Call us on:  0808 172 93 22

NEWS

Can staff leave without giving notice?

Businessman in front of door in business opportunities conceptIs quitting a job without giving notice acceptable? No…there are only few occasions where an employee is justified in shouting “I’m off”, grabbing their bag and heading for the exit. 

Whether there is a longer notice period in the contract of employment or notice falls within the statutory framework, it is a reasonable expectation that an employee will provide a written resignation confirming the date they intend to leave, which reflects the relevant notice provision.

In some cases, a quick exit may be advantageous for an employer, as it avoids formal action being taken to remove an underperforming or misbehaving employee, or if there is little point in the employee staying on. Often, however, employers are left frustrated when a member of staff leaves without giving notice as their unplanned departure can be disruptive and costly. This scenario unfortunately appears to be happening more frequently. In a marketplace where there is competition for talent and fewer employers are taking up references, departing employees may be prepared to shrug off their responsibilities for new ventures as their actions are unlikely to jeopardise their new employment. 

Whilst leaving without giving notice may be a breach of contract, one of the main problems is that an employee cannot be forced back to work. Employees are, however, often unaware they can instead be sued for damages. A claim for damages may be worthwhile if the premature departure has caused financial loss, i.e. when a new starter has to be paid more to secure their appointment.  Should there be a significant commercial threat because the new employer is a competitor, or if there is a risk that confidential information could be misused, an injunction may be an option. At this point, a well drafted contract of employment may be invaluable and provide the foundations for taking further action in the courts. The employee could be stopped from working for the duration of their notice period, or even longer if there are valid post-termination restrictions in the contract. Allegations of inducing a breach of contract are also a risk for the new employer. 

Contractual documentation should not be underestimated when it comes to reminding employees of the possibilities should they breach their contract. The financial consequences of a breach of their obligations can be highlighted. Benefits could be at risk if there are properly constructed “bad leaver” provisions. Although often thought to be unenforceable, withholding or recoupment provisions in the contract of employment that act to compensate the business if there is a legitimate interest in having the contract performed may be permissible; the amount due cannot be punitive and must be commensurate with the loss suffered. 

Until an employee is unwilling to give contractual notice, the full commercial and financial risks to a business may have been ignored. From a risk management perspective, envisaging and planning for such a scenario will help identify what those risks look like. Effective policies and contractual provisions can then be introduced to control the risks. In our experience, employers who have given this some thought are more likely to be make the employee think twice before they head for the exit without a thought for their contractual obligations.

11 million days and counting

Over 11 million days each year are lost due to work-related stress according to the Health and Safety Executive. The true socioeconomic impact of these lost days each year is probably not fully quantifiable but the scale of the loss must mean the impact is significant. Employers can therefore no longer afford to ignore this problem and focus just on physical well-being.

Unfortunately, the law on stress is not set out in one place and is piecemeal, which means it is often difficult for employers to fully appreciate the scope of their obligations. Duties are set out in various pieces of legislation, including The Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974, the Working Time Regulations 1998 and the Equality Act 2010. A further dimension is added as employers also have implied duties, including the obligation to provide a safe system of work. Taking  these duties as a whole, employers must however ensure that their staff are not exposed to excessive levels of stress when at work. 

A nod to these legal duties in terms of working practices may minimise the risk of a legal claim but may not provide the support staff need. In tackling the issue, management needs to address the main contributors to workplace stress such as excessive workloads, long hours, bullying and harassment; all these factors should not be ignored as they have a negative impact on staff retention and engagement, absence levels and productivity.

Given the scale of the problem, employers do need to act. A shift in approach does not need to involve a large amount of time and resources. As a starting point, there are some simple but effective strategies that can be adopted: 

  • Have clear polices which create a supportive working culture and provide managers with guidance as to how to deal with performance management, bullying and attendance issues.
  • Encourage more conversations about stress. Talking will help you to understand the causes and therefore put in place the right support when it is most needed.

While these simple steps may provide a solution today, employers will also need to gear up and look to the future.

