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Friday, 24 November 2023 14:18

Contract and Handbook Reviews

There’s never a bad time to review your contracts of Employment and Staff Handbooks. Employment Law is changing all the time and the ways that we work constantly evolve, so putting it off until a certain law comes into force or waiting to see if a certain working pattern is successful aren’t viable excuses. Contracts of Employment, or at least written contractual terms, are a legal requirement, and all of your employees should have them.

Keeping your contracts and handbooks up to date and reflective of trends in working behaviour will also give keep you in a strong position should the need ever arise to hold your employees to account. Simply thinking that bad things only happen to other employers is folly. Having explicit and enforceable terms means everybody can be sure of their position and what is expected of them.

If clauses in your documents have expired or become unenforceable, in the event of a dispute or grievance you will have to revert to statutory law or case law, which may not cover you to the extent you require or would like.

The introduction of the Government’s Good Work Plan a few years ago was disrupted somewhat by the onset of Covid, but it was introduced nonetheless and one of the key points it made is that written contracts or terms of employment must be issued to an employee from day one. In fact, it recommends that the contract is issued prior to commencement of work so that the employee has time to fully understand the terms under which they are to be employed and has opportunity to reject them.

Clauses that are now compulsory as a result of the Good Work Plan and so should appear in your contracts are:

  • The hours and days of the week the worker/employee is required to work, whether they may be varied and how
  • Entitlement to any paid leave
  • Any other benefits not covered elsewhere
  • Details of any probationary period
  • Details of training provided by the employer.

In addition to the above, there are a number of other clauses that we recommend to form a robust document that that will stand up to scrutiny should the need arise.

Contracts should stipulate the terms that are specific to each employee. Rules and conditions that cover everyone should be referred to in the Staff Handbook. So, a delivery driver may have a different contract from a call centre operative in terms of pay and contracted hours, but they would both be subject to the same absence and sickness policies as laid out in the Staff Handbook.

This also makes it easier when updates are required as quite often it’s just one staff handbook that needs to be changed instead of updating many contracts.

Changes to employment terms means a variation of contract and we have seen some variations for those who began working from home during the pandemic. One of the statutory clauses within a contract of employment is the employee’s place of work and it has proven problematical for some employers who want to maintain some control over how often their staff work from home. We have found that this is an area that really needs to be well thought out so that the employer still has the power to bring their staff back into the workplace if needed.

Covid introduced a degree of flexibility in how some contractual terms were applied but if working practices have changed and you haven’t updated your contracts to take account of the changes then there will be an argument for “custom and practice” on the employee’s side. Basically, this means that the new ways of working have become the norm, making it difficult to revert. Uncertainty in the terms under which someone is employed is highly likely to lead to problems.

We’ve always recommended keeping contracts of employment and staff handbooks regularly updated and that message has never diminished. Attending our regular Employment Law Updates will help you to keep your documents compliant with current legislation although we recommend a full professional review at least every three years, preferably annually.

If you would like us to review your employment contracts and staff handbooks, or if you need support with any other aspects of HR and Employment Law, please call us on 01452 331331 or e-mail This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

  

Read 415 times Last modified on Friday, 24 November 2023 14:39

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