Pay and Contracts

Many of your rights at work will depend on what it says in your contract of employment: these are your contractual rights. You'll find information in this section to help you understand the key terms of your employment contract

The terms of the contract of employment 

Many of the rights and duties that bind both employers and employees are to be found in the contract of employment. They are called terms of the contract. 

Some of these terms are express terms – this means that they are expressly stated – either orally (for example, at the initial interview) or in writing. 

Certain express terms must be put in writing and handed to the employee in the form of a written statement of particulars on or before their first day of work.  

Express terms include: 

  • pay; 

  • hours; 

  • holidays; and 

  • length of notice required to end the relationship 

There are other contract terms, known as implied terms. These are not expressly stated because they are fairly obvious to both parties to the contract, and/or because they have become normal practice at work, without ever being recorded in writing. 

Occasionally, the courts will imply a term in a contract of employment where an important term has been left out. 

Implied terms include statutory rights, such as the right to equal pay (i.e. the right to be paid the same as someone of the other sex who is doing the same job, a similar job, or a job of equal value to your job). 

Mutual trust and confidence 

An important element of the contract of employment is the concept of mutual trust and confidence. This is also an implied term of the contract of employment. 

The law recognises that the employer has a duty to trust the employee and treat him or her fairly and with respect. 

If the employer fundamentally breaches that trust and confidence, an employee may be justified in treating their contract as having been unlawfully breached. In such a situation, where the employee feels that they have no alternative, they may choose to resign and treat themselves as having been dismissed. 

Resigning and claiming constructive dismissal is a high-risk strategy and should always be a last resort. Anyone considering this course should take legal advice. 

Custom and practice 

Some terms may be implied through custom and practice in a particular trade or with a particular employer. For example, it may become customary (over a period of time) to leave early on a Friday, or to add an extra day to a bank holiday. For an entitlement to become established by custom and practice, it must usually be long-standing, have been continuously applied, automatically given, well-known and expected to be received. Both sides must believe they have become contractually obliged to follow the particular practice. 

Also, sometimes "custom and practice" is used to interpret an express term. For example, what 'reasonable overtime' in a written contract means may be best understood by looking at how the organisation operates its overtime policy. 

Note: This content is provided as general background information and should not be taken as legal advice or financial advice for your particular situation. Make sure to get individual advice on your case from your union, a source on our free help page or an independent financial advisor before taking any action.

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