in Northern Ireland.

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