A contract of employment may be verbal but all employees, whether part-time or full-time, are entitled by law to be given a written statement setting out the main particulars of their employment, provided their employment lasts for one month or more. Currently, all the required particulars must be given within two months of the start of the employment, unless the employee is to work abroad for more than one month within two months of commencing employment. In this case, the information must be provided before the employee goes away.
It is not necessary to provide all the required information at the same time. It can be given in separate documents provided certain details are collected together in one principal statement. These are:
- the names of the employer and the employee;
- the job title or a description of the job;
- the date on which the employment began;
- if a previous job counts towards a period of continuous employment, the date on which the period started;
- the hours of work, including whether employees will have to work Sundays, nights or overtime;
- the remuneration and whether pay is weekly, monthly etc.;
- holiday entitlement; and
- the address(es) of the place or places of work and whether the employee might have to relocate.
As well as the principal statement, the following information must also be provided in writing:
- where the job is not permanent, the period for which the employment is expected to continue or, if it is for a fixed term, the date on which it is to end;
- the length of notice the employee must give or is entitled to receive;
- details of any relevant collective agreements;
- details of pensions and pension schemes;
- who to go to with a grievance;
- how to complain about how a grievance is handled; and
- how to complain about a disciplinary or dismissal decision.
The written statement need not include the following but, where it does not, it must say where the information can be found:
- sick pay and procedures;
- disciplinary and dismissal procedures; and
- grievance procedures.
If an employee is required to work outside the UK for a period of more than one month, then the statement of employment particulars must also specify:
- the period for which the employee is to work outside the UK;
- the currency in which remuneration is to be paid while the employee is working abroad;
- any additional pay and benefits; and
- any terms and conditions relating to the employee’s return to the UK.
If an employee is sent to work in another country in the European Economic Area, the terms and conditions of his or her employment must meet the legal minimum requirements in that country as regards:
- working hours and rest breaks;
- holiday entitlement; and
- minimum pay (including overtime).
Employers do have a degree of flexibility as to how to communicate the statement of employment particulars. If a written contract or letter of engagement provides the required information and is given to the employee within the appropriate time limits, then a separate statement of particulars is not required.
Under Section 38 of the Employment Act 2002, unless there are exceptional circumstances that would make an award inequitable, an employee whose employer fails to provide them with a written statement of employment particulars within the set time frame could be entitled to a minimum award of two weeks' pay or a maximum award of four weeks' pay, depending on the circumstances. This right only applies, however, if the employee has successfully brought another substantive claim.
Dismissing an employee for exercising or trying to exercise his or her statutory right to a written statement of employment particulars is automatically unfair dismissal with no minimum service requirement.
As proposed in the Government's 'Good Work Plan' on employment rights, published in December 2018 in response to the 2017 Taylor Review of Modern Working Practices, legislation has now been passed (The Employment Rights (Employment Particulars and Paid Annual Leave) (Amendment) Regulations 2018) that makes changes to the Employment Rights Act 1996 so that the right to be given a written statement of employment particulars is a day one right that is extended to all staff – workers as well as employees. The changes are due to take effect from April 2020.
An example of a written statement of employment particulars form which meets the requirements of employment legislation is available from the GOV.UK website. Guidance on completing the form can be found at the end of the document.