We cannot over emphasise the importance of an employer providing an employee with a written contract of employment, but there is no legal obligation on them to do so.
However, there is a legal obligation on an employer to provide an employee with a statement of particulars which sets out some basic information. In accordance with the Employment Rights Act 1996, an employer must provide written details of the main terms and conditions of employment to all employees whose employment lasts for at least one month.
This written document is often referred to as a Section 1 statement. An employer must provide such a statement to the employee within two calendar months from the date an employee's employment commences. If for any reason an employee's employment comes to an end after the expiry of one month but before the Section 1 statement has been issued, the employee is still entitled to receive one.
Section 1 of the Employment Rights Act 1996 sets out what information should be included in the statement, for example details of the identity of the parties; holiday entitlement; start date and the date on which an employee's continuous service began. If any changes are made to the statement, for example a change in job title, then the employer must, within one month of the change, provide the employee with a written statement containing details of the changes.
Although an employer is not under any legal obligation to provide a written contract of employment, a well drafted comprehensive contract would afford your business better protection. The contract could include all of the Section 1 information together with additional clauses such as codes of practice, internet/email policy, confidentiality clauses, restrictive covenants, commission clause and a garden leave clause.
Failure to provide a statement could leave an employer having to pay their employee between two and four weeks' salary as well as having to face an employment tribunal. In the event of a dispute it is the tribunal which will determine the terms of the particulars which ought to have been included in the Section 1 statement.
If you are uncertain whether your business is compliant with legislation then we recommend you take independent legal advice.
Gillian Markland is head of employment law at Ingrams Solicitors