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Help with employment contract disputes between you and an employer

Having a contract dispute with your employer can be frustrating and stressful. But you don’t have to face this challenge alone.

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Your contract of employment forms the basis of the relationship between you and your employer.

It’s always best to get one in writing when you accept a new job. It should be a written statement of the terms and conditions of your employment, including pay, working hours and holiday entitlement.

Once you have a contract of employment, it can only be changed with your consent.

Types of contract dispute

Employment law is complex and contract of employment disputes can arise between you and a current or former employer. This may be because of:

  • Unfair treatment
    This may include discrimination on the grounds of ethnic origin or colour, gender, marital status (including civil partnership), age or disability, pregnancy or childbirth.
  • Unclear job role
    Your role in your job must correspond with the job description in your contract.
  • Poor communication
    Your employer is legally obliged to provide you with any information that affects you in your role.
  • Poor work environment
    Your employer has a duty to provide a safe working environment in line with the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974.
  • An increase in workload
    An employer cannot force you to work over the number of hours in your contract and you have a legal right to refuse to do so.
  • Redundancy
    The job role you have left must no longer exist, otherwise it could be grounds for unfair dismissal. If your employer makes more than 20 redundancies at once, they just engage you and every other employee in collective consultation. UK law states failure to do so will make the redundancies automatically unfair.
  • Restrictive covenants
    These are clauses in contracts that restrict your right to conduct certain activities after you leave your job.  These are known as restrictive covenants. They must have an expiry date and stipulate reasonable geographical limitations.

How can I prepare for difficult conversations with employers?

You can start by keeping communication open.  Check it wasn’t a mistake or misunderstanding that caused the issue. For example, if you haven’t been paid the right amount, or not at all, it would be advisable to check with the relevant person or department to see if they can rectify the mistake before making an official complaint.

If you are unable to resolve the matter informally, you could:

  • Talk to your line manager, or union representative.
  • Get advice from a third party, such as a firm of specialist employment solicitors.
  • Record relevant events that could form part of your case (including dates and times).
  • Keep copies of all relevant correspondence (emails, letters, messages etc.).

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What happens if I do raise a dispute?

If you have a dispute with a current employer, you should first try to resolve any issues you have informally.

If that's not possible you can use their grievance procedure - and appeals procedure if your employer does not uphold your complaint.

If you have a dispute with your former employer regarding constructive dismissalunfair dismissal, discrimination or unfair deductions from your pay, you can take your case to an employment tribunal.

I want legal advice on contract disputes – what should I do?

Our employment lawyers can advise you of your rights and guide you toward resolving your situation. We can provide solicitors experienced in contract disputes to help fight your case or negotiate a fair settlement.  Just get in touch for a free chat with one of our advisors, and they will take you through your options.

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How to guides

Learn about this area of law and what you need to know:

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