Getting your Employment Contracts ship shape for 2019

News on 04 January 2019

What's new? 

For more than 20 years employers have enjoyed a period of 2 months from when a new employee starts in which to provide them with a written terms and conditions in the form of a detailed offer letter or employment contract. 

This is set out in s.1 of the Employment Rights Act 1996.

However, there are two things that have now caused the sands to shift.

1. Case Law 

The first was a decision from September 2018 in the Employment Appeal Tribunal, Stefanko and others v Maritime Hotel Limited

The Maritime Hotel in Dorset employed all the Claimants as waiting staff.  None of the Claimants were employed for very long and one employee, Ms Woronwicz, was employed for only 6 weeks. 

Section 2(6) ERA says, “A statement shall be given to a person under section 1 even if his employment ends before the end of the period within which the statement is required to be given”.

The Maritime Hotel failed to provide Ms Woronwicz with payslips and her written statement of employment particulars. She was successful in bringing a claim for automatically unfair dismissal. The EAT also awarded an increased award under s.38 Employment Act 2002.

2. Legislation

And the second shift is new legislation that will come into force on 6 April 2020. The Employment Rights (Employment Particulars and Paid Annual Leave) (Amendment) Regulations 2018.

From 6 April 2020 employers must provide the written statement of employment particulars from day one of employment. 

There has never been a better time to get your employment contracts and the way they are issued to new employees in ship shape. Following a proper process will ensure that there are no slip ups and reduce the risk of disgruntled employees taking their employers to Tribunal.

What does it mean in practice?

Essentially, it means that until 5 April 2020 you have a month to give your new employees an employment contract. 

From 6 April 2020 this will change, and you will need to ensure that these are issued on or before day one of employment.

The wording of the legislation is “the document is given not later than the beginning of the employment.”

What should an employer do now?

Aye, aye Captain, the message is clear.

An employer must now provide a proper written statement of terms to the new employee either before or immediately on starting.

Best practice would be to provide an:

1. offer letter; and
2. employment contract.

If you are doing things the traditional way and sending hard copy offer letter and hard copy employment contracts, then send two copies of the employment contract. One for the employee to keep for their records and one for them to sign and return to you for your records.

If you are a thoroughly modern employer and using electronic mail or even electronic signing, then send to the new employee and ask for them to read and electronically sign the contract and return to you. 

Need some help? Check out our package for drafting your Contracts & Agreements or give us a call