At least 5.1m Brits fail to read their employment contracts properly, putting them at risk of unfair treatment by their boss, according to new research from the experts at Which? Legal Service*.
In a survey of over 4,000 members of the British public, the consumer champion found that 26 per cent of workers only skim read their employment contracts, while six per cent admitted to not having read them at all.
Only three in ten employees received their contract before starting their job, and nine per cent didn’t get a contract until they’d been in the post for six months or more.
Overall, at least two million workers in Britain do not have an employment contract**.
Which? Legal Service has the following top tips for people receiving new employment contracts:
1. Read your contract! – First and foremost, thoroughly read your contract to avoid any disputes with your employer at a later date
2. Check the handbook – If your contract refers to a handbook, make sure you read this too, as its terms will also be binding
3. Ask questions – Employment contracts are open for negotiation, so don’t be afraid to ask questions about anything in the contract that you don’t understand, or that is different to what was agreed at your interview
4. Sign the document – Many people mistakenly think that by not signing the contract, they are not bound by it, but by working at the company you are deemed as accepting its terms
5. Keep it somewhere safe – You may need to refer to the terms of the contract in the future, so put it somewhere for safe-keeping
Which? chief executive Peter Vicary-Smith says:
“Our research shows that many people fail to take the time to read their employment contracts properly, which means they have no idea what they’ve signed up to and could be in for a shock in the future.
“Always read your contract before signing it and check that the terms – such as salary, holiday entitlement, notice period and redundancy procedure – are in line with what your employer agreed at your interview. Dotting the ‘i’s and crossing the ‘t’s could pay dividends in the long-term.”
* From 12th to 21st February 2010, Which? asked 4,075 members of the GB public aged 16 or above about their employment contracts. 32 per cent of employed GB 16+ adults (excluding self-employed) only skim read their contract (26%) or didn’t read it at all (6%). Based on a GB 16+ population of 48.5 million, this equates to between 5.1 and 6.8 million people (using a 95% confidence interval).
** 12 per cent of employed GB 16+ adults (excluding self-employed) don’t have a contract. Based on a GB 16+ population of 48.5 million, this equates to between 2.0 and 2.9 million people (using a 95% confidence interval).