Management research and HR studies are identifying that changing demographics mean employers will need to consider new ways of supporting staff by being more aware of their needs and wishes to create the winning workplace. One thing is clear, employees want to ensure that they have both the mental and physical wellbeing to work for as long as possible in the most productive and efficient way. To attract and retain the best talent, ways of providing the right workplace culture to support employees in fulfilling these aspirations will need to be at the top of the HR agenda. 

In line with these findings, the government wants to encourage more discussions about disability and health conditions in the workplace. The introduction of a framework for reporting on disability, mental health and wellbeing for larger employers although voluntary is one step in that direction.

If work related stress is the growing epidemic that the level of lost hours is indicating, then employers need to act now.    

Busy times for employers in 2019!!

From GDPR to sexual harassment in the workplace 2018 was a very busy year for employers. Will employers have a better time of it in 2019?

While workplace practices in relation to data protection and sexual harassment will continue to be main themes, pay, equality, transparency and Brexit will be prominent concerns.   

Pay, benefits, and equality

Increases to the wage bill will need to be accounted for and pay transparency will be a high priority for larger organisations. 

April will be the busiest time with the annual increase to the National Living Wage and National Minimum Wage (NMW) coming into play. The maximum hourly rate for workers 25 or over will increase to £8.21. While apprentices under 19 will be entitled to £3.90 per hour. Full details of all the age dependent hourly pay increases have been published by the government at www.gov.uk/national-minimum-wage-rates.    

The latest increases to pension contributions under auto enrolment will apply, with contributions for both employers and employees set to rise from 2% and 3% to 3% and 5%, respectively.

Large private and voluntary sector employers with more than 250 employees will need to publish their comparative pay rates for men and women. It is anticipated that the figures are likely to be heavily scrutinised to establish if the reporting is driving the desired results to reduce significant pay differences. The same group of employers will also need to start preparing for CEO pay gap reporting, with the first pay ratio reports likely to fall due in 2020.

With compliance in mind, employers must ensure from April that the new rules around the content of payslips and who must receive one are recognised in their payroll processes. 

Finally, pay will also be a hot topic during the year for the courts and employment tribunal but for different reasons. Two areas to look out for will be:

  • Equal pay

Several big name retailers are being challenged about their pay practices when it comes to paying male depot staff more than female retail workers. Whilst the work is different, the argument is that the roles have a comparable value, so the pay should be the same. These types of claim are complex and can lead to significant back pay claims, which should stand as warning to employers to ensure staff are paid fairly and equally.

  • National minimum wage for sleep-ins

Last year the Court of Appeal decided in the case of Mencap v Tomlinson-Blake that individuals working on sleep-in shifts (e.g. nurses, care workers etc), would not be entitled to NMW for time spent asleep even though they had to be “available for work”. Given the impact this decision has on thousands of workers particularly in the care sector, Unison has sought leave to appeal to the Supreme Court, so this is unlikely to be the end of the matter.

Settled status for EU nationals

We could not get away without mentioning Brexit. What seemed certain at the start of December 2018 was the EU settlement scheme allowing EU workers currently living in the UK to apply for the right to stay in the UK indefinitely. However, at the time of writing the exit deal had not been voted on, with the suggestion that in the case of a no-deal scenario there may be stricter requirements for applicants. Hopefully by the time you read this article there will be greater clarity and certainty for employers and EU nationals.    

Non-disclosure agreements

Workplace disputes do occur and the use of non-disclosures agreements (“NDAs”) are a common place occurrence usually finding their way into settlement agreements. In most cases a balance between commercial and personal interests can be reached. However, the government has decided to bring forward its review of NDAs referring to them as “unethical”, with the concern that workplace harassment is being left unchallenged. For the time being there is no change to the law but following the review there may be greater restriction on the use of NDAs, sanctions for misuse and a possible extension to the whistleblowing protection. NDAs are therefore another one to watch out for.

By our assessment, 2019 is likely to be equally busy, if not busier for employers when it comes to people management and employment law.

