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Employment contracts in the equine industry

Employment contracts in the equine industry

There is often confusion about employment contracts in the equine industry, and it’s very easy for both employers and job seekers to make mistakes that at the least can be a source of misunderstanding and dissatisfaction and in the worst case scenario, can have serious legal and cost implications which potentially can be devastating further on in time.

There seems to be a not uncommonly held perception within the equine industry that an employment contract is somehow optional or not relevant to the world of equestrian employment! For absolute clarification, this is not so and, not to put a too finer point on it, in the eyes if the law ignorance is no defence. That being said, obtaining and then understanding the correct information is not always straightforward. To assist all concerned, in this article we describe as simply as possible:

  • What an employment contract is
  • When the employment contract is given
  • Who should receive an employment contract
  • Examples of illegal employment contracts
  • What happens when an employment contract is broken

Obviously, we are not legal experts, but we are experts in equine recruitment, so the following information is for guidance only. We always advise taking expert legal advice on your specific circumstances.

 

What is an employment contract?

Employment contracts in the equine industry - legal contractsAccording to UK employment laws, as soon as an employee accepts a job offer they have a ‘contract’ with their employer. They do not need to have signed any documents or even have started work – the verbal acceptance of a job legally marks the start of the employment contract, in other words, an employment contract doesn’t have to be written down in order to legally exist!

By default, the acceptance of a job offer triggers a contract that contains relevant statutory rights of the employee, for example:

  • a right to receive a written statement of the terms of employment (known as a Written Statement of Employment Particulars)
  • a right to an itemised pay statement (payslips)
  • a right to maternity leave
  • a right to pay in compensation for being made redundant
  • a right not to be unfairly dismissed

The absence of a written contract does not remove these statutory rights and any contract, verbal or written, that takes away or denies any of these statutory rights is not legally enforceable.

Likewise, there are implied terms that come automatically with employment:

  • the employer’s obligation to provide a secure, safe and healthy working environment
  • mutual obligations not to do anything that might undermine the relationship of mutual ‘trust and confidence’ between the employer and the employee
  • the employee’s obligation to work honestly and faithfully, fulfil reasonable instructions and work with due diligence, skill and care
  • the employee’s obligation not to undermine the employer’s business

This is why it’s so important for employers AND job seekers to understand employment contracts and what they contain, and not make any assumptions.

Why give written employment contracts in the equine industry

 

So, why issue a written employment contract?

All employees are legally entitled to receive a written statement that describes the main terms of the contract of employment. This is usually referred to as a written contract, but the official term for this is a “Written Statement of Employment Particulars”. This isn’t actually the employment contract itself (the employment contract started when the job seeker accepted the job), these are the terms of the employment contract, and they must be issued in writing! This ensures both parties are clear on the employee’s:

  • employment conditions
  • rights
  • responsibilities
  • duties

Both the employee and the employer must stick to the employment contract until it ends (e.g. by the employer or employee giving notice or the employee being dismissed) or until the terms of employment are changed (usually by agreement between the employee and employer).

Whilst most employment contracts do not need to be in writing to be legally valid, it is the employee’s statutory right to receive a  Written Statement of Employment Particulars within two months of starting a job.

It is rarely true to say an employee “does/did not have an employment contract” as an employment contract as offered and accepted by default when a job offer is made and accepted. What might be true is that the employer never fulfilled their legal obligation to provide a Written Statement of Employment Particulars to the employee.

 


In a nutshell, in employment law, the employment contract works like this:

  1. The employment contract begins when the employer appoints a candidate with a formal job offer (verbally or in writing) and once the candidate accepts the offer they become, legally, an employee.
  2. The employer must give the prospective employee their Written Statement of Employment Particulars within two months of the employee starting the job
  3. From step 1, both parties are in contract with each other until either terminates the employment, as per the agreement at step one

 

Employment contracts in the equine industry - an infographic

 


What does the ‘Written Statement of Employment Particulars’ (the written part of the employment contract) contain?

