It’s important to check your contract of employment before you accept a new job, agree to a promotion, or a change in role. Once the contract has been signed it becomes a legally binding agreement, which is difficult to change unless both parties agree.
You should always check that the contract accurately reflects the terms in your offer letter—or what was agreed at interview, if you don’t have an offer letter. Here’s what to look out for with the key clauses that should be part of every contract.
Job title and description
Does the job title reflect what was agreed? Your job title will reflect how you are represented to colleagues and external parties. It may also determine your grade, pay and who you report to, and ultimately affect your career progression.
It’s not unusual for the role and duties to be widely drafted to give the employer maximum flexibility to vary your duties and add things to your workload which were not discussed with you. So make sure the duties listed are ones you agreed or are reasonably required and suitable for your skills. You should seek to remove or amend any clauses which give your employer the right to expand (or limit) your duties.
Salary, benefits and bonuses
Make sure the salary in your contract is the one you agreed!
If your pay is based on your grade, is the grade subject to review? If so, get the employer to be specific about the pay you will actually receive and seek a commitment that it won’t be reduced as part of any grade review.
Are any elements of your pay discretionary or based on performance? If pay increases are subject to performance objectives, make sure it’s very clear what objectives or targets need to be met, in what order and how they will be assessed.
If your contract refers to separate policies, such as an expenses policy, request a copy before you sign. If you are working from home, you will need to check if any related expenses are covered.
You should also check when payments will be made. Under the Employment Rights Act (‘ERA’) 1996, your employer is required to set this out in a written statement of particulars.
This is usually straightforward, but make sure it fits with any notice period for your existing job and any pre-booked holidays.
You should also check that the date of continuous NHS employment is correct. There are different statutory provisions which may allow staff who have worked for different health service employers to claim continuity of employment. Seek advice from your local MiP rep or head office if you’re unclear (email@example.com).
Hours and place of work
The hours in the contract should be specified and worded so as to limit any obligation to work additional hours without pay. Check if you are required to work shifts, on-call or at weekends. If so, it should be made clear for how long and specify the days.
The contract should set out your normal place of work; if there is a mobility clause, check any policies relating to that. Ensure that any requirement to relocate is limited and subject to your consent. If homeworking is required, an express provision should be included and you should again request and check any policies that apply.
Holidays, sick leave and death in service
Make sure you know when the annual leave year starts and finishes, if you are entitled to roll over untaken leave into the next year and if you are prevented from taking holidays at certain times, such as at Christmas.
Look out for a clause which allows the employer to deduct holiday pay for holidays taken in excess of your accrued entitlement and if this is at basic rate.
You should raise any concerns with the employer before signing the contract. Often, the employer may simply have forgotten to amend their standard contract to reflect what was agreed, but some employers do leave terms deliberately vague to give themselves more flexibility.
<< Read the first article in the series: why your employment contract matters.
- Jo Seery is a senior employment rights solicitor at Thompsons Solicitors, MiP’s legal advisers. Visit the Thompsons website for more info. Legal Eye does not offer legal advice on individual cases. Members needing personal advice should contact MiP by emailing MemberAdvice@miphealth.org.uk.