Your work contract is an agreement between yourself and your employer, outlining the terms of your employment.

Girl writing

Don't focus on your handwriting, read what you're signing.

What should I look out for in my work contract?

Your contract is so much more than a bit of paper with lots of small print. You need to read it carefully before you sign and if you don’t understand something, be sure to ask your employer. If you’re not careful, you could sign away some of your most important rights.

Your employer is legally obliged to provide the terms and conditions of employment within two months of your starting date, but it’s best if you can go over your contract with you employer as soon as you join the company.

Work contract checklist should contain the following.

The name of the employer and employee

You need to know the name of the employer, in case you need to take action against them in the future.

The job title and job description

Although employers don’t have to provide a job description, it’s best to try and get one. This will give you something to refer back to if you think you are being forced to do unreasonable tasks by a bullying boss. It’s also useful when you’re going for promotion; provide examples of how you excel at everything in your job description, and evidence of any extra responsibilities you have taken on that aren’t mentioned.

Date of commencement of employment

This doesn’t have to be the date you start work; it is the date you officially become an employee.

Temporary employment

If the employment is temporary, the likely duration should be stated; or if it is for a fixed term it should be clear when the employment ends.

Place of work

You must be told where you will be working. The employer’s address should also be stated.

Rate of pay and pay intervals

This tells you how much you will be paid (before tax), and how often.

Normal hours of work

Check the normal working hours and look for mentions of compulsory overtime, or whether time off in lieu (TOIL) is given. Some contracts limit the hours that can be worked (such as lorry drivers).

Holiday entitlement and holiday pay

Most full-time workers have a statutory right to 24 days’ paid annual leave, and from 1 April, 2009 this increases to 28 days. There are a few workers who are not automatically given these rights, see our factsheet on holiday entitlements for more information.

Pension scheme

The general terms of the pension should be here, with reference to documents which set out the terms in detail. If there are no pension rights, the contract must say so.

Sick pay

This will tell you the amount of pay you are entitled to if you are not able to work. If there are no terms or conditions related to pay due to injury or sickness, the work contract must say so. See our article on Sick Pay for more advice.

Period of notice

This says how much notice you must give if you quit, normally at least one week. If you have been employed for at least one month then you are entitled to at least one week’s notice of dismissal.

Disciplinary rules and procedure

The rules for your type of work may be about punctuality or drunkenness. Procedures used if you break any of these rules must be listed.

Grievance procedure

This will tell you how complaints are handled at work.

If you’re going to be employed for more than a month and work eight hours or more a week, your employer must give you a work contract stating the terms and conditions of your job, within two months of the start of work.

Oral terms are just as binding as those in writing, but in a dispute over any terms, a written contract is concrete proof whereas verbal agreements are hard to prove.

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work rights


Updated on 29-Sep-2015