The Written Statement of Employment Particulars can be one single document or it can be made up of several documents if different sections are given at different times. For example, an employer might:

  1. give a new employee a formal offer of employment in writing
  2. give the new employee the minimum requirements of the *Written Statement of Employment Particulars before or as they start their new job
  3. give the final section of the Written Statement of Employment Particulars before the two-month time limit is up

All three documents will form the employee’s Written Statement of Employment Particulars.

No matter how the Written Statement of Employment Particulars is issued, the employee must receive it in full within two months of starting work. *You can read more about the legal requirements of the Written Statement of Employment Particulars here.

 

Who should receive a Written Statement of Employment (a written employment contract)?

Employed vs Self-Employed

Employment contracts in the equine industry - Self EmployedFirstly, it’s very important to be clear on what a groom’s employment status is, whether working full or part-time on a permanent or temporary basis.

Many employment rights, such as the right not to be unfairly dismissed and the right to redundancy pay, rely on the groom being an employee. It is common for an employer to call a groom self-employed, freelance or a ‘working pupil’ when they are in fact an employee. Some employers might do this in order to avoid having to pay Tax and National Insurance for their employees and to try to avoid them having employment rights but, in many cases, it is due to a lack of understanding or care on the part of both parties. Again, no legal defence.

Just because a groom pays Income Tax and National Insurance as a ‘self-employed’ individual, it does not automatically follow that they are self-employed rather than an employee! Instead, this is defined by the nature of the working relationship. An example is when a groom has to ask for time off work like an employee rather than tell the employer what days/hours they are available to work like a self-employed person.

To be clear, if an employee:

  • has to ask to take time off work
  • is paid a regular salary rather than per task/requirement
  • is provided work by the employer to fill their hours

and the employer:

  • provides the majority of the tools and equipment required for the job
  • provides/sources cover when the groom is off sick or taking time off work

then it can be argued the person is not self-employed but an employee and requires at least a “Written Statement of Employment Particulars“.

 

Full-Time Grooms

When it is established and mutually agreed that a groom is to work on an employed basis, the employer must provide a “Written Statement of Employment Particulars” within two months of the groom starting work.

 

⇒ Short Term/Temporary Cover

Again, as soon as a person accepts a short term job role they have a verbal contract with their employer, no matter how short the cover required. Both employers and the person concerned must be clear on whether the temporary cover is provided on an employed or self-employed basis, as detailed above.

The employer must give the groom a ‘Written Statement of Employment Particulars’, to confirm the terms of the employment if their employment is intended to last at least a month or more. This must include:

  • how long a temporary job is expected to last
  • the end date of a fixed-term contract

Should a person work abroad for more than a month during their first 2 months’ employment, the employer must give them the written statement before they leave.

 

Grooms who travel or work abroad as part of the job

Employment contracts when the employee travels abroadShould a person work abroad for more than a month during their first 2 months’ employment, the employer must give them the written statement before they leave, and their employer must state:

  • how long they’ll be abroad
  • what currency they’ll be paid in
  • what additional pay or benefits they’ll get
  • terms relating to their return to the UK

This information can be given to the employee in a separate document, as part of the Written Statement of Employment Particulars.

An employer may send an employee to another of their yards in a country within the European Economic Area (EEA). In this situation employees must get the terms and conditions that are the legal minimum in that country for:

  • working hours and rest breaks
  • holiday entitlement
  • minimum pay (including overtime)

 

Part-time Grooms

A part-time worker must be given a “Written Statement of Employment Particulars” within 2 months of starting a job that’s intended to last at least one month or more.

Again, as soon as a groom accepts a part-time job role they have a verbal contract with their employer, no matter how few hours they work in a week. Both employers and grooms must be clear on whether the temporary cover is provided on an employed or self-employed basis, as detailed above.

 

Freelance Grooms

Freelance Grooms are service providers and the “employer” is their client. The client will have a “contract to provided services” with the Freelance Groom, not an employment contract, and Freelance Grooms do not require a Written Statement of Employment Particulars.

