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New Year’s Resolution One: Review Your Employment Contracts

With 2017 well and truly underway, this got us thinking about New Year’s resolutions.  Most of us make personal resolutions; lose weight, drink less, spend more time with the family, travel more to name a few. But how many of us think about resolutions for work or our businesses?  January is often a great time to sit back and take stock of the year before, learning from the successes and failures.  It’s also a great time to undertake a review and think about the year ahead.  With that in mind, over the next few weeks we’ll be bringing you some resolution suggestions to get your employment documentation in tip-top shape.

This week, we begin with contracts of employment.  Do you have them in place for your employees? When were they last reviewed?  Are they up to date?  Do all staff have a signed copy of their contract on their personnel file?  Are they bespoke to your business?  January is a great time to review your contracts, so here are our top tips for what a contract of employment should include.

1.  Holidays – holiday entitlement is a common, and legally required, clause in all contracts.  Holidays clauses should, however, go further than this.  If you close your business at a specific point each year (over Christmas and New Year perhaps), ensure your contract stipulates this and requires employees to save some holidays to cover the closure. 

2.  Alcohol, drugs and other substances – many employers will have a substance misuse policy in the staff handbook.  If, however, you work in a high risk workplace or have staff who drive on company business, think about a clause which allows for random and specific testing at work. 

3.  Pensions – with pension auto enrolment well underway, check what your contract says about pensions.  If it says there is no pension, this will need updating to confirm you will comply with your legal pension requirements.

4.  Mobile telephones – if staff have company mobiles, ensure you have a clause outlining the rules of usage.  As for personal mobiles, think about a clause prohibiting the use of these during working time.   Mobile phone usage has a huge impact on employee productivity, so make sure you have clear rules in place.

5.  Driving licences – if you have staff who need to drive as part of their role, make sure you have a clause which requires them to notify you of any driving penalties or convictions.   Also ensure such a clause makes it clear that if they lose their licence and their role is dependent upon driving, their employment may be terminated.

6.  Company vehicles – for staff who have company vehicles, ensure you have a clear clause detailing whether usage is business only or allows personal use as well.  Also have clear rules about smoking in company vehicles and the use of mobile telephones whilst driving.

7.  Training expenses – if you habitually use external providers to train staff, make sure you have a clause which allows you to recover training costs if employees leave your employment soon after completing the training.  Recovering costs on a sliding scale over a year is entirely reasonable.

8.  Intellectual property – most employers will have confidentiality clauses in a contract, but many do not have an intellectual property (IP) clause. These clauses should be well drafted to protect any IP employees may create during their employment.  If you have such a clause, ensure your contract is executed as a deed (e.g. signed and witnessed) to ensure the clause is enforceable.

9.  Restrictive covenants – restrictive covenants are a great way to protect your business when key members of staff choose to move on.  They should be reasonable and only go as far as is necessary to protect your business interests.  Non-competition, non-solicitation and non-poaching are all standard types of restrictions.

Here at SCE Solicitors, we will undertake a free review of your contracts to employment to ensure they are legally complaint.  As part of the review, we will also identify any areas of exposure for the business or clauses which could be improved.  If you would like a free contract review, or have any other contractual enquiries, please contact me on 01133 50 40 30 or at hello@scesolicitors.co.uk.

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SCE Solicitors is a boutique employment law and dispute resolution practice based in Leeds which advises clients nationwide.  Please note that the information in this blog is to provide information of general interest in a summary manner and should not be construed as individual legal advice. Readers should consult with SCE Solicitors or other professional counsel before acting on the information contained here.

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