What goes into a good contract of employment?

What should be in your contracts?

Okay, so here we are, we’re back. New year, I can’t believe we’re almost at the end of January, but time in January has just gone so quickly. In November, December time, I was introducing people to our HR in a Box, 52 top tips. 

Now these are 52 tips that managers, business owners, employers should be aware of when employing and engaging staff, things that will make life a lot easier if you ask the right questions. Now, very often in business, people don’t know what those questions are that they should be asking. And these great little memory joggers are things which you can just really easily flick through. They’re a lot simpler than picking up a book and ploughing through it. Literally 52 top tips, as much as will fit on a standard playing card. 

So November, December time, we covered the diamonds, and the diamonds were all about recruitment. If you want to take a look at those as a recap, they’re available on our website, on our blog pages, but they’re also available on our YouTube channel. So if you look at Donna Obstfeld on YouTube or you look at dohr.co.uk and visit our blog, then you will find the recordings and the videos for the recruitment 52 top tips. And now, it’s time for the employee relations. 

Now, the first one of those is my absolute favourite. This is what, for me, all of HR hangs on. Employers don’t like it because they feel that it’s a bit of a noose around the neck, but the employment contract is your mandate to manage. So I’m going to read it;

Contracts of employment: a legal requirement, but also your mandate to manage. The contract must be given to staff within 30 days, but we suggest that you provide it before day one, especially if you’ve got a probation period in there, people need to know that. A comprehensive contract lays out what you expect of your employee and what they can expect from you as their employer. And it also gives you the policies and procedures which you operate in order to enable you to run your business smoothly. 

So, the contract of employment is more than just the statement of main terms and conditions. We tend not to use that. It’s not particularly helpful. A contract of employment, especially in a small business that doesn’t need an employee handbook, can be 12, 13, 16 pages long, because it will include all of your main policies and procedures. And if it’s done properly, it will actually reflect what you want your business to be looking like. So what the dress code will be, what your sick pay policy will be. Your hours of work, what people are expected to do. Security, health and safety, all of these things need to be considered, and it’s not a one size fits all. It’s not “take off the shelf, we’ll find it online.” Because then, it really doesn’t reflect your business. 

One of the biggest problems that we have is that employers take something from online , don’t really understand it, cut out bits that they don’t like, that they don’t think are relevant to their business, and then try to enforce the contract and find that they can’t because they’ve taken out something really important. 

Alternatively, sometimes they’re written in a very legal language, where if I’ve turned around to a manager and said, “well, actually, what do you understand by this?” The answer is, “well, I don’t really understand it.” And if you, the employer, don’t understand it, then how do you expect your employees to understand it? 

So a contract of employment should be written in really plain, simple English. It should be designed to protect your business, and it should also be setting a standard and making sure that employees understand what they have to do in order to get paid their money and to continue to have a job with you. 

If you don’t have a contract of employment, please, please, please, please think about getting one. It really is essential to protect your business from risk.

All our videos are available on YouTube with captions. If you wish to view this video with captions, please visit https://youtu.be/wxhavE_8qJY

The Interviewer's Toolkit

For more assistance with writing job descriptions and recruitment, check out our interviewer’s toolkit.