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2 Employment - updated version available December '16

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1. Introduction

2. Do I need a contract of employment?

A written contract of employment is useful because it sets out what you can expect from your job and from your employer. However, there are laws to protect workers, whether or not you have a written contract.  

Every worker has the right to be paid and to enjoy a reasonably safe place of work. In the same way, every worker has duties to their employer, including duties of honesty, loyalty, confidentiality and personal service.

The law gives you other rights:

  • You must not be discriminated against at work because of your sex, (including if you are transgender), marital status, race, disability, sexual orientation, religion or belief (see 'What if I've been discriminated against?').
  • The National Minimum Wage Act sets a minimum level of pay (see 'What is the least I should be paid?')
  • The Working Time Regulations give you the right to four weeks' paid holiday a year (this includes public and statutory holidays such as Christmas and bank holidays).
  • Other legislation gives you the right to time off because you're sick or because you're having a baby or adopting a child. You also have the right to apply for a flexible working pattern if you have young or disabled children.

Other rights may be included in your contract of employment. For example, if you have always received a Christmas bonus or extra holiday, you may be able to prove that it is a legally-binding right under your contract.

What must my contract cover?
Every employee has a legal right to receive a written statement that sets out the terms of employment. You should get this within two months of starting your job. The terms include:

  • your employer's name
  • yuor job title or a brief description of the work you will be doing;
  • where you will be working, and your employer's address if you will be working in more than one place;
  • when you started work;
  • the date on which your continuous employment began (this is important when considering your entitlement to other benefits set out below);
  • how much you will earn; and 
  • when you will be paid.

It will also include information about:

  • your hours of work;
  • your holiday entitlement (including whether public holidays are inclided in this);
  • your entitlement to sick leave and sick pay;
  • pensions;
  • the length of notice you and your employer have to give if you leave or are dismissed;
  • how long your job is expected to continue, if it is temporary;
  • any agreement between your employer and a trade union that affect the terms of your employment; and
  • your employer's disciplinary and grievance rules and procedures.

If you have to work outside the UK for more than a month at a time, it should also cover:

  • the period of work outside the UK;
  • the currency you will be paid in;
  • any extra pay and benefits you will get for working outside the UK; and
  • any terms and conditions for your return to the UK.

What if I don't get a written statement?
If your employer won't give you a written statement, or will give you one with only certain terms in it, you can apply to an employment tribunal, which will decide what should be included in the statement.  In certain circumstances an employment tribunal can make your employer pay you between two and four weeks' pay if they don't give you a written statement.

3. Do I have the right to work in the UK?

4. What is the least I should be paid?

5. How many hours can my employer make me work?

6. Does my employer have to recognise my trade union?

7. What if I've been dismissed unfairly?

8. Bringing a statutory claim for unfair dismissal

9. What if I've been made redundant?

10. Bringing a contractual claim for wrongful dismissal

11. What if I've been discriminated against?

12. What are my rights if I work part-time?

13. What are my rights if I'm having a baby?

14. Can I take leave as a new Father?

15. What are my rights if I'm adopting a child?

16. What other leave can I get after my child is born or adopted?

17. Can I change my working arrangements if I have children?

18. Can I take time off if I am someone's carer?

19. Further Help

20. About this leaflet

This leaflet is published by the Legal Services Commission (LSC). It was written in association with Ian Hunter, Head of the Employment Department, Bird & Bird, Solicitors.

The leaflets are regularly updated but the law may have changed since they were printed so the information in them may be incorrect or out of date.

Leaflet Version: January 2019

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