This is another situation in which it is imperative to be clear on the legal status of the individual groom, and not assume that a part-time groom on a zero-hour contract is, by default, a Freelance Groom. Freelance Grooms are self-employed contractors. They are the type of grooms that come in, fully armed with tools and equipment (where appropriate), fully insured, and provide one-off or ad-hoc services or “cover”. A yard/horse owner will book the services of a Freelance Groom in the same way as those of a Farrier, Electrician or maintenance company.

 

Illegal Employment Contracts

Employment contracts in the equine industry - Illegal ContractsAny employment contract will be deemed an illegal contract of employment if:

  • the employee gets all or part of their wages paid cash in hand; and
  • Tax and National Insurance contributions aren’t paid on the wages when they should have been; and
  • the employee knew they were being paid in this way to avoid paying tax and/or national insurance contributions.

A contract of employment will not be illegal if only one of the parties is not declaring the payments and/or making appropriate deductions.

If within a contract an employer tries to take away the employee’s statutory rights, it is not an illegal contract but it cannot be legally enforced.

 

Breach of Contract – What happens when an employment contract is broken?

Employment contracts in the equine industry - Broken ContractsA contract may be broken if either the employee or the employer does not follow a term in the contract, which is known as a “breach of contract”.

For example:

  • if the employer doesn’t pay the employee in lieu of the notice which the groom is entitled to under their contract, this would be a breach of contract.
  • the employee fails to turn up for work without good reason or leaves without giving/working due notice, this would be a breach of contract.

If either party breaks the contract, you should try and sort the matter out between you informally before taking action.

The ACAS Helpline is free to call or if you are a member of the British Grooms Association or Equestrian Employers Association you have specific help on hand for these matters.

 


Sources and further reading

Employment Contracts: UK Government website

Law Donut: www.lawdonut.co.uk/business

ACAS: www.acas.org.uk

The “Written Statement of Employment Particulars” Explained

Making and Accepting a Formal Job Offer

What Happens when a Job Offer is Withdrawn?

Employment Law in the Equine Industry

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Both employers and jobseekers alike, if you would like free, friendly, no obligation recruitment advice from Caroline please do get in touch!

The content provided in this article is for informational purposes only. It is the responsibility of the individual to ensure that the information they are working to is correct and appropriate for their specific circumstances.

