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Hardly anyone bothers to read employment contract before signing, says study

'Always read the small print' used to be the byword of good practice before signing a contract. But perhaps these days we are too used to blindly clicking 'Accept' on online terms and conditions forms to remember this sensible principle.

Only 1 in 166 workers - that's just 0.6 per cent - had read and understood their contracts, according to a survey of 1,000 employees from

Less than 10 per cent said that they had read part of it or skim-read it, and the rest - more than nine in ten respondents - said that they had not read it or had no memory of doing so.

More than half, some 56 per cent, said they had 'no idea' where there contract was.

Know your contract

Most employees know the details about their pay, leave entitlement, hours, flexibility, pension and sick pay before they start work.

But a contract can contain a great deal of other information that workers should know and understand before embarking on a new job.

Ignorance of your contract makes the likelihood of breaching it much greater. said that workers unwittingly breaking a contractual clause can lead to workplace disputes and employment tribunal claims.

Making it clear

Employers should make clear what is and isn't permissible in their organisation and make sure that their staff understand the rules. Typical areas of misunderstanding, the research said, include:

  • taking damaged or unwanted goods home
  • moonlighting for other companies or competitors
  • appropriate use of social media
  • punctuality and working hours
  • standards of dress and behaviour in the workplace
  • personal use of company vehicles.

Employers should be aware that once a job offer has been accepted, a legal arrangement has been entered into, whether in writing or not.

Within two months of a start date, employers must give a new employee their terms and conditions of employment in a Written Statement of Terms and Conditions of Employment. The sooner this is done the better, so that everything is clear.

Acas publications and services

Acas has detailed information on Contracts of employment, including a step-by-step guide on how to establish a New employee's contract, and Useful templates for letters, forms and checklists.

We can also help you make the most informed choices about Recruitment and settling new employees in, including the new pdf icon Recruiting staff guide [360kb] and pdf icon Starting staff: induction guide [356kb].

Acas experts can visit your organisation and develop terms and conditions of employment and help you minimise the potential for disputes. See Contracts and hours: how Acas can help for more information.

Related practical training is also available on Contracts and terms and conditions, Recruitment and for new employers, Employing People - A Practical Introduction.

For free, impartial advice and guidance visit Acas Helpline Online.

Visit the Acas Training Courses, Workshops and Projects area for more information.

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We recommend that you explore further information and advice available on this website, particularly within our Advice A-Z guidance pages. If you have questions about workplace rights and rules visit Helpline Online.
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