The “Written Statement of Employment Particulars” explained
A “Written Statement of Employment Particulars” is the part of an employment contract that has to be given in writing within two months of an employee starting work.
In the equine industry, there is often confusion surrounding the provision of an “employment contract”. The Written Statement of Employment Particulars (this sets out your main employment terms) is not always given to those working in the equine industry, and employers and employees alike therefore wrongly believe they don’t have an employment contract! As detailed in our article Employment Contracts in the Equine Industry, a statutory employment ‘contract’ begins as soon as a job seeker accepts a job offer, and both employer and employee have legal obligations to each other, even before the new employee’s start date and this doesn’t have to be an agreement in writing! However, every employer must, by law, issue a Written Statement of Employment Particulars within 2 months of the employee’s start date – even if you are simply a private family employing a sole charge groom.
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 does the Written Statement of Employment Particulars contain?
The written part of the employment contract must contain, either in one document or as separate documents:
- A Principle Statement
- Contract Terms (Terms of Employment)
- Any additional details
The Principle Statement
The Government states that the Principle Statement must contain at least:
- the business’s name
- the employee’s name, job title or a description of work and start date
- if a previous job counts towards a period of continuous employment, the date the period started (for example, if an employee is promoted from a regular team member to Head Person or the employee is relocating to another yard belonging to the same employer)
- wage scale/salary package and how it is calculated, how and when it is paid
- hours of work (and if employees will have to work Sundays, nights or overtime)
- holiday entitlement (and if that includes public holidays)
- where an employee will be working and whether they might have to relocate
- if an employee works in different places, where these will be and what the employer’s address is
As discussed in Making and Accepting a Job Offer, it’s a good idea to consider preparing the Principle Statement in advance and using it when making a formal offer of employment.
Contract Terms (sometimes referred to as “Express Terms”)
In addition to the Principle Statement, the Written Statement of Employment Particulars must include information about:
- any job trial periods or probationary periods (the employer can arrange a probationary or trial period for the employee, with the option of a short notice period at the end of the trial if the employee does not fulfill expectations)
- how long a temporary job is expected to last
- the end date of a fixed-term contract
- notice periods, for both the employer dismissing the groom, and if the groom wishes to leave the job
- details of pensions, including Workplace Pensions
- information about, or where to find information about sick pay and procedures
- who to go to with a grievance
- how to complain about how a grievance is handled (ACAS can advise on this)
- how to complain about a disciplinary or dismissal decision (ACAS can advise on this)
- any collective agreements (these are negotiated agreements between employers, staff associations and trade unions)
- information for employees about working abroad as part of the job – more in this below
- any Flexibility Clause (more on this below)
If there’s nothing clearly agreed between the employer and the groom about a particular issue, it may be covered by an implied term – for example:
- the employer must provide a safe and secure 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 standards of behaviour expected from employees – for example, anyone who deals with customers should be polite when doing so
- legal requirements, like the employee’s right to a minimum amount of paid holiday
- something necessary to do the job like having a valid HGV licence
- something that’s been done regularly in a company over a long time like paying a Christmas bonus, or giving staff a share of winnings
When employees travel or work abroad as part of the job
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, 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, to form 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)
Making changes to the Written Statement of Employment Particulars
Once a Written Statement of Employment Particulars has been issued it cannot be changed without the employee’s agreement, unless the original contains a “Flexibility Clause”. Examples of a “Flexibility Clause” may include:
- asking the employee to move to a new yard with them, hence changing the place of employment
- changing the working hours of a job
What is covered by the Flexibility Clause must be clear and reasonable, and employers should consult employees before applying changes covered by the clause. Failure to do so could be seen as a breach of “a duty of mutual trust and confidence” (under Implied Terms, above), or even as constructive dismissal!
In the absence of a Flexibility Clause, employers must discuss and gain the agreement of the employee before making any changes to the Written Statement of Employment Particulars. Unless the employee is in agreement with the changes, no changes can be made – forcing a change on the employee is considered a breach of contract. Dismissing and rehiring the employee isn’t an option, either! Therefore, it’s vitally important that the Written Statement of Employment Particulars covers everything foreseeable, and that an appropriate Flexibility Clause is included to cover any reasonable changes
The consequences of not issuing a Written Statement of Employment Particulars
Issuing the Written Statement of Employment Particulars is not optional, it’s a legal requirement and can carry penalties when it isn’t fulfilled. Never dismiss or refuse a request for a “written contract”, as a missing or incomplete Written Statement of Employment Particulars is illegal. Some employers wrongly think that they are allowing themselves greater flexibility by not issuing a “written contract” when in reality that can be quite the opposite. When difficulties arise, employers can find matters taken completely out of their hands when an employment/industrial tribunal decides on the missing employment particulars retrospectively!
When making/accepting a job offer the employer and employee should discuss the matters the Written Statement contains information about and, if this is backed up in writing, it shouldn’t be too time-consuming to collate this into the official document.
If an employee has difficulty receiving a Written Statement of Employment Particulars
- Speak to your employer about it BEFORE the 2-month deadline and don’t be afraid to keep reminding them to provide it
- Speak to us about it if we have placed you in a position with one of our registered employers
- If your employer refuses, or simply never provides one, as a very last resort you can take advice on raising a grievance against your employer (links below).Ultimately, an employment tribunal can decide what the employment particulars in the statement should have been
The penalties for not issuing a Written Statement of Employment Particulars
The penalty for failure to provide a written statement of employment particulars (non-compliance) is to pay the employee either two or four weeks’ pay (capped at the normal maximum of £525 per week), unless ‘there are exceptional circumstances which would make an award or increase unjust or inequitable’.
Do bear in mind that, should non-compliance over the “written contract” reach a tribunal, other factors are likely come under scrutiny too, such as salary packages, the provision of accommodation, Tax and NI/PAYE etc.
Always seek professional advice on your Written Statement of Employment Particulars. 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 within your subscription
Visit the UK Government website to set up your Written Statement of Employment Particulars. You may re-use the information (not including logos) free of charge in any format or medium, under the terms of the Open Government Licence by clicking here.
Sources and Further Reading
Employment Contracts: UK Government website
Law Donut: www.lawdonut.co.uk/business