How to write a bullet-proof employment contract: 5 Top Tips

There’s far more to writing for business than running up emails and blog posts, as you know. Employment contracts, for example, not only have to be accurate and detailed but also must be legally correct.
Please welcome my good friend and HR expert Sue Pardy of Face2Face HR, who kindly has shared her top 5 tips on how to write employment contracts that are bullet-proof! (Please note that this applies to regulations in the United Kingdom; other countries may have different requirements.) Sz.

How to write a good employment contract

Five top tips on how to write a ‘bullet-proof’ employment contract

What is a bullet-proof employment contract? A legal document that cannot be challenged in any way, shape or form? If only there was such a thing, HR professionals and employment lawyers might need another way of earning a living!

Let’s start with making it clear what an employment contract is. It is an agreement between an employer and an employee and is the basis of the employment relationship. It starts as soon as an offer of employment is made whether that is verbally or in writing

Unfortunately there is no such thing as a ‘bullet-proof’ employment contract but there are definitely ways to ensure that your contract is as ‘bullet-proof’ as it can be and protects your business as much as possible, so here are my five top tips:

1.Put it in writing

Did you know that an employment contract does not have to be in writing to be valid? However to ensure that your contract is as “bullet-proof” as possible, I’d advise that it has to be in writing to minimise the chances of future challenge and misunderstandings.

2.Include the legal basics

There are certain pieces of information which must be provided to employees in a “written statement of particulars of employment,” and which you would put in your employment contract. These are common sense or so you’d like to think….!

The Written Statement of Particulars must include:

    • job title and a brief description of the main duties of the role;
    • name of the employer and its address, and employee and their address;
    • employee’s start date;
    • pay – how much, whether weekly or monthly, and dates when and how it will be paid;
    • any benefits – such as company car or private health insurance;
    • pension – key details of the company scheme;
    • hours of work – the number the employee will be contracted to do in a working week, plus details of normal working hours and break time, and any conditions regarding flexibility of hours;
    • location/s where the employee will regularly work, including any outside the UK. If the employee is being taken on to work overseas for more than one month, you should outline any conditions;
    • holidays – annual leave entitlement, any conditions when it can be taken and what unused leave can be carried over to the next year, plus bank holiday entitlement;
    • details of sick leave pay;
    • length of any probationary period and conditions;
    • whether the post is permanent, or fixed-term or temporary with the date it ends; and
    • periods of notice.

The employment contract also should include details of whether collective agreements are in place, and how you will deal with absence policies.

3.Be as clear as possible

The clearer and more specific you can be at the outset as to how things work in your business the less potential for there to be a challenge later down the line.

When an employee joins your business, you are both in the “honeymoon” period – you recruited them and they accepted the offer so you both want the relationship to work and neither of you are really thinking about anything going wrong. But the contract protects both parties if things go awry, and also helps drive the desired behaviour from your staff during their employment.

Think about the contract basically as an insurance policy and like any insurance policy, it is really important that the details are thought about and explained clearly and simply to avoid ambiguity … as opposed to being written in complicated legal jargon.

4.Don’t rely on internet freebies

Don’t just use a contract you’ve downloaded off the internet for free and think that will suffice. Would you do that with your car insurance policy? No. So why do this with something that has the potential to cost you so much more?

An Employment Tribunal claim for discrimination, for example, is uncapped … not to mention legal fees, your time, publicity etc. Contracts sourced this way may not be up-to-date legally, may not be appropriate for your business and may have key elements missing.

5.Ensure it is tailored to your requirements

The contract also should be tailored to your business’ specific requirements. Every employer is different so your contract should be specific too. Clauses that are essential to your business may not be contained in a standard template contract, or conversely, a standard template designed for ‘any’ employer may contain things you simply don’t need.

how to write an employment contract

Sue Pardy of Face2FaceHR

You should also ensure any clauses relating to areas like confidentiality, restrictive covenants, intellectual property, etc. are as specific as possible and stay away from broad requirements. This is because very broad clauses, which may be seen by a judge as being more restrictive than necessary, are less likely to be enforceable.
If you have any queries about this article please get in touch – sue.pardy@face2facehr.com
And check out Sue’s website here.

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