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Employment documents

All employees and workers should be given a written employment statement - it can be quite short or very detailed. What works for you depends on the nature of your business, the number of staff you employ and the frequency with which staff join and leave you.
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You must give all employees and workers a written statement of certain employment terms, on their first day of starting work.

These terms are usually included in a written employment contract

The written statement should say whether or not the staff handbook and rules are contractually binding and part of the employee's employment contract. Sometimes, some of the rules are stated to be contractually binding while some are not, therefore, it is important that you have a written statement to refer back to. 

An employment contract is an agreement between an employer and an employee setting out rights and duties.

All employees are deemed to have an employment contract with their employer, even if there is no document and the parties are not clear about the terms of that contract.

You are strongly encouraged to have a written employment contract to make everything clear and avoid disputes.

In Scotland, an employment contract can be formed at an earlier stage than in England and Wales, as it comes into effect when an agreement on the fundamental terms of the contract has been reached. Further, there is no requirement for consideration to be provided.

Some employers also use an offer letter to precede or complement the employment contract or deal with employment pre-conditions, but this is not essential.

It is recommended but not mandatory for employers to have some written employment policies. Policies can reduce legal risk and help everyone know how to deal with workplace issues.

Certain written information which must be given to employees and is normally covered in policies includes:

  • A statement of the employer's health and safety policy (if there are at least five employees).
  • Any disciplinary rules and the process for disciplinary action and appeals.
  • The steps that will be taken following submission of a grievance.
  • Information in relation to how an employee’s personal data is collected, processed and stored (eg by reference to a Data protection policy and Employee privacy notice, i.e. a statement describing how you collect, use, retain and disclose personal information).

It is also a good idea to have an equal opportunities policy in place early on to help deal with the tricky area of discrimination law.

As employers grow in size, there are many other policies that can help you secure your business interests.

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