Busy times for employers ahead

A picture of FG Solicitors' Principal, Floyd GrahamFrom GDPR to sexual harassment in the workplace, 2018 was a very busy year for employers. Will employers have a better time of it in 2019?

While workplace practices in relation to data protection and sexual harassment will continue to be main themes, pay, equality, transparency and Brexit will be prominent concerns.

Pay, benefits, and equality

Increases to the wage bill will need to be accounted for and pay transparency will be a high priority for larger organisations.

April will be the busiest time with the annual increase to the National Living Wage and National Minimum Wage (NMW) coming into play. The maximum hourly rate for workers 25 or over will increase to £8.21. While apprentices under 19 will be entitled to £3.90 per hour. Full details of all the age dependent hourly pay increases have been published by the government at www.gov.uk/national-minimum-wage-rates.

The latest increases to pension contributions under auto enrolment will apply, with contributions for both employers and employees set to rise from two per cent and three per cent to three per cent and five per cent, respectively.

Large private and voluntary sector employers with more than 250 employees will need to publish their comparative pay rates for men and women. It is anticipated that the figures are likely to be heavily scrutinised to establish if the reporting is driving the desired results to reduce significant pay differences. The same group of employers will also need to start preparing for CEO pay gap reporting, with the first pay ratio reports likely to fall due in 2020.

With compliance in mind, employers must ensure from April that the new rules around the content of payslips and who must receive one are recognised in their payroll processes.

Finally, pay will also be a hot topic during the year for the courts and employment tribunal but for different reasons. Two areas to look out for will be:

* Equal pay

Several big name retailers are being challenged about their pay practices when it comes to paying male depot staff more than female retail workers. Whilst the work is different, the argument is that the roles have a comparable value, so the pay should be the same. These types of claim are complex and can lead to significant back pay claims, which should stand as warning to employers to ensure staff are paid fairly and equally.

* National minimum wage for sleep-ins

Last year the Court of Appeal decided in the case of Mencap v Tomlinson-Blake that individuals working on sleep-in shifts (e.g. nurses, care workers etc), would not be entitled to NMW for time spent asleep even though they had to be ‘available for work’. Given the impact this decision has on thousands of workers particularly in the care sector, Unison has sought leave to appeal to the Supreme Court, so this is unlikely to be the end of the matter.

Settled status for EU nationals

We could not get away without mentioning Brexit. What seemed certain at the start of December 2018 was the EU settlement scheme allowing EU workers currently living in the UK to apply for the right to stay in the UK indefinitely. However, at the time of writing the exit deal had not been voted on, with the suggestion that in the case of a no-deal scenario there may be stricter requirements for applicants. Hopefully, by the time you read this article there will be greater clarity and certainty for employers and EU nationals.

Non-disclosure agreements

Workplace disputes do occur and the use of non-disclosures agreements (NDAs) are a commonplace occurrence usually finding their way into settlement agreements. In most cases a balance between commercial and personal interests can be reached. However, the government has decided to bring forward its review of NDAs referring to them as ‘unethical’, with the concern that workplace harassment is being left unchallenged. For the time being there is no change to the law but following the review there may be greater restriction on the use of NDAs, sanctions for misuse and a possible extension to the whistleblowing protection. NDAs are, therefore, another one to watch out for.

By our assessment, 2019 is likely to be equally busy, if not busier for employers when it comes to people management and employment law.

For more information, contact a member of the FG Solicitors team on 01604 871143 or email fgmedia@fgsolicitors.co.uk

What’s in a signature?

Office desk with a paper written CONTENT IS KING with pen, glass, smartphone and a thumb drive.This time last year the phenomenon of #me too was unleashed to great effect dividing opinion as to the dividing line between harmless flirtation and the far more sinister predatorial behaviour targeting the workplace and subjecting men and women to the unwanted sexual attention that undermines dignity at work.

So many column inches have already been devoted to the #me too commentary that to join the bandwagon of commentators I would consider to be somewhat, me too and so the subject of this article is an attempt to answer a much more mundane question that frequently occupies the thoughts of employers, is it necessary for my employees to sign their contracts of employment and what are the risks to an employer of a failure to obtain that signature?

