Contracts of Employment and Employee Handbooks


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    Contracts of Employment and Employee Handbooks
    December 22, 2020


    Why do I need up to date employment contracts for staff and written policies and procedures for my business?

    Keeping track of ever-changing employment legislation and ensuring that your employee contracts, policies and handbook are kept up to date and compliant can be time consuming for employers.  With the many other demands of running a business these matters can, sometimes, get overlooked.  The importance of having properly drafted contracts and policies should not be underestimated, it is often not until a dispute with an employee arises that their significance becomes apparent.

    Getting employment procedures in place is a critical part of effectively managing a business of any size. It will ensure that the business is in the best possible position to deal with any staff related issues at the same time as ensuring it has the necessary tools to adapt to changing business needs.

    It is often the case that existing contracts of employment and written policies and procedures are not adequate enough.  This is usually because advice was not sought in relation to these essential documents in the first place; or contracts have been changed over time (due to organisational changes, an increase or decrease in staff numbers or the creation of new roles / hierarchy) but without sufficient reference to updated legislation, ensuring the changes are compatible with existing policies and procedures, or giving proper consideration to the long-term consequences.

    Of course, a business must be able to adapt.  Keeping employment contracts and policies up to date is an essential part of this. Changes to an employment contract cannot be made unilaterally (ie without the consent of the employee) and extreme care must be taken before any changes are proposed,  it’s advisable to seek legal advice before taking any action.

    Conversely, changes to employment handbooks and policies (provided they do not form part of the employment contract) can be changed without an employee’s consent.  That is why, it is important for employers to know which essential terms must be included in the employee contract, or if there is no contract the “statement of main terms and conditions” and which can be and would be better placed in a separate Employee handbook.

    What are the risks if you do not have up-to-date and well drafted contracts, policies and procedures, or if you change them without following correct procedures?

    In the event of the above a number of problems can arise:

    • The employer can be in breach of the Employment Rights Act 1996 and at risk of claims being brought against the company by its employees at an Employment Tribunal.
    • The employer can be in breach of contract and risks claims being brought against it by its employees in the Employment Tribunal or County Court.
    • Staff issues may arise which management either struggle to deal with, or deal with incorrectly, putting the employer at risk of employment related claims.
    • Staff are unaware of their duties, obligations and rights, causing uncertainty and poor morale.
    • Staff issues can be more time consuming to deal with, using up valuable resource and both diverting management and employee time away from other parts of the business.
    • Planned changes to the business, including re-organisation and recruitment can be delayed or become complicated.
    • Employment related issues, such as grievances and disciplinary matters can be delayed; made more difficult; or mistakes can be made by management, putting the business at risk of claims being brought against it in an Employment Tribunal.

    How can we help you?

    At Marsons we can offer a solution to these potential issues.  Our Employment Solicitors can give advice on your existing contracts and policies and any changes necessary to suit your particular needs.  We can either draft new contracts, policies and handbooks for you, or help you make amendments to existing contracts and policies.  We can also advise on how to go about proposing changes to your employment contracts, to limit your risk.

    Every business is different, so if you would like to discuss how we can help your business, then please contact us on 0208 313 1300.

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    The information contained in this article is intended for general guidance only. It provides useful information but it is not a substitute for obtaining legal advice as the articles do not take into account specific circumstances. So do please Contact US for legal advice on the issues raised.