Do Contracts of Employment for your staff need to be signed?
Contrary to popular belief, a Contract of Employment does not have to be in written form to be legally valid.
However, if you entered into a Contract of Employment verbally, you are required to provide each employee whose employment is to continue for more than one month with a ‘statement of written particulars of employment’ within two months of the employee’s start of employment.
There is no statutory obligation to have the Contract of Employment or the written statement of particulars signed. Once the applicant has accepted the job, there is a legally binding contract of employment between the employer and the applicant. The law does not require witnesses or a signature to make it valid. What really matters is that there is an offer, acceptance, consideration and the intention to create legal relations. As ever, getting employment law advice when it comes to contracts of employment is vital.
You are required to provide each employee whose employment is to continue for more than one month with a ‘statement of written particulars of employment’ within two months of the employee’s start of employment.
An employer cannot use the fact that an employee has not signed the contract as a way to deny employees their statutory rights, for example to not allow them to take their annual leave.
Equally, it does not give you an excuse to make changes to an employee’s contract, such as reducing their hours or pay.
Making changes to an employee’s contract will, in most cases, require you to obtain the employee’s consent. A failure to do this will normally result in a breach of contract. This is why it is so important to get employment law advice from a specialist.
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In any case, it is best practice to have the employee sign and date the contract and return it back to you. This is mainly for two main reasons.
- It proves you are complying with your legal obligation to provide an employee with a written statement of written particulars.
- Clarifies what terms and conditions were agreed between the parties in case a dispute arises in the future.
You should keep a copy for your records and then provide them with a copy for their own records.
A signature can be handwritten or provided through electronic means. It can take the form of, for example, typing your name in full, using your finger or pen to sign on a touch screen device or electronically pasting in your signature.
Even if you do this, it is recommended that you should give the employee a printed copy or give an electronic version that clearly shows their signature.