The simple answer to this question is yes. Obtaining an employee’s signature on a contract of employment will generally go a long way in allowing the employer to demonstrate that the employee agreed with the content, especially where the contract contains terms which may be considered to be detrimental to the employee. A good example of this is where the contract seeks to prevent the employee after the employment relationship has ended from joining a competitor, setting up a competing business, poaching colleagues or interfering with supplier relationships. These terms are generally referred to as Post Termination Restrictions.

Employers often suggest that if an employee continues to work after a contract has been given to them then this is evidence that they agree to and accept the terms, even if they have not signed the written contract that has been given to them. This view is not entirely accurate and is likely only to be valid where the terms contained within the contract have an immediate impact on the employee.

In the case of post termination restrictions the impact on the employee is only triggered after the employment relationship has ended. This is the point at which the employee is likely to say that the reason the contract is unsigned is because they did not agree with its terms. In addition it is common for employment contracts to contain a provision which states that the employee confirms understanding and acceptance of the terms by signature. Such a clause is likely to seriously undermine an employer’s ability to place reliance on the unsigned document.

It is often the case that employees with long service have more than one role within the employer’s business either through promotion or lateral moves. Where this happens employers should always ensure that the change is reflected in new contracts being issued, which are tailored to the new circumstances and that a signed copy is retained on record in the employee’s personnel file.

In summary, there are compelling reasons for employers to ensure that all employees sign their contracts of employment but it is even more important in the case of senior employees whose contracts are likely to contain clauses where the impact is only triggered after the employment has ended.

Where the role or conditions of employment changes issue new contracts that reflect the changed position. A failure to do so may seriously undermine an employer’s attempt to protect its business, especially after the employment has ended. In the land of the contract the signature is king!

For further information or assistance contact a member of the Employment Team at FG Solicitors. info@fgsolicitors.co.uk or 01604 871143

Call us on:  0808 172 93 22

NEWS

Can staff leave without giving notice?

Businessman in front of door in business opportunities conceptIs quitting a job without giving notice acceptable? No…there are only few occasions where an employee is justified in shouting “I’m off”, grabbing their bag and heading for the exit. 

Whether there is a longer notice period in the contract of employment or notice falls within the statutory framework, it is a reasonable expectation that an employee will provide a written resignation confirming the date they intend to leave, which reflects the relevant notice provision.

In some cases, a quick exit may be advantageous for an employer, as it avoids formal action being taken to remove an underperforming or misbehaving employee, or if there is little point in the employee staying on. Often, however, employers are left frustrated when a member of staff leaves without giving notice as their unplanned departure can be disruptive and costly. This scenario unfortunately appears to be happening more frequently. In a marketplace where there is competition for talent and fewer employers are taking up references, departing employees may be prepared to shrug off their responsibilities for new ventures as their actions are unlikely to jeopardise their new employment. 

Whilst leaving without giving notice may be a breach of contract, one of the main problems is that an employee cannot be forced back to work. Employees are, however, often unaware they can instead be sued for damages. A claim for damages may be worthwhile if the premature departure has caused financial loss, i.e. when a new starter has to be paid more to secure their appointment.  Should there be a significant commercial threat because the new employer is a competitor, or if there is a risk that confidential information could be misused, an injunction may be an option. At this point, a well drafted contract of employment may be invaluable and provide the foundations for taking further action in the courts. The employee could be stopped from working for the duration of their notice period, or even longer if there are valid post-termination restrictions in the contract. Allegations of inducing a breach of contract are also a risk for the new employer. 

Contractual documentation should not be underestimated when it comes to reminding employees of the possibilities should they breach their contract. The financial consequences of a breach of their obligations can be highlighted. Benefits could be at risk if there are properly constructed “bad leaver” provisions. Although often thought to be unenforceable, withholding or recoupment provisions in the contract of employment that act to compensate the business if there is a legitimate interest in having the contract performed may be permissible; the amount due cannot be punitive and must be commensurate with the loss suffered. 

