Introduction to this document

Letter enclosing contract of employment

You must issue new employees (and workers) with a written statement of employment particulars no later than day one of employment, but you might instead provide a more detailed employment contract. Use our letter to send that document out.

Two contract copies

When you issue an employment contract (or a more basic written statement of employment particulars) to a new employee, you should always provide them with two copies. One is for them to sign and return to you to signify their agreement to its terms, and the other is for them to retain for their own records. You could ask them to sign it manually or you might have a system allowing for electronic signatures. Both methods are acceptable, but you must send the contract to them on or before the beginning of their employment. You can use our Letter Enclosing Contract of Employment to send the document out; if you send it out by email, simply adapt our letter accordingly. It provides a deadline for the signed contract’s return - we suggest you allow no more than one week. In most cases, the employee will then sign and return the document within a few days and you will place it on their personnel file. The employee has agreed to the terms, even if they didn’t bother to read the contract properly before they signed it.

Contract questions

Sometimes though, an employee may not be willing to sign the contract, for example because there are terms in it that they don’t fully understand or don’t agree with. In this case, our letter says that if they have any queries on the contract, or would like to discuss any of its terms, they should contact you. A quick discussion with the employee should hopefully resolve any concerns, but do be prepared to amend specific terms, if necessary, following your discussion. You may have to be prepared to negotiate and compromise in order to get the document signed.

Unsigned contracts

Finally, ensure you have a system in place to chase up unsigned contracts if they’re not returned by your deadline. You can use our Letter Requesting Return of Contract of Employment here. Although there’s no legal requirement for a contract to be signed to be binding, unsigned contracts create uncertainty as then you’d have to rely on arguing either that the employee verbally agreed to all of the terms or that they’ve impliedly accepted them by their conduct, i.e. by continuing to work without objecting to those terms. The problem here with implied acceptance is that it will only apply to those terms that have an immediate practical effect on the employee, such as hours of work and pay; it won’t apply to those terms that have no immediate practical effect, such as notice periods and restrictive covenants. So, in the event of subsequent dispute, you might find you can’t enforce some of the terms that were in the employment contract, but at the same time the fact the employee didn’t sign the document doesn’t mean you can rely on that to later argue that some of its terms don’t apply if you want to try and get out of them.