Your contract of employment might seem confusing. For many of us, it’s something we sign and then forget about. But many of your working rights are contained in your contract.

The purpose of an employment contract is to set out the rights and duties of both the employer and the worker. These are known as contractual terms.

The most obvious example is that your contract says what work you’re expected to do, and what you’re entitled to be paid for it.

Your contractual terms can be broken into two groups: express terms and implied terms.

Express terms must be openly stated, either verbally or in writing, and some of them must be put in writing and handed to you within eight weeks of your start date. Details of your pay, hours, holidays and notice period are all included in express terms.

Implied terms are those which aren’t explicitly stated in your contract. That could be because they’re obvious to both you and your employer, or because they’ve become normal in your workplace without being put in writing.

But proving that you’re entitled to contractual rights that haven’t been written down is usually very difficult. 

Your employer can (and often will) improve on the basic rights the law provides, called statutory rights.

But nothing is your employment contract can change or take away your statutory rights. These include your right to paid holiday, to the national minimum wage, to equal pay, or to a minimum amount of notice when your contract ends.

Common
questions
Am I a worker, an employee or self-employed?
This depends on the contractual relationship you have with your employer. The distinction is important because many important rights – such as the right to claim unfair dismissal or maternity leave – depend on being an employee. For other rights, such as the right to be paid the National Minimum Wage, you must be a worker...
What’s the difference between implied and express terms?
The rights and duties of both employers and employees are found in the contract of employment. They are called 'terms' of the contract...
What’s meant by 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...