If you’re a candidate that has been offered a new job, you may be wondering when you’re going to receive your contract of employment. We explain the legal process.
We know the feeling. You get a call or an email from a company or a recruitment agency telling you the interview went well, they were impressed with your skills and experience, that you’ve got the job you applied for, and they are now looking forward to you joining their team.
It’s a moment of elation; you feel over the moon and can’t wait to tell your family and friends!
But then you wonder when you’ll get your contract of employment and will sign on the dotted line to legally accept the new position.
At Anne Corder Recruitment, we‘re often asked this question by successful candidates, so we’re going to explain the legalities around employment contracts here.
What is a ‘contract of employment’?
All employees will have a ‘contract of employment’ that sets out the terms of their employment. These terms cover the employee’s working conditions, their rights, their responsibilities, and their duties.
Some of these terms will be written down, and these terms could be detailed in an employee handbook, in an offer letter, and in the written statement of particulars, which is often incorrectly considered as the ‘contract’.
Additionally, employment terms can be just explained to you verbally, they can be implied by your employer, agreed through collective agreements, or even just posted on a company notice board.
And regardless of how you’re made aware of them, as an employee you are legally obliged to stick to these terms until you leave the company (or until the terms are changed usually in consultation between you and your employer).
When does a ‘contract of employment’ begin?
The first important point to explain is that as soon as you accept an unconditional job offer, you have a contract of employment with the employer.
An unconditional offer means that there are no conditions that need to be met, for example, good references or background checks. The offer, and your acceptance of the job offer, doesn’t have to be written down either; it could be verbal, although good practice is for the offer and acceptance to be in writing.
This means that if you accept an unconditional job offer over the ‘phone, from that moment onwards, you have a contract of employment with the company, and on their associated terms. This is why it can be useful to take a moment, or even a few days, to carefully consider whether you really want the job before accepting it.
The legalities are different for conditional job offers; offers that are made subject to you meeting requirements set out by the employer – such as passing a criminal record check or receiving positive references from past employers. For more on this, read the article ‘Can I retract a job offer after it has been made?’.
What must be provided to you
Despite the fact that an employees’ ‘contract of employment’ doesn’t have to be written down, there is information that must be provided to you in a written format.
The first of these is called the ‘Written Statement of Employment Particulars’ that comprises of two parts – firstly the ‘Principal Statement’ which is the main document, and secondly a wider written statement.
Employers must provide the Principal Statement to you before or on your first day of employment and the wider written statement within two months of your start date.
The Principal Statement
The Principal Statement must include, at least, the following information:
- Your name
- The employer’s name
- Your job title or description of the work you’ll be doing
- Your start date
- How often and how much you’ll get paid
- Hours and days of work, and if and how, these may vary
- Your holiday entitlement
- Where you’ll be working
- Details of any probationary period
- Obligatory training, whether or not it is paid for by the employer
- Any benefits you may receive such as childcare vouchers
- The employment end date if it is a fixed term contract
- The date that a previous job started if this was with the same company and counts towards a period of continuous employment with them
In addition, if you’re expected to work abroad for more than one month, the statement must also include information on what currency you’ll be paid in, how long you’ll be abroad, terms relating to your return to the UK, and what additional pay or benefits you may get.
In addition to the Principal Statement, employers must also provide other information to you on your first day. This information includes details on:
- Notice periods
- Sick pay and procedures
- Other paid leave such as for maternity or paternity absence
This information is often included in the Principal Statement or found in a separate document that you are given or you can access on the company’s internal IT systems.
The wider written statement
The wider written statement that you should receive within two months of your start date must include the following information:
- Details of disciplinary and grievance procedures
- Details of your pension and pension schemes
- Details of your rights to non-compulsory training provided by the employer
- Details of any collective agreements that the employer has with employee representatives such as a union or employee association. If a collective agreement is in place, this could cover topics such as who will represent employees, how negotiations will be undertaken, what terms and conditions are covered by the agreement, and which employees it relates to.
Good practice is for employers to provide the wider written information at the same time as the Principal Statement. If for whatever reason you do not receive your wider written statement within two months, you should discuss this with your employer.
If this doesn’t work, you have the option of raising a grievance with the employer or as a last resort, taking the matter to an employment tribunal.
There are important documents that you should receive that protect your rights and confirm your employment with a company.
But you are legally covered by a ‘contract of employment’, whether this is provided in written form or not, from the moment you accept an unconditional job offer either in writing or verbally.