THERE are many myths about employment contracts, which have only heightened in recent years with the rise in awareness around zero-hours contracts.

Misunderstandings continue, both from the employer and employee’s perspectives, with some businesses choosing to totally ignore the issue in the vain hope that it will never actually matter.

There are those employers who feel they have played a blinder by failing to issue contracts to their staff (not recommended), and those employees who think they don’t have any obligations to their employer as they don’t have a contract. Both views are wrong and unhelpful.

All employees already have minimum statutory entitlements and rights, which can be really unhelpful for employers. For example where employees have nothing in writing, they can leave with a week’s notice, even if they’ve been there for 15 years. Imagine the disruption this could cause to a business.

Additionally, all employees have a minimum entitlement to 28 days of holiday, including bank holidays, which applies pro rata for part-time workers.

Contracts should not only be issued as standard but should also be regularly reviewed and updated.

The law changes regularly, but employees’ situations change even faster with departmental moves, changes to hours, promotions or additional responsibilities, and both parties can quickly end up with out-of-date and irrelevant contracts.

I have regularly seen company directors who have nothing but a type-written apprenticeship agreement, and no paper trail following their climb up the corporate ladder, reflecting their current role and responsibilities. These directors can then leave with the business’s best clients as there is nothing to stop them.

Failure to issue an employment contract can also lead to an award of over £2,000 per employee, so why take the risk? All employees are entitled to a basic statement of terms within eight weeks of starting work.

A well-drafted employment contract, written in plain English, provides the ultimate clarity for all parties, setting out rights and obligations and is the basis of any working relationship.

As a bare minimum, the following should be covered in a contract:

•Names of employee and employer

•Start date

•Pay and pension details

•Notice period

•Hours and place of work

•Job title

•Holiday and sickness entitlement

•Grievance and disciplinary procedures

•Any collective agreements

Most contracts, however, contain much more detail and refer to important policies, confidentiality, post termination restrictions, deductions from pay and data protection. Other benefits can also be included, where relevant, including company car, health insurance, bonuses etc.

Employers often have "sorting the contracts out" on their lengthy to-do lists. It is always worthwhile investing in the provision of contracts to avoid unforeseen pitfalls. Legal advice and new contracts will be cheaper than an avoidable claim.

Employees are also protected and have a legal right to request a copy of their employment contract, if one has not automatically been issued to them as part of the natural process of starting their new job. If such a request were to lead to dismissal, it would amount to unfair dismissal.

For more information about employment contracts, contact solicitor Theresa Carling at Endeavour Partnership, at or on 01642 610320.

This Legal Expert column has been provided in conjunction with the Law Society.