Written particulars of employment: What you need to know

Failure to provide these can cause legal problems. We explain how to get it right.

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Employers are required by law to give employees written particulars of the main terms and conditions of employment. Failure to do so could result in a complaint to an employment tribunal. Additional and separate rules also apply to itemised pay statements.

Contracts of employment

All workers directly employed by an employer will have contracts of employment. A contract of employment – which can be written, oral or implied – commits the employer and employee to certain mutual obligations. Generally, a contract of employment will be drawn up beforehand. But in the absence of any such agreement, the contract will come into existence when the employee starts work.

It is clearly in the interests of both the employer and employees that as many terms and conditions as possible are written down and agreed. This will help to avoid disagreements in the future.

Written particulars

Many terms and conditions of employment can be written down and there is a legal requirement for an employer to give an employee, who is taken on for one month or more, a written statement setting out the main particulars.

Employers covered

All employers, however small, must provide the specified written particulars. There is only one flexibility allowed for employers with fewer than 20 employees regarding the details of disciplinary rules and grievance procedures – this is explained below.

Employees covered

Virtually all employees are entitled to specified written particulars. All employees who are taken on for a month or longer must be given the statement automatically. Only those employed before 30 November 1993 must request a statement before becoming entitled to it.

Excluded employees are:

  • Anyone taken on for less than a month;
  • Those working wholly or mainly outside the UK; and.
  • Some workers at sea and certain public servants.

Time scale

An employee must be given the statement within two months of starting work. If an employee is required to work abroad for longer than a month before then, the written statement must be given before the employee goes abroad.

Information required

The following information must be contained in the written statement:

  • The names of the employers and the employee;
  • The date when employment began (and if different, the start of the period of continuos employment);
  • Wages or salary and the intervals at which they are paid;
  • Hours of work;
  • Holiday entitlement;
  • Entitlement to sick leave and pay;
  • Pension arrangements;
  • Entitlement to notice periods – employer and employee – for termination of employment;
  • Job title or brief description of job;
  • Where not permanent, the period for which employment is expected to continue or, if a fixed-term contract, the end date;
  • Place of work, or indication of this and employer’s address if an employee is required or allowed to work at more than one location; and
  • The existence of any collective agreements that directly affect the employee’s terms and conditions.

State pensions and discipline

In addition, the written statement must include a note:

  • Stating whether the employee is contracted-out of the State Earnings Related Pension Scheme (SERPS) for that employment; and
  • Giving details of disciplinary rules, and the procedures by which employees can raised a grievance about employment. Employers with fewer than 20 employers need give only the name (or job title) of the person the employee should contact if dissatisfied with any disciplinary action taken, or to raise a grievance.

Overseas assignments

Where an employee is normally employed within the UK but sent to work abroad for longer than a month, the employer must provide a written statement of:

  • The period of overseas employment;
  • The currency in which the employee will be paid;
  • Any additional pay or benefits (such as a location allowance); and
  • Provisions relating to the employee’s return to the UK.

Reference to documents

Generally, the specified information must be contained in the written statement itself. In limited circumstances, the statement can, however, refer the employee to other documents for details of:

  • Sick leave and pay;
  • Pensions and pension schemes; and
  • Disciplinary rules.

The documents to which the employee is referred must be easily accessible to the employee. Similarly, for details of notice periods, the employee can be referred to the law or an easily accessible collective agreement.

Changes to particulars

Employees must be given notification about any changes that are made to written particulars as soon as possible and no later than one month after they are made. Notification must be in writing but need not be by personalised letter: it is sufficient, for example, to give each employee a photocopy of a notice detailing the change.

In most cases the change must be set out explicitly in the written notice. In the case of sick leave and pay, pensions, and disciplinary rules, however, the notice may refer to other documents, provided these are easily accessible. Similarly, employees may be referred to the law or a collective agreement when changes are made to notice periods.

Change of employer

In normally circumstances, where there is a change of employer, employees must be given a new and full written statement of particulars within two months of the change.

However, if only the name of the employer changes – without any change in the identity of the employer – or if the identify changes but the employee’s continuity of employment is maintained (for example, in transfer of undertakings) a new statement is not required. In these cases employees must still be given written notification of the change.

Complaints and questions

Employees who think that they have not been given a written statement of particulars, or notification of changes, may refer the matter to an employment tribunal. Ex-employees can take the same course of action up to three months after the end of their employment.

If a question arises about the accuracy or sufficiency of the particulars, either the employee or the employer may refer the question to an employment tribunal.

It is unlawful to dismiss an employee who tries to enforce an entitlement, which the employee thinks he or she has, to written particulars. An employee sacked for this reason may make a complaint of unfair dismissal to an industrial tribunal, regardless of length of service.

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