A fundamental change to employment contracts, taking place from 6 April 2020, may go unnoticed by many employers. Partly because the law in this area (section 1 of the Employment Rights Act 1996) rarely changes and partly because it is a 'good hygiene' area: there is nothing glamorous about the news that employees' contracts require updating. However, businesses need to know the devil in the detail and they could be caught out unless they get to grips with these changes.
Additional information must now be included in written contracts. From 6 April, the contract must set out any terms and conditions relating to benefits and also paid leave (over and above holiday) such as statutory paid family leave. The contract needs to make clear what, if any, training is provided by the employer, highlighting any which is mandatory or which will not be paid for by the employer. Most of the required information must be contained in the main contract provided to the employee, not given at later intervals as before, or referring to some other location such as the intranet or a staff handbook.
From 6 April workers will also be entitled to statutory written information for the first time. While this document will be similar to what is given to employees, there will be some important differences. For example, workers may not be entitled to the same range of benefits as employees or a different disciplinary or grievance procedure may apply to them.
Because most of the required information now has to be provided on day one, not within two months of the employee's start date as before, organisations should be issuing compliant contracts in advance of start dates.
From 6 April 2020, employers will need to provide up to date contracts to new joiners. Additionally, from that date newly engaged workers should also be issued with the statutory information which complies with the new law.
Risk point: Care should be taken not to issue a statement to a worker which inadvertently suggests that the individual has employment status, for example stating that benefits or a disciplinary procedure applies to a worker where it did not do so previously.
Employers will want to review and amend existing employment contracts so that these comply with the law. They should be ready to deal with queries from existing employees where they request up to date particulars after 6 April 2020.
Risk point: Employers may need to review employment documentation more widely, including staff handbooks and intranets, because this is where some employment particulars will be found.