© Caroline Carter Recruitment Ltd and The Grooms List, 2019. Unauthorised use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Caroline Carter Recruitment Ltd and www.thegroomslist.co.uk with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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*Dog welcomed *Own horse considered *Flexible accommodation options (shared/with partner/sole) *Fair remuneration Business man and former European Champion has set up an amazing centre of modern horse breeding “unique” in Europe. The facilities comprise 3,000 hectare (30,000,000 sqm)land in total,spacious stables,large run-in stables and horse-appropriate group-housing for the approx. 4000 horses. A constantly progressing health management and the stud-owned vet clinic provide the perfect care for the horses.These are best prerequisites to guarantee breeding and training at the highest possible professional level. Almost 200 employees, among them 14 vets, are work around the clock for the benefit of the animals and ensure perfect conditions for the approx. 700 foals that are born every year. As a groom at one of the three riding stables, you are responsible for the training and care of the horses bred by Paul Schockemöhle. Many horses which will later cause a sensation in top level sport go through our hands. The daily routine gives you the opportunity to gather a lot of experiences and impressions in every respect. The fact that a renowned trainer is always available to support you will particularly help you with your personal development.
*Own horse a possibility * Very experienced Yard manager based on site *Fabulous facilities Job Description We are looking for a friendly, hard working individual to join our team at our busy yard just outside of Tonbridge in Kent. The candidate will be happy to assist in all yard duties including turning out, mucking out, catching in, etc.  An eye of detail and a tidy yard attitude is a must. You will need to be self driven, ensuring all duties are carried out meticulously.  We run a very reputable livery business and our reputation is important to us. Minimum Requirements Previous experience necessary   Accommodation details     Benefits    
Job Description *Upwards of £500pw depending on experience + pool money & bonuses paid *Friendly working atmosphere *Pets welcomed *Accommodation available/partner could be accommodated National Hunt  yard looking to recruit Riders and or Rider:Grooms for upcoming season. Friendly working atmosphere and fabulous location with the best of facilities. Minimum Requirements You can be from any discipline but must be confident in handling and riding TB’s. Confident and  previous experience riding out would be preferred but if plenty of riding experience in other disciplines this would also have its advantages. Accommodation details On site accommodation options single/shared/with partner 🙂 Caroline’s comments 🙂 This is a fabulous opportunity for competent and capable riders to get a lot of saddle time on a professional yard with quality horses and be very well remunerated and looked after as part of a professional Team. Great opportunity to experience another discipline or to put your existing experience into good use.   Please call Caroline & the Team on 0203 006 5730 or email info@carolinecarterrecruitment.com
  *Up to £450 pw negotiable depending on experience * Partner welcomed * Dog welcomed European champion Young Rider competing with Team GB and who has won 7 European medals is now looking for an experienced Groom/Exercise Rider with professional standards to work on the family yard. Must turn out to 4* and be capable of sole charge when required but understand the team dynamic of a family situation. HGV helpful but could be put through test. Affable personality is essential for this private and happy yard and a shared enthusiasm for eventing at the highest levels is probably essential! 10 polo ponies kept in winter/minimal duties. Professional facilities/x country course/great hacking.2000 acre farm stunning cross country course.   Please contact Caroline & The Grooms List Team, quoting reference code JL58861 on 0203 006 5730 or email info@carolinecarterrecruitment.com      
Salary 8.5 Euros/negotiable dependent on experience with no food/accommodation or utilities to pay. You will need some experience grooming competition horses One of the Most Professional SJ yards in the world – Learn your trade with the best and secure your Grooming future with a hands on job. All you need is a passport and an adventurous spirit! Enthusiasm and dedication to work along side the best horses, riders and horse people.This opportunity would be GREAT FUN and a second to none experience which would guarantee your career anywhere you chose in the future both home and abroad. A rare insight into world class horses, world class facilities and a truly remarkable experience for any groom seriously interested in getting to the top of their game. Whilst there are considerable opportunities for advancement and promotion possibilities if you wish to remain in Germany. 🙂 Caroline’s comments 🙂 This is a commercial environment where the opportunity to learn is awesome but not for anyone who gets homesick or doesn’t feel comfortable in the commercial end of the horse world. The horses you will encounter are world class and it will certainly add to the breadth and depth of anyone’s experience. Fast paced and exciting in so many ways. A real ‘one off experience’ to add to the CV!    Please call Caroline on 0203 006 5730 or email info@carolinecarterrecruitment.com
*Salary IRO 1800 euros *All accommodation and food provided *Seasonal position with far reaching CV improving benefits! This world class service station and stud is looking for experienced stud hands for the forthcoming season to be based in Muhlen, Germany. Some prior experience important as some serious unmatched warmblood breeding stock is involved in this operation names such as  Balou du Rouet, whose offspring’s prize money makes millions plus Sandro Hit plus stallions Fürstenball, Vivaldi, Bordeaux, Foundation, Vitalis, Sir Donnerhall I and Diarado were amongst the leading group of all German stallions according to the German FN’s 2016 predicted breeding value statistics. Last year stallions from Mühlen once again dominated the Oldenburg Elite Mare show and of the twelve mares presented, seven of them were daughters of this yard’s stallions, including the winner Candy OLD by Sir Donnerhall I. The list goes on and on and on! 🙂 🙂 Caroline’s comments 🙂 This is a commercial environment where the opportunity to learn is awesome but not for anyone who gets homesick or doesn’t feel comfortable in the commercial end of the horse world. The horses you will encounter are world class and it will certainly add to the breadth and depth of anyone’s experience. Fast paced and exciting in so many ways. A real ‘one off experience’ to add to the CV!    Please call Caroline on 0203 006 5730 or email info@carolinecarterrecruitment.com  

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Caroline Carter Recruitment Ltd
The Stables
Fildyke Road
Meppershall
Bedfordshire
SG17 5LU

caroline@carolinecarterrecruitment.com
0203 006 5730 / 07747 686 118

Registered company number 10657796good site
Caroline Carter Recruitment Ltd is registered with the UK Information Commissioner as a data controller with registered number ZA250621

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