10/10/2011

By Amy Paxton, Senior Employment Consultant at Croner

Different types of contracts have grown over the years that are neither full time nor open ended, providing you with added employment flexibility to meet the demands of the market.

What is a contract of employment?

An employment contract, or “contract of employment”, is an agreement between an employer and an employee which sets out their mutual employment rights, responsibilities and duties. These are called the “terms” of the contract. The employment contract does not have to be in writing. Indeed, many people work without written employment contracts. Even where there is no written employment contract, however, this does not mean that the individual and the employer do not have duties and responsibilities to each other. Importantly, an employee is entitled by law to a written statement of the main employment terms and conditions within two months of starting work for the employer.

Is the written statement a contract?

The statement of written particulars does not constitute the contract of employment. It does, however, provide strong (but not conclusive) evidence of the terms of that contract. Both parties may agree, however, that it does constitute the contract of employment and sign the document to that effect.

How useful are fixed-term contracts?

A fixed—term contract is one that specifies a start and expiry date. It would be appropriate to use a fixed-term contract where the completion of a particular task will end the employment relationship within a certain timeframe. Although there is no legal requirement to have a notice clause in a fixed-term contract, it does have the advantage of the employer being able to end the relationship before the stated expiry date if it is genuinely necessary to do so.

What about other flexible forms of contract?

There is a statutory scheme that permits certain people with child or caring responsibilities to make a request to work more flexibly. The Government is consulting on a proposal to extend the right to request flexible working to all employees. All these forms of flexible working are entitled to a contract that sets out both the employer’s and employee’s obligations. Examples of flexible working include:

- Part-time working – an employee might start work later and finish early in order to take care of children after school.

- Flexi-time – employees may be required to work within essential periods, but outside “core times” they often get flexibility in how they work their hours.

- Job-sharing – typically, two employees share the work normally done by one employee.

- Working from home – technology makes communication with office and customers possible by telephone and e-mail from home, car or other remote locations.

- Term-time working – an employee on a permanent contract takes paid or unpaid leave during school holidays.

- Staggered hours – employees in the same workplace have different start, finish and break times – often as a way of covering longer opening hours.

- Annual hours – this is a system which calculates the hours an employee works over a whole year. The annual hours are usually split into “set shifts” and “reserve shifts” which are worked as the demand dictates.

Compressed working hours – employees work their total agreed hours over fewer working days, eg a five-day working week is compressed into four days.

Shift-working – shift-work is widespread in industries which must run on a 24-hour cycle, such as newspaper production, utilities and hospital and emergency services.

What is a casual worker?

Casual contracts are often used when the employer requires workers on an “as and when” basis. They are particularly common in the hospitality and catering industries. There is no obligation to accept work – indeed, they are free to turn work down – and the individual is unlikely, therefore, to have employee status, with accompanying employment protection rights. Employers should remember that both employees and workers are entitled to paid annual holidays and to the protection of anti-discrimination legislation.


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