Until an employee is unwilling to give contractual notice, the full commercial and financial risks to a business may have been ignored. From a risk management perspective, envisaging and planning for such a scenario will help identify what those risks look like. Effective policies and contractual provisions can then be introduced to control the risks. In our experience, employers who have given this some thought are more likely to be make the employee think twice before they head for the exit without a thought for their contractual obligations.

11 million days and counting

Over 11 million days each year are lost due to work-related stress according to the Health and Safety Executive. The true socioeconomic impact of these lost days each year is probably not fully quantifiable but the scale of the loss must mean the impact is significant. Employers can therefore no longer afford to ignore this problem and focus just on physical well-being.

Unfortunately, the law on stress is not set out in one place and is piecemeal, which means it is often difficult for employers to fully appreciate the scope of their obligations. Duties are set out in various pieces of legislation, including The Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974, the Working Time Regulations 1998 and the Equality Act 2010. A further dimension is added as employers also have implied duties, including the obligation to provide a safe system of work. Taking  these duties as a whole, employers must however ensure that their staff are not exposed to excessive levels of stress when at work. 

A nod to these legal duties in terms of working practices may minimise the risk of a legal claim but may not provide the support staff need. In tackling the issue, management needs to address the main contributors to workplace stress such as excessive workloads, long hours, bullying and harassment; all these factors should not be ignored as they have a negative impact on staff retention and engagement, absence levels and productivity.

Given the scale of the problem, employers do need to act. A shift in approach does not need to involve a large amount of time and resources. As a starting point, there are some simple but effective strategies that can be adopted: 

  • Have clear polices which create a supportive working culture and provide managers with guidance as to how to deal with performance management, bullying and attendance issues.
  • Encourage more conversations about stress. Talking will help you to understand the causes and therefore put in place the right support when it is most needed.

While these simple steps may provide a solution today, employers will also need to gear up and look to the future.

Management research and HR studies are identifying that changing demographics mean employers will need to consider new ways of supporting staff by being more aware of their needs and wishes to create the winning workplace. One thing is clear, employees want to ensure that they have both the mental and physical wellbeing to work for as long as possible in the most productive and efficient way. To attract and retain the best talent, ways of providing the right workplace culture to support employees in fulfilling these aspirations will need to be at the top of the HR agenda. 

In line with these findings, the government wants to encourage more discussions about disability and health conditions in the workplace. The introduction of a framework for reporting on disability, mental health and wellbeing for larger employers although voluntary is one step in that direction.

If work related stress is the growing epidemic that the level of lost hours is indicating, then employers need to act now.    

Busy times for employers in 2019!!

From GDPR to sexual harassment in the workplace 2018 was a very busy year for employers. Will employers have a better time of it in 2019?

While workplace practices in relation to data protection and sexual harassment will continue to be main themes, pay, equality, transparency and Brexit will be prominent concerns.   

Pay, benefits, and equality

Increases to the wage bill will need to be accounted for and pay transparency will be a high priority for larger organisations. 

April will be the busiest time with the annual increase to the National Living Wage and National Minimum Wage (NMW) coming into play. The maximum hourly rate for workers 25 or over will increase to £8.21. While apprentices under 19 will be entitled to £3.90 per hour. Full details of all the age dependent hourly pay increases have been published by the government at www.gov.uk/national-minimum-wage-rates.    

The latest increases to pension contributions under auto enrolment will apply, with contributions for both employers and employees set to rise from 2% and 3% to 3% and 5%, respectively.

Large private and voluntary sector employers with more than 250 employees will need to publish their comparative pay rates for men and women. It is anticipated that the figures are likely to be heavily scrutinised to establish if the reporting is driving the desired results to reduce significant pay differences. The same group of employers will also need to start preparing for CEO pay gap reporting, with the first pay ratio reports likely to fall due in 2020.

With compliance in mind, employers must ensure from April that the new rules around the content of payslips and who must receive one are recognised in their payroll processes. 

