Length of Service
An employment contract, or 'contract of employment', is an agreement between an employer and an employee which sets out their employment rights, responsibilities and duties. These are called the 'terms' of the contract.
An employment contract doesn't have to be in writing. However, there should be a written statement regarding main employment terms within two months of starting work.
The employment contract is made as soon as a job is accepted. Having a written contract could cut out disputes with employers at a later date, and will help people to understand their employment rights.
Know your service in the work place
Working for the same employer without any breaks is often referred to as continuous employment. However employment status must continue without any suspension in contracts during the following:
- maternity leave
- paternity leave
- adoption leave
- parental leave
- temporary lay-off
- holiday breaks
- other time off allowed by your contract of employment
Continuous service starts with the day work commenced for an employer. If there is suspension of work/service followed by a return work, no service can be carried over. Service is calculated by year and month.
Breaks in continuous employment
However there are some circumstances where short breaks in an employment contract can still be counted as continuous employment, such as strike action and reinstatement after unfair dismissal.
When there is no contract but service is included
If an employer has not provided a contract on the commencement date of employment but issues it later, service will start from the first day of employment not when the contract was issued, if:
- being away from work sick or injured and then taken back on as an employee within 26 weeks of the contract being terminated or cancelled
- work stops temporarily
- being away in circumstances that an employer regards as continuous employment because of an arrangement or custom in the workplace.
Reinstatement after an unfair dismissal claim
If absent from work due to unfair dismissal and later reinstated, the period of time where absent from work will be included within continuous employment status.
Being absent from work due to strike or industrial action, the period of time being absent from work will not count towards continuous employment. However it will not break employment service, which will continue once returning to work.
Working abroad for employer - this should count towards the period of continuous employment.
Time with a previous employer
Changing employer that normally counts as a break in employment. However, there are certain situations where time with a previous employer can count towards the continuous employment with a current employer. These are:
- if the business is transferred to another employer (also known as TUPE)
- if, by an Act of Parliament, one corporate body takes over from another as the employer
- if the employer dies and their personal representatives or trustees retain employment
- moving from one employer to another 'associated' employer, meaning one of the companies is part of or related tot he other company (either directly or indirectly)
- a teacher moving from a local authority school to be employed by the governing body of another school in the same local authority
- being employed by a local authority or related body and are moved to a different authority for redundancy pay purposes only
- being employed by the health service and moving to another health service employer while undergoing training.
However there are some circumstances where short breaks in employment contract can still be counted as continuous employment, such as strike action and reinstatement after unfair dismissal.