Unsigned Contracts

 7 October 2015

Within two months of an employee starting work, they must be issued with certain terms specified within the Employment Rights Act. Usually these will be included within a written contract of employment, a copy of which the employee should sign and return to the employer. However, what if the employee fails to sign and return their contract? Can the terms of the contract still be enforced and can either party be bound by it?

In essence, the answer is yes! Just because a contract has not been signed and returned does not necessarily mean that it cannot be presumed to have been accepted. By continuing to work once they have been issued with a contract, an employee is effectively asserting that they have accepted the employer’s terms and conditions. If an employee does not agree to the contract of employment, they may explain that they are continuing to work ‘under protest’. Where this is the case, the two parties should attempt to negotiate a mutually agreeable arrangement.

In practice, we would never recommend that you rely on an unsigned contract being enforceable. It creates all sorts of ambiguity – and when it comes to employment disputes, ambiguity usually means expense! It is easy to avoid this cost by insisting that all new employees report for work on their first day of employment with a signed contract. Before they start work it is a whole lot easier to get this contract signed. After all, you have a job and they want a job… you hold the power!

If you require any help or advice in relation to any aspect of employment law, including meeting any obligations relating to contracts of employment, please feel free to contact us. We are specialists in providing bespoke advice tailored to the needs of your company


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