Finally, pay will also be a hot topic during the year for the courts and employment tribunal but for different reasons. Two areas to look out for will be:

  • Equal pay

Several big name retailers are being challenged about their pay practices when it comes to paying male depot staff more than female retail workers. Whilst the work is different, the argument is that the roles have a comparable value, so the pay should be the same. These types of claim are complex and can lead to significant back pay claims, which should stand as warning to employers to ensure staff are paid fairly and equally.

  • National minimum wage for sleep-ins

Last year the Court of Appeal decided in the case of Mencap v Tomlinson-Blake that individuals working on sleep-in shifts (e.g. nurses, care workers etc), would not be entitled to NMW for time spent asleep even though they had to be “available for work”. Given the impact this decision has on thousands of workers particularly in the care sector, Unison has sought leave to appeal to the Supreme Court, so this is unlikely to be the end of the matter.

Settled status for EU nationals

We could not get away without mentioning Brexit. What seemed certain at the start of December 2018 was the EU settlement scheme allowing EU workers currently living in the UK to apply for the right to stay in the UK indefinitely. However, at the time of writing the exit deal had not been voted on, with the suggestion that in the case of a no-deal scenario there may be stricter requirements for applicants. Hopefully by the time you read this article there will be greater clarity and certainty for employers and EU nationals.    

Non-disclosure agreements

Workplace disputes do occur and the use of non-disclosures agreements (“NDAs”) are a common place occurrence usually finding their way into settlement agreements. In most cases a balance between commercial and personal interests can be reached. However, the government has decided to bring forward its review of NDAs referring to them as “unethical”, with the concern that workplace harassment is being left unchallenged. For the time being there is no change to the law but following the review there may be greater restriction on the use of NDAs, sanctions for misuse and a possible extension to the whistleblowing protection. NDAs are therefore another one to watch out for.

By our assessment, 2019 is likely to be equally busy, if not busier for employers when it comes to people management and employment law.

Busy times for employers ahead

A picture of FG Solicitors' Principal, Floyd GrahamFrom GDPR to sexual harassment in the workplace, 2018 was a very busy year for employers. Will employers have a better time of it in 2019?

While workplace practices in relation to data protection and sexual harassment will continue to be main themes, pay, equality, transparency and Brexit will be prominent concerns.

Pay, benefits, and equality

Increases to the wage bill will need to be accounted for and pay transparency will be a high priority for larger organisations.

April will be the busiest time with the annual increase to the National Living Wage and National Minimum Wage (NMW) coming into play. The maximum hourly rate for workers 25 or over will increase to £8.21. While apprentices under 19 will be entitled to £3.90 per hour. Full details of all the age dependent hourly pay increases have been published by the government at www.gov.uk/national-minimum-wage-rates.

The latest increases to pension contributions under auto enrolment will apply, with contributions for both employers and employees set to rise from two per cent and three per cent to three per cent and five per cent, respectively.

Large private and voluntary sector employers with more than 250 employees will need to publish their comparative pay rates for men and women. It is anticipated that the figures are likely to be heavily scrutinised to establish if the reporting is driving the desired results to reduce significant pay differences. The same group of employers will also need to start preparing for CEO pay gap reporting, with the first pay ratio reports likely to fall due in 2020.

With compliance in mind, employers must ensure from April that the new rules around the content of payslips and who must receive one are recognised in their payroll processes.

Finally, pay will also be a hot topic during the year for the courts and employment tribunal but for different reasons. Two areas to look out for will be:

* Equal pay

Several big name retailers are being challenged about their pay practices when it comes to paying male depot staff more than female retail workers. Whilst the work is different, the argument is that the roles have a comparable value, so the pay should be the same. These types of claim are complex and can lead to significant back pay claims, which should stand as warning to employers to ensure staff are paid fairly and equally.

