Contracts of Employment


Contracts of employment are agreements between an employer and an employee which sets out their employment rights, responsibilities and duties. These are called the 'terms' of the contract.

Contracts of employment do not have to be in writing - a contract exists from your agreement to work for your employer and your employer's agreement to pay you for your work. There is always a contract between an employee and employer. However, you are entitled to a written statement of your main employment terms within two months of starting work, upon request.

Rights under contracts of employment
Generally, you and your employer can agree to whatever terms you wish to be in the contract. However, you cannot agree to a contractual term which gives you fewer rights than you have under law. The rights that you have under a contract of employment are in addition to the rights you have under law, such as the right to a national minimum wage and the right to paid holidays.
You and your employer are bound to the employment contract until it ends (usually by giving notice) or until the terms are changed (usually in an agreement between you and your employer).

Breach of employment contracts
A contract of employment is a legally binding agreement between you and your employer. A contract may be broken if either you or your employer does not follow a term in the contract. This may be so whether the term is express or implied. This is known as a breach of contract.

  • Breach by employees

Common breaches of employment contracts by employees are quitting without proper notice, or failing to perform work tasks.

If the employee breaches the employment contract it will depend upon the term breached and the nature of the breach as to whether the employer can terminate the employment contract. If the breach is not particularly serious, an employer may try to settle the matter with you informally. If an employer suffers a financial loss because of an employee's breach, they could make a claim for damages.

  • Breach by employers

Common breaches of employment contracts by employers include not paying wages, or changing an employee's job or terms of employment. Breaches of the implied term of "mutual trust and confidence" between the employee and the employer may include false allegations of misconduct, or harassment.

If your employer breaches the employment contract, there are different avenues for redress available to you depending upon the type of breach. It may be that the employee has the choice of accepting the breach or resigning. If the employee accepts the breach by the employer and remains in their job, the employee may still seek a form of compensation.
If you would like some advice about a breach of an employment contract you can speak to one of our specialist employment solicitors who will be able to help you with this.

Changes to employment contracts
Generally, neither the employer nor the employee to an employment contract can change the employment contract without each other's agreement (although some contracts allow the employer to make changes). Making changes without agreement is a breach of contract.

Changes to employment contracts can also be made by collective agreement - by negotiation between the employer and a trade union or staff association. The change may still apply to an employee even if they are not a member of the trade union or staff association.

Agreed changes don't necessarily have to be in writing. However, if they alter the terms in the 'written statement of employment particulars', the employer must provide another written statement showing what has changed within a month of the change.

If you would like to obtain legal advice on contracts of employment, then Caven can put you in touch with a local specialist employment solicitor free of charge. So if you have any questions or would like our help in finding local employment solicitors please call us at 08001 221 2299 or complete the web-form above.

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