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All PAYE employees and PAYE casual workers are legally entitled to a Written Statement, which they must receive before they start work, or, at the latest, on their first day of work.
This statement is a summary in writing of your main terms and conditions of employment. It’s not itself a contract of employment but is evidence of the contract of employment (and confusingly, for many employees, it’s combined within their actual contract).
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 right to a written statement comes from Section 1 of the Employment Rights Act 1996 (ERA), as amended, and is sometimes called a Section 1 statement. The written statement must include:
In addition to the current requirements for a Section 1 Statement (Written Statement), from April 2020 employees and workers will also need to know:
For existing staff, employers do not have to give them this information straight away. An existing employee can, though, request a Section 1 Statement on or after 6th April 2020 and up to three months after their employment ends. If existing employees ask for this statement after April 2020, employers are obliged to give them this information within one month of the request.
In addition, if there is a change to an employees’ terms and conditions after 6th April 2020 (that are covered by the new Section 1 Statement requirements), they must be informed of this change within one month.
In addition, details of other terms and conditions must be given within two months – they are pensions, collective agreements, additional training and information on disciplinary and grievance procedures. For further details about the new requirements, as it is quite complicated, please go to this link.
The legal minimum notice you need to give your employer is one week (after one months continuous service). Often your contract will specify a longer notice period – if it doesn’t, you must give a ‘reasonable’ period of notice (one 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.
A contract should also specify the notice period your employer has to give you to end your employment, or details of the length of your contract if it’s not open-ended/permanent (i.e. it is Fixed Term). If you’re on a permanent contract, your employer must give you the statutory minimum notice period if your contract doesn’t specify the notice periods they require.
The statutory minimum notice period is one week’s notice if you have worked continuously for your employer for between one month and two years, and one week for each completed year of service once you have been employed with them for two 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
Examples of other items that may be (but do not have to be) included in the written statement:
If you’re not provided with a Written Statement by your first day then our advice would be to first talk to your manager(s), HR department, or your Trade Union if you’re a member. If this isn’t successful then your only recourse is to lodge a claim with an Employment Tribunal that you’ve not received your Written Statement (this is called making a ‘reference’ under the Written Statement Requirements), which is also an ‘automatic’ unfair dismissal reason (as it is a statutory right).
The tribunal will decide what employment particulars you should’ve been given and these will take effect, as if your employer had given them to you. There can be small financial compensation for employees in these instances at Tribunal.
If you’re an apprentice your contract maybe slightly different – see our guide to apprenticeships here.
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’s always a contract between you and your employer, even if you do not have anything in writing, because you’ve 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:
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:
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:
Ultimately, if you are unwilling to accept the changes your employer wishes to bring in they may choose to dismiss you and rehire 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 business guide here.
In an interesting development in February 2021, the Scottish Court of Session told Tescos that it could not terminate employees contracts and rehire them on lower pay – called ‘fire and rehire’ tactics. The Court of Session issued a temporary injunction on Tesco, prohibiting it from withdrawing entitlement to retained pay and prohibiting them from terminating workers’ contracts at Tesco’s Livingston distribution centre, in order to re-engage them on new terms and conditions that did not include retained pay.
Usdaw, the union representing the Livingston workers, said that some staff were being forced onto new contracts that would result in them losing between £4,000 to £19,000 per year! Tesco will challenge the ruling, so we wait to see what happens next.
The judgement applies only to the Livingston site, although Usdaw said it would continue to fight for workers in the Litchfield, Daventry clothing and Avonmouth Tesco distribution centres. Usdaw also said it would be seeking “a permanent interdict for Livingston and a High Court injunction for the other sites to defend this unfair pay cut for hundreds of key workers.”
This document from ACAS provides a lot more advice about contracts, changing their terms and notice periods.
During a down-turn in work, 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 (i.e. it is already written in your contract) 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:
If you are put on short-time working you may be entitled to claim:
You can read more details in our new guide to short-time working and layoffs here.
In an interesting 2013 case, Borrer v Cardinal Security Ltd, Borrer was a Security Guard for Cardinal Security for four years. His main place of work was at Morrisons in Brighton, where he worked for two years on a regular 48 hour week. His Contract with Cardinal (which could be described as a zero-hours contract) didn’t 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 wasn’t 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 couldn’t 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).
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.