Employment Contracts and Statutory Rights

Employment Contracts are essential to get a working relationship between an employer and a new employee off ‘on the right foot’ and to guide the ongoing relationship between both parties. Employment Contracts clarify what is required of employees, how they will be rewarded and demonstrate the employer’s commitment to ensuring their legal obligations are met. Whilst employment contracts aim to protect each party employment disputes do still happen and employers need to take the responsibilities around hiring and managing staff very seriously, particularly given the volume of rights that apply to employees.

This article details some of the specifics employers need to be aware of in relation to employment contracts, including the 29+ Statutory Rights of Employees outlined by Northern Ireland’s Labour Relations Agency.


Employment Contract Start Date

An Employment Contract applies as soon as an offer of employment is accepted by a candidate therefore it’s advisable to have documentation in place prior to initiating the recruitment process. Albeit most rights only apply in practice once work has commenced and some are applicable only after a specific term of service has been completed.


Employers must ensure Employment Contracts are in Writing!

An Employment Contract may be oral, written or implied. Written is best to minimise any ambiguity and disputes, as verbal agreements are harder to prove.  And there’s a catch – some written documentation is required for contracts that exceed 1 month (which is likely most, if not all of them).


A Written Statement of Employment is required for Contracts Over 1 Month.

Employers have a legal duty to provide employees who will be with their company for 1 month or more with a written statement of the particulars of their employment within 2 months of the start date of their employment. The requirement for this written statement is detailed in The Employment Right (Northern Ireland) Order, 1996.  A written statement on its own is not equal to a contract of employment, but is hugely beneficial in the event of a dispute, given the amount of information they contain.  The written statement details employment specifics such as:

  1. The names of the employer and employee
  2. The employment start date, and the date of continuous employment, for example if a trial period is in place. If the role is not a permanent one, the expected period of employment or fixed term end date should be detailed.
  3. The place or places of work (if the employee is required to travel to other locations).
  4. Job title and/or job description
  5. Remuneration amounts and payment intervals
  6. Hours of work
  7. Holiday entitlements
  8. Sick leave and sick pay entitlements
  9. Pension details
  10. Notice of termination details applicable to both parties
  11. Details of any collective agreements that may directly affect your employment terms.
  12. Details of the employers disciplinary and grievance procedures

This should be treated as a guide, rather than an exhaustive list of contents. Additional details will be required, for example, if employees are required to work abroad for a period of greater than one month.  Also note that the terms detailed above are referred to as ‘express terms’ which have been agreed by an employer and the new employee at the commencement of the employment however be aware that ‘implied terms’ may also exist.


Implied Terms in an Employment Contract

Some terms may be stated (express terms), such as those above and others may be implied. All employment contracts should fulfil the following terms regardless of whether they have been explicitly stated or not, as determined by the courts:

  • To maintain trust and confidence through co-operation
  • To act in good faith towards each other
  • To take reasonable care to ensure safety and health in the workplace.

Other implied terms may become part of the contract if they are considered reasonable or are included in the firm’s rules and the employee has been made aware of them.


Statutory Terms in An Employment Contract

The Labour Relations Agency in Northern Ireland does however highlight 29 Employee Rights that do need to be provided for by employers. This highlights just how much legislation is in place to protect employees already.  These are known as Statutory Terms.

 The statutory terms include but may be not limited to the following:

  1. Right to protection against discrimination
  2. Right to protection against unfair dismissal
  3. Right to equal pay between genders for work that’s comparable in description or value
  4. Right to protection against unlawful deductions from pay
  5. Right to an itemised pay statement
  6. Right to maternity benefits/rights
  7. Right to paternity leave/shared parent leave (SPL) and pay
  8. Right to adoption leave
  9. Right to parental leave
  10. Right to time off for dependants
  11. Right to apply for flexible working
  12. Right to notice of termination of employment
  13. Right to pay when laid off
  14. Right to redundancy pay
  15. Right to a safe system of work
  16. Right to Statutory Sick Pay (SSP)
  17. Right to time off in various circumstances (e.g. for public service, or to study)
  18. Right to trade union membership
  19. Right to Protected Employment Rights if the business is transferred to a new employer
  20. Right to written reasons for dismissal, on request
  21. Right to a written statement of the main terms of the contract
  22. Right to minimum pay
  23. Right to annual leave and working time limits (The Working Time Regulations 1998)
  24. Right to protection from being required to work on Sundays
  25. Right to payment on insolvency of the employer
  26. Right to be accompanied at disciplinary and grievance hearings
  27. Right for part-time workers to be treated no less favourably than comparable full-time workers
  28. Right for employees on Fixed Term Contracts to be treated no less favourably than comparable permanent employees
  29. Right to protection when making disclosures of wrongdoing to the employer

These 29 terms are not clear cut either – each and every one of these comes with their own clauses and stipulations which employers need to familiarise themselves with. For example, paternity leave does not only apply to a child’s biological father, but also to the mother’s husband or partner if they have responsibility for the upbringing of the child.  However, the employed father (biological or otherwise) must have been in continuous employment with the company for a minimum of 26 weeks by the 15th week before the baby is due to be born, to be entitled to 2 weeks of paid paternity leave.

Another example of a strict stipulation can be seen in an alleged unfair dismissal case, most employees can complain to an Industrial Tribunal provided they do so within 3 months of their dismissal, and had at least one year of continuous service at the time.

If you are a first time employer, or even a more seasoned employer there is always a risk that something will catch you out such as a recent update to employment law legislation that you may not be aware of yet, therefore it is best to liaise closely with your HR advisors and an experienced employment law solicitor to ensure that you are being fair to new employees so that you are not putting yourself at risk of being hauled before an employment tribunal.

Contact law@lukecurran.co.uk or 02830267134 for advice on drafting your employment contracts. We will provide an initial free consultation, with no obligation to commit to using our services.