The importance of an employment contract
Research undertaken by consumer champions Which? Legal Service has found that at least 5.1 million employees fail to read their employment contracts properly, putting them at risk of unfair treatment by their employers.
Over 4,000 members of the public were interviewed as part of the study which found that 26% of workers only skimmed their contracts, whilst 6% admitted to never having read their contract at all.
Only 33% received a contract before starting their job and 9% did not receive a contract within the first 6 months of their employment.
Tips for employees on employment contracts
1. Read your contract. It is an important legal document and sets out the terms of your employment. Breaching its terms could result in disciplinary action being taken against you, including dismissal. It will also minimise any disputes with your employer at a later date regarding salary, holidays, notice periods etc.
2. Check the handbook. If your contract refers to a handbook, make sure you read this as well as its terms may also be binding upon you. If you were not given a personal copy, ask for a copy to be made available to you.
3. Ask questions - Employment contracts are open for negotiation, so don’t be afraid to ask questions about anything in the contract that you don’t understand, or about something that is different to what was agreed at your interview.
4. Sign the contract - many employees mistakenly think that by not signing the contract, they are not bound by it, but this is not always the case. However, it is always best to sign your contract and return a copy of it to your employer, keeping a signed copy for your own records.
5. Keep it somewhere safe - you may need to refer to the terms of the contract in the future, so put it somewhere for safe-keeping.