Does an employment contract have to be in writing?

An employment contract is no different from any other contract in that most do not have to be in writing to be legally valid and enforceable. If you are offered employment, accept and then start work a valid contract has been created between you and your employer even if there has been nothing in writing. You will however be entitled to receive a written statement containing the terms and conditions of your employment within 2 months of starting work.

This written statement should contain:
• Your name, and that of your employer
• The start date of your employment
• The hours of work
• Your job title and where you will be based
• How much, when and how you will be paid
• Details of your entitlement to sick pay
• Disciplinary, dismissal and grievance procedures
• How much notice you need to give your employer on termination, and how much notice they must give you
• How many holidays you can take, and whether you will be paid for them, and
• Any pension benefits you are entitled to.

Over and above what is contained in the statement you will automatically have all the employment rights provided by law such as the right to the statutory minimum wage, the right to maternity leave, the right not to be unfairly dismissed and the right to be protected from discrimination.

These are however just the bare minimum and it is better for both the employer and employee to agree a comprehensive contract of employment specifying what is expected and the duties and responsibilities of both parties.

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