Breach of contract solicitors: what to do if your employment contract is verbal?

In our last post, we talked about breach of contract, and how an employment contract is a legally binding contract. But did you know that even if an employer fails to give an employee a written contract of employment, a contract can be legally binding if it is just verbal?

Just because your contract is verbal, and it’s harder to work out your full contractual obligations and rights, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be treated as fairly.

So today, we will take a look at what it means to have a verbal contract and what to do if you have a grievance against your employer.

Statutory terms relating to your employment contract

Many small businesses will forgo a written employment contract and just agree verbally the main terms of employment. The good news is, even if you don’t have the terms of your employment in writing, a large part of your employment contract will be governed by the law in England and Wales. This means you will automatically be entitled to a number of rights, including: 

  • A minimum notice period – at least a week’s notice if you have been with the company for longer than one month
  • Provision of a certain amount of paid holiday each year
  • Limits on how many hours you can work
  • Pay set at least to the national minimum wage
  • Provision of a clean and safe work environment.

In addition, an implied term in your contract is one of mutual trust and confidence between you and your employer. So, making disparaging comments about your employer on social media or falsely claiming sick pay when you’re actually having a few days holiday, will be considered to be a serious breach of contract.

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The importance of a Written Statement

Employers will normally improve on the terms mentioned above, but if you’ve agreed everything verbally it can be hard to remember what your actual contract terms are. This is where a Written Statement comes in. According to the law in England and Wales within two months of staring your job, you should be given a ‘Written statement of employment particulars. Whilst not a contract of employment, it should provide an overview of what has already been agreed and should include information about:

  • Pensions and pension schemes
  • Collective agreements
  • Any other right to non-compulsory training provided by your employer
  • Disciplinary and grievance procedures.

If you’re not happy with the terms of the Written Statement, then your first step should be to talk to your employer formally to see if they are willing to make the changes you wish. If that fails, you can raise a grievance about your concerns.

As experienced employment law solicitors, we have helped a number of people around High Wycombe deal with this type of situation, so please get in touch if you think we can help you.

What do I do if I think my employer has breached my employment contract?

It doesn’t matter whether you have a written or verbal employment contract, if any of the terms are broken, then this will entail a breach of contract. Examples of how an employer can breach a contract include:

  • Unlawful reduction of staff pay
  • Not paying for travel expenses, holiday entitlements and contractual sick pay
  • Varying the terms of an employment contract without the employee’s consent, unless the employer is allowed to unilaterally make changes. Any changes would still need to be reasonable.

If you think your employer is in breach of contract, we would always recommend that you try and sort the problem out directly with your employer before taking legal action. This blog post provides details about mediation and other courses of action, but if you are unsure what to do, we will be more than happy to help.

Helpings employees around High Wycombe and the local area 

If you are looking for High Wycombe solicitors to provide you with employment law advice or think your employer is in breach of contract, we would be delighted to help you out. Please get in touch today for an initial discussion.