Employment Contracts, Policies and Procedures

Employment Contracts

Under section 1 of Employment Rights Act 1996, employers are generally obliged to provide employees with a written statement of certain terms of their employment. This statement is often referred to as the “written particulars” or “section 1 statement” and must be given to employees no later than the first day their employment begins employment begins.

Contract in writing

Surprisingly, there is no strict legal requirement for a contract of employment to be in writing, and the section 1 statement need not be a contract in itself, but it may be used as evidence of the terms of the contract. In practice, most employers require employees to sign a written contract, and it is usual for that contract to serve as a section 1 statement.

Drafting issues

For junior employees, basic contracts may suffice although this will vary dependent on their role, and often on the complexity or confidentiality of information that they have access to.  For senior employees it will usually be necessary to give further consideration as to the role they perform for the business and whether it warrants providing for extra protection to both employer and employee.  Common clauses that you may wish to consider for senior employees include:

  • Various types of bonus scheme.
  • Car or car allowance.
  • Health insurance, life assurance and medical cover.
  • Different types of pension scheme.
  • Restraint of trade and business secrets.
  • Provisions for ownership/assignment of Intellectual Property
  • Garden leave.

Policies and procedures

Employers may choose to provide several standalone policies to employees or they could choose to include them all policies in one document, commonly known as a staff handbook.

Firstly an employer needs to decide which policies will apply whether to only employees or to all staff (for example, workers and agency staff).

An employer will then need to decide how it wishes to distinguish between contractual and non-contractual terms.  The employer will generally want to make its policies and procedures non-contractual because so it can change them without seeking the agreement of staff. Those staff will remain bound by amended non-contractual policies because of their implied duty to obey lawful orders. However, employers should be aware that non-contractual policies (or parts of them) can become contractual either through express incorporation (which is rare) or due to implied incorporation.

Policies which employers are required to have in place by law are: 

  • Disciplinary procedures and rules (if not in contract/section 1 statement) 
  • Grievance procedures (if not in contract/section 1 statement) 
  • Information about pensions (if not in contract/section 1 statement) 
  • Health and safety (if 5 or more employees) 
  • Whistleblowing 

Additional common policies an employer might wish to introduce include:

  • Equal opportunities policy.
  • Anti-harassment and bullying policy.
  • Expenses policy.
  • Data protection policy.
  • Electronic information and communication systems policy.
  • Social media policy.
  • Sickness absence policy.
  • Adverse weather and travel disruption policy.
  • Health and safety policy.
  • Whistleblowing policy.
  • Anti-corruption and bribery policy.
  • Capability procedure.
  • Grievance procedure.
  • Maternity policy.
  • Paternity policy.
  • Adoption policy.
  • Parental leave policy.
  • Time off for dependants policy.
  • Compassionate leave policy clause.
  • Bereavement leave policy clause.
  • Flexible working policy.

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