Contract of Employment – What it Should Include?

When you start in any new job, you should receive a list of employment terms (also sometimes known as a ‘statement of terms’) within two months of your start date. But these documents can be long, full of legal terminology and written in very small print. The temptation is to sign it without reading it thoroughly, but does your contract contain everything it should?Why have a contract at all?A contract of employment is an agreement between the employer and employee laying out clearly what is expected of both parties during your time with the company. A statement of terms is the bare minimum required by law, but it doesn’t offer full protection of the worker’s rights. A contract of employment is a more detailed document, listing in full the terms and conditions under which you are expected to work, as well as clearly stating your rights as an employee.A comprehensive contract of employment allows an employer to specify an employee’s duties and responsibilities, so that you as employee know exactly what is expected of you.What should it include?The basic details will be included, such as the names of both parties, the employer’s organisation details and your full name and address. It will also include the employment start date. This is more important than you think, as it signifies exactly how long you have been working with an employer further down the line (particularly important for redundancy or holiday payments, for example). It will also often include a proviso stating that employment with a previous employer does not count towards the various rights you may gain as an employee with one or two years service. The only exception to this is if a new contract is initiated by an employer who has taken over another organisation with existing employees, as their employment rights are maintained.The contract will also contain specific information on holiday and sick leave entitlements including maternity and paternity leave, hours and place of work, and salary. There will also be details and specific descriptions of the employee’s job title and duties, any probationary period and assessments, the notice period given in the event of either party terminating the contract of employment and any pension rights.One aspect that is often overlooked in contracts of employment is the restrictive covenant. This is becoming an important aspect of contracts of employment, particularly as electronic data storage becomes the most common method of documentation within organisations. It protects all confidential and commercially sensitive information belonging to an employer, and is designed to prevent an employee from setting up a competing business whilst still employed within the organisation. It may also have clauses that prevent an employee from setting up a rival business for a set period of time and within a defined geographical location.Finally, there will be details on the company’s grievance and disciplinary procedures. It is one area you should be familiar with in case you need to bring your employer’s attention to an unacceptable working condition or, alternatively, if you yourself are subject to disciplinary procedure by the employer. It will clearly state the employer’s procedure, which needs to be followed if any legal action is to be successful in the future.Once you’ve read and signed your contract of employment, make sure that you are issued with your own copy and keep it safe for future reference. Remember that, as with all legal documentation, the Devil’s in the detail. So always take the time to read the small print.