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Am I entitled to a written contract of employment?

Employers in Northern Ireland are required by the Employment Rights (NI) Order 1996, to give employees a written statement of particulars of their main terms and conditions of employment. This statement is not itself the contract of employment, but it offers strong evidence of the terms of the contract of employment.

This statement must be provided within two months of beginning employment, or if, during that period, you begin work outside the UK for more than a month, the statement must be given not later than the time you leave the UK to begin work.

The statement may be given in installments during the two-month period. However, certain particulars must be included in a single document including, as listed below: (a) – (gi), (i) and (k).

What should the written statement include?

The written statement must:

(a) name the employer and the employee;

(b) specify the date when the employment began; and

(c) specify the date on which the employee's period of continuous employment began (taking into account any employment with a previous employer which counts towards that period).

(d) the scale or rate of remuneration, or the method of calculating remuneration;

(e) the intervals at which remuneration is paid (that is whether weekly, or monthly or at other specified intervals);

(f) any terms and conditions relating to hours of work (including any terms and conditions relating to normal working hours);

(g) any terms and conditions relating to:

(i) entitlement to holidays, including public holidays and holiday pay (the particulars being sufficient to enable the employee's entitlement, including any entitlement to accrued holiday pay on the termination of employment, to be precisely calculated);

(ii) incapacity for work due to sickness or injury, including any provisions for sick pay; and

(iii) pensions and pension schemes (unless the employee's pension rights depend on the terms of a pension scheme established under statute, and they are employed by a body or authority required under statute to give information concerning pension rights to new employees);

(h) the length of notice which the employee is obliged to give and entitled to receive to terminate their contract of employment;

(i) the title of the job which the employee is employed to do or a brief description of the work for which the employee is employed;

(j) where the employment is not intended to be permanent, the period for which it is expected to continue or, if it is for a fixed term, the date when it is to end;

(k) either the place of work or, where the employee is required or permitted to work at various places, an indication of that and of the employer's address;

(l) any collective agreements which directly affect the terms and conditions of the employment, including the persons by whom they were made where the employer is not a party; and

(m) where the employee is required to work outside the UK for more than a month, certain further particulars concerning that period, the currency of remuneration, any additional remuneration and benefits, and any terms and conditions relating to return.

Employers are further required to provide employees with a note:

(i) specifying any disciplinary rules applicable to the employee or referring to a document which is reasonably accessible to the employee and which specifies such rules. The employer must also specify any procedure applicable to the taking of disciplinary actions relating to the employee, or to a decision to dismiss the employee, or refer the employee to the provisions of another document which specifies such a procedure; and

(ii) specifying, by description or otherwise:

(a)  a person to whom the employee can apply if they are dissatisfied with any disciplinary decision relating to them or any decision to dismiss them; and

(b)  a person to whom the employee can apply for the purpose of seeking redress of any grievance relating to their employment and the manner in which any such application should be made and where there are further steps to be taken in any such application, explaining those steps or referring to a document which is reasonably accessible to the employee and which explains them.

Are there any other documents that employers must provide?

The requirement to give a note of disciplinary and complaints procedures does not apply to rules, disciplinary decisions, decisions to dismiss, grievances or procedures relating to Health and Safety at Work.

Employers may also refer the employee to another document in the course of their employment relating to sickness, sick pay and pensions. Employees must be given a reasonable opportunity of reading this document or it must be made accessible to them in some other way.

Similarly, employers may refer the employee elsewhere to the law or to a collective agreement, which directly affects their terms and conditions regarding their length of notice. Employees must be given a reasonable opportunity of reading this or it must be made accessible to them in some other way.

The written statement must include a note stating whether a contracting-out certificate is in force where there is in place an occupational pension scheme which satisfies certain conditions for the particular employment concerned.

As an alternative to a statement of particulars, an employer can give the employee a contract of employment or an engagement letter which contains the information required to meet its obligations the ERO (particularly at (a) - (c) and (gi), (i) and (k).

Certain classes of employee are also entitled to a statement setting out their right to refuse to work on Sundays.

Any changes in the contractual terms or in other matters of which written particulars must be given must be the subject of a written statement given to the employee at the earliest opportunity and in any event no later than one month after the change.

What you should do if you’ve not received relevant employment documents

An employee who has not been provided with the necessary particulars can complain to an industrial tribunal. Such a claim can be brought at any time as long as the employment relationship is ongoing or within three months from when the employment comes to an end. The tribunal will, if the employee is successful, state the particulars which should have been given and the employer will be deemed to have given a statement including those particulars.

An application cannot be made to clarify an ambiguous term. There is no right to claim compensation, although a failure on the employer’s part to comply with its obligations in this regard may result in an increase in compensation if certain claims, for example, unfair dismissal, unauthorised deduction from wages, unlawful discrimination are won by the employee.

In Great Britain, from 6 April 2020, The Employment Rights (Employment Particulars and Paid Annual Leave) (Amendment) Regulations 2018 will amend ERA to require additional particulars be given but this legislation does not apply to Northern Ireland.

Contact Thompsons NI

If you require advice on your contract of employment, please contact Thompsons NI on 0800 138 6880. Alternatively, visit our employment law page for more information. Chambers UK, a leading guide to law firms and solicitors in the United Kingdom, has recently ranked Thompsons NI as having Band 1 lawyers in both their personal injury and employment rights work.