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Getting contracts right

Contracts are the keystone of the relationship between employers and their staff, and getting them wrong can leave employers open to tribunal claims.

An employment contract is a legal agreement between an employer and an employee which sets out the rights, responsibilities and duties of both parties. Contracts don't have to be in writing, but a clear written contract can often help to resolve disagreements and can help protect your interests as an employer in the event of a tribunal claim.

Regardless of whether or not a written contract is issued, all employees who have been in work for more than one month are legally entitled to a written statement of employment which sets out the main terms and conditions of their employment, such as hours, pay and leave.

While certain employment terms must comply with statutory requirements, such as the right to paid leave, much of what you include in a contract will need to be tailored to your specific requirements. Making contract terms reasonable and enforceable in law often requires specialist advice. As businesses grow and change, it may also become necessary to change contracts or vary terms of employment, all of which requires careful management. Many employment tribunal claims stem from inadequately documented terms, from insufficient notice being given when employment terms change or from failure to follow proper procedures when contracts come to an end.

Acas offers training in drawing up contracts for staff, including what to include in a written statement, how to approach potential changes to terms and conditions, managing lay-offs and terminating contracts.

Visit the Acas training and business solutions area for more information.

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