Posted on 3rd January 2013

Companies Urged to Tidy Up Employment Contracts to Avoid Legal Disputes

Nick Poole, Partner at Latimer HinksLatimer Hinks, one of the North Easts leading law firms, is urging businesses to use the New Year as an opportunity to tidy up their employment contracts to avoid common personnel-related legal pitfalls in 2013.

The Darlington-based law firm is encouraging businesses, particularly new and recent start-ups that are considering taking on new staff, to follow some basic rules to avoid disputes about contractual agreements. Businesses are encouraged to put everything in writing and to seek legal advice to ensure that they stay on the right track legally with their employment obligations.

Nick Poole, a partner at Latimer Hinks, commented: "Employers need to have some base knowledge of contract law. An employer makes an offer of employment, the prospective employee accepts and there is then in place a binding contract of employment. However, what if the employer then takes up references which are not satisfactory? Also, where does the employer stand if the employee subsequently refuses to sign or acknowledge the employers employment documents?

Employers are of course legally obliged to provide any employee who has worked one month or more with a written statement, containing terms and conditions of employment, within two months of starting work. This is not required for contractors or those with self-employed or freelance status."

The employers employment documents should ideally include a formal , written contract of employment, as opposed to a written statement of terms and conditions of employment (as still used by many employers) and which only provides evidence as to the contractual terms. This is particularly relevant where an employer needs the benefit of a confidentiality undertaking and other restrictive covenants.

Nick Poole added: "These documents should also extend to a staff handbook, containing the employers rules, policies and procedures. These should of course cover such things as grievance, discipline, harassment and equal opportunities policies and much care needs to be taken in considering whether any of these are to have contractual effect. Most recently, the use of social media by employees (including outside of the work place) has become the subject of a number of employment tribunal decisions and getting the policy right here is becoming increasingly important for the employer."