Time and time again, the absence of written agreements causes significant problems in Courts and Tribunals across the country, as parties try to understand which rules apply to the situation.    Handshake agreements might work for a few, but they are extremely inadvisable.  Poorly written agreements also create similar difficulties.

If you want to protect your business against unscrupulous office holders, employees, workers and contractors (and other people and businesses), and generally more easily resolve issues and disputes, the starting point for doing so is to have up to date written agreements with them that specify how the arrangement will work, and make sure that the agreements do all that is necessary to protect and advance your business.

Cases in the Employment Tribunal in which employers have been disadvantaged by issues in the written terms of employment or engagement they have agreed with their workers, include the following:

In Basildon Academies v Amadi and anor [2015] UKEAT 0343_14_2702, a teacher was dismissed for gross misconduct when his employer discovered that he had been investigated by the police in connection with allegations of sexual assault by a student at another school at which he worked.   The police investigation was subsequently dropped.  However, the employer contented that he had breached his contract because he had not told them about the investigation, and he was dismissed for gross misconduct for that reason.  The Employment Appeal Tribunal agreed with the original Tribunal that his dismissal was unfair, because there was no requirement in his contract (or in law) for him to tell them about mere allegations.

In Norman and anor v National Audit Office [2014] UKEAT 0276_14_1512, the employer tried to impose reductions in the amounts it paid its workers for annual leave and sick pay.  However, the Employment Appeal Tribunal decided that the term on which the employer sought to rely to do this was not sufficiently clear to allow it to do so.  Therefore, it was not allowed to impose the changes.

In Land Securities Trillium Ltd v Thorney [2005] IRLR 765, the Employment Appeal Tribunal decided that a clause which stated that the employee would “perform to the best of your abilities….any other duties which may reasonably be required of you and will at all times obey all reasonable instructions given to you” did not give the employer free rein to require the employee to undertake any duties they wished to be performed.

Employment Tribunals can in certain circumstances also effectively fine an employer up to £1,956 for failing to provide employees with a written statement of certain terms of their employment.  This statement is often referred to as a ‘written statement of employment particulars’.

Your business might also be helped by implementing certain employment policies, such as ones relating to discipline, sickness absence and health and safety.  However, there are also many other topics.  Policies can help guide employers and their workers through day to day issues, and can be a useful tool in communicating an employer’s expectations and ethos.  However, please note that some employers are required to implement certain policies (like ones relating to health and safety, if they employ 5 or more people) based on how they operate and/or what they do.

If any of this is of interest or concern, we can help.