employment contracts and handbook

If you are taking on a new employee, having a written employment contract and comprehensive staff handbook can save confusion and conflict further down the line.

What is an employment contract?

An employment contract is a legally sound, comprehensive document which illustrates legal compliance. It ensures that employers and employees alike understand what is expected of them, right from the beginning.

Employers are legally obliged to issue employment contracts on the first day of employment and should be read, signed, and returned by the employee. The contract sets out the employees’ rights, responsibilities, and duties within the employment relationship. As well as this, as the employer, you will need to set out the policies complying with the Acas Code on grievance and disciplinary procedures.

Employment contracts should be kept under regular review to ensure they remain legally compliant with ever-changing employment laws and accurately reflect evolving working practices.

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What is an employment handbook?

An employment handbook contains an introduction to the company and sets out the culture, values, aims, ethos, and policies.

It gives employees and new recruits an overview of what is expected of them, and also what they can expect from you in terms of holiday allowance and other benefits. It includes policies that are not contractual and supplementary information on particular processes, such as notifying the employer of parental leave requests.

While every company handbook will be different, there are some common elements.

Please note that not all policies will be necessary in all industries.

Example employment policies

  1. Bribery Act policy

  2. Maternity, paternity, and adoption policies

  3. Parental leave policy

  4. Time off for dependants

  5. Compassionate and bereavement leave

  6. Flexible and home working policies

  7. Equal opportunities policy

Why use Wilkin Chapman?

We believe that dealing with workplace HR and employment law issues does not always have to be reactive. A problem can be avoided by working with our solicitors, who are adept at spotting and tackling a potential issue before it arises.

We get to know you, your business, and your objectives to ensure that your interests are properly represented and that we obtain the best outcome to protect the future of the business.

This service is available individually or as part of a bespoke package through our Adapt HR advice line.

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How our employment solicitors can help

Contracts of employment are not a one-size-fits-all. We can help you assess the job roles within your organisation to provide a contract of employment which appropriately reflects the working conditions and requirements of the employee’s job role. 

Our employment solicitors can provide brand new employment contracts or review and update your existing employment contracts and handbook to ensure they comply with any employment law changes.

We can provide a paper review of your existing contracts to check they are legally compliant, or we can provide a more in-depth review where we discuss the business, the job roles, and your needs as a company. We are always happy to sit down and discuss the needs of the business prior to the review and post-review to explain any changes.

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We’re always there for you. Why not call us today for an informal chat about your situation?

Employment contract and handbook FAQs

We help clients nip problems in the bud and resolve their employment issues every day.

Here are the most common questions we receive in regard to our employment contract and handbook reviews.

  1. What is the difference between a staff handbook and an employment contract?

    An employment contract creates a binding obligation from both parties and if either breaks this, the other party can ultimately go to court.

    An employment handbook is a collection of policies which are not contractual and cannot be enforced in court. However, if an employee breaches a policy, as an employer, you may take disciplinary action, such as issuing a warning or termination.

  2. Do I have to have an employment contract?

    Yes, if you are a worker or an employee, under section 1 of the Employment Rights Act 1996, employers must provide a written Statement of Terms and Conditions of Employment on or before the date the employment commences.

  3. Do terms of employment have to be in writing to be binding?

    No, terms that have been verbally agreed between an employer and employee are also binding although it will be harder to prove that these terms have been agreed.

    Implied terms are also binding. Implied terms are terms which arise by implication of the employment relationship, these can be evidenced by previous custom. All contracts of employment will contain certain implied terms such as the obligation of mutual trust and confidence.

  4. What are the consequences of breaching a contract of employment?

    If an employee breaches a term of their employment, they can face disciplinary action ranging from a first written warning to dismissal depending on the severity of the breach.

    If an employer breaches the contract of employment, an employee could be entitled to treat the contract as void, resign and claim constructive dismissal in an employment tribunal.  

  5. Can an employer vary a contract of employment?

    An employer cannot unilaterally vary the fundamental terms and conditions of employment without the employee’s agreement, unless the change is due to a legal requirement, or the employer is contractually allowed to do so. 

Contact our employment law solicitors

Submit an enquiry and one of our employment solicitors will be in touch as soon as possible to discuss your needs.

Or call the employment law team on 01522 515987

Oliver Tasker, Wilkin Chapman LLP
Partner & Head of Employment Oliver Tasker 01522 515987 Lincoln
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