* National minimum wage for sleep-ins

Last year the Court of Appeal decided in the case of Mencap v Tomlinson-Blake that individuals working on sleep-in shifts (e.g. nurses, care workers etc), would not be entitled to NMW for time spent asleep even though they had to be ‘available for work’. Given the impact this decision has on thousands of workers particularly in the care sector, Unison has sought leave to appeal to the Supreme Court, so this is unlikely to be the end of the matter.

Settled status for EU nationals

We could not get away without mentioning Brexit. What seemed certain at the start of December 2018 was the EU settlement scheme allowing EU workers currently living in the UK to apply for the right to stay in the UK indefinitely. However, at the time of writing the exit deal had not been voted on, with the suggestion that in the case of a no-deal scenario there may be stricter requirements for applicants. Hopefully, by the time you read this article there will be greater clarity and certainty for employers and EU nationals.

Non-disclosure agreements

Workplace disputes do occur and the use of non-disclosures agreements (NDAs) are a commonplace occurrence usually finding their way into settlement agreements. In most cases a balance between commercial and personal interests can be reached. However, the government has decided to bring forward its review of NDAs referring to them as ‘unethical’, with the concern that workplace harassment is being left unchallenged. For the time being there is no change to the law but following the review there may be greater restriction on the use of NDAs, sanctions for misuse and a possible extension to the whistleblowing protection. NDAs are, therefore, another one to watch out for.

By our assessment, 2019 is likely to be equally busy, if not busier for employers when it comes to people management and employment law.

For more information, contact a member of the FG Solicitors team on 01604 871143 or email fgmedia@fgsolicitors.co.uk

What’s in a signature?

Office desk with a paper written CONTENT IS KING with pen, glass, smartphone and a thumb drive.This time last year the phenomenon of #me too was unleashed to great effect dividing opinion as to the dividing line between harmless flirtation and the far more sinister predatorial behaviour targeting the workplace and subjecting men and women to the unwanted sexual attention that undermines dignity at work.

So many column inches have already been devoted to the #me too commentary that to join the bandwagon of commentators I would consider to be somewhat, me too and so the subject of this article is an attempt to answer a much more mundane question that frequently occupies the thoughts of employers, is it necessary for my employees to sign their contracts of employment and what are the risks to an employer of a failure to obtain that signature?

The simple answer to this question is yes. Obtaining an employee’s signature on a contract of employment will generally go a long way in allowing the employer to demonstrate that the employee agreed with the content, especially where the contract contains terms which may be considered to be detrimental to the employee. A good example of this is where the contract seeks to prevent the employee after the employment relationship has ended from joining a competitor, setting up a competing business, poaching colleagues or interfering with supplier relationships. These terms are generally referred to as Post Termination Restrictions.

Employers often suggest that if an employee continues to work after a contract has been given to them then this is evidence that they agree to and accept the terms, even if they have not signed the written contract that has been given to them. This view is not entirely accurate and is likely only to be valid where the terms contained within the contract have an immediate impact on the employee.

In the case of post termination restrictions the impact on the employee is only triggered after the employment relationship has ended. This is the point at which the employee is likely to say that the reason the contract is unsigned is because they did not agree with its terms. In addition it is common for employment contracts to contain a provision which states that the employee confirms understanding and acceptance of the terms by signature. Such a clause is likely to seriously undermine an employer’s ability to place reliance on the unsigned document.

It is often the case that employees with long service have more than one role within the employer’s business either through promotion or lateral moves. Where this happens employers should always ensure that the change is reflected in new contracts being issued, which are tailored to the new circumstances and that a signed copy is retained on record in the employee’s personnel file.

In summary, there are compelling reasons for employers to ensure that all employees sign their contracts of employment but it is even more important in the case of senior employees whose contracts are likely to contain clauses where the impact is only triggered after the employment has ended.

Where the role or conditions of employment changes issue new contracts that reflect the changed position. A failure to do so may seriously undermine an employer’s attempt to protect its business, especially after the employment has ended. In the land of the contract the signature is king!

For further information or assistance contact a member of the Employment Team at FG Solicitors. info@fgsolicitors.co.uk or 01604 871143