Setting out the terms and conditions - Veterinary Practice
Your browser is out-of-date!

Update your browser to view this website correctly. Update my browser now



Setting out the terms and conditions

MATTHEW CLAYTON asks if you would accept a job with no idea of your rights and obligations?

STARTING a postgraduate job will be the first experience of a full employment contract for most graduates.

At this stage graduates will often have limited knowledge about what some of the terms of the contract mean, and what should and should not be included.

Although much of modern employment law is contained in statutes, the legal basis of employment remains the employment contract. Without a contract of employment, an employer may not know with any certainty what his or her duties and obligations are to the employee, or conversely, what the employee’s are to the practice. A contract of employment will put this in perspective.

There is currently no requirement in law to have a written contract of employment. The terms upon which you agree to employ can simply be agreed orally or even implied between employer and employee.

Legal requirement

There is, however, a legal requirement to provide all employees, including part-time employees, with what is called a written statement of particulars. These particulars set out certain terms of the contract and must be provided to the employee within two months of commencing work.

Many employers will in fact issue an employment contract which is comprehensive enough to comply with this requirement. If employers fail to provide this within two months, they may find themselves paying compensation to the employee.

The required particulars which must be provided to the employee in a single document are:

■ names of the employer and employee;

■ date of commencement of employment – this must also state whether any employment with a previous employer counts as part of the employee’s continuous period of employment;

■ job title and/or brief description of work;

■ place of work;

■ remuneration – this should include salary and benefits along with how and when they are paid;

■ hours of work and normal working hours;

■ holiday entitlement and pay – the statutory minimum is currently 5.6 weeks (including bank holidays);

■ whether the employee is or may be required to work outside the United Kingdom for more than one month;

■ terms and conditions relating to incapacity for work due to sickness or injury, including any provision for sick pay;

■ disciplinary and grievance procedures;

■ length of notice the employee is entitled to receive upon termination – the statutory minimum is one week for service lasting between one month and two years, two weeks for two years’ service, three weeks for three years’ service, and so on to a maximum of 12 weeks;

■ length of notice the employee is required to give to the employer – the statutory minimum for an employee who has been employed for over one month is one week, however it is very likely to be longer than this in the contract;

■ where the employment is temporary it should specify the period it is expected to continue or, if it is for a fixed term, the date when it is to end;

■ specify any collective agreements which directly affect the terms and conditions of employment – these are virtually unknown in the veterinary sector;

■ terms relating to pensions and pension schemes – if other benefits are provided as part of a pension scheme, for example life insurance, these must also be included.

Other common clauses that are often seen but not required by law are:

■ probationary period;

■ payment in lieu of notice provisions;

■ restrictions on the employee engaging in competitive activity after his or her employment has ended.

Handbook or manual

In addition to being provided with a contract and/or particulars of employment, employers may also provide their employees with other documentation in the form of a Staff Handbook or Office Manual.

These are usually referred to in the contract of employment and contain the details of procedures such as sickness, holiday, and disciplinary and grievance procedures. The advantage of having a handbook is that it sets out a standard of good practice which ought to be followed and it is much easier to change than an employment contract.

As well as express terms of employment set out in the contract and/or statement, terms are frequently implied into a contract. The nature of an implied term is one that is so obvious that both parties would regard it as a term of the employment.

Almost universally implied are the employee’s duties of fidelity, obedience, working with due diligence and care, and not using the employer’s trade secrets or confidential information.

For example, it would be a breach of an implied term for an employed vet to set up a rival practice during the course of his or her employment. The employer will have implied duties not to destroy the relationship of trust and confidence and to take care of the employee’s health and safety.

These are not exhaustive, and other duties can arise, which may be particular to the sector. An employment contract dictates the fundamental relationship between employee and employer and therefore is a vital document to ensure a good working relationship.

There is no reason why an employee should not be given an employment contract at the beginning of his or her employment. Although at that stage it may not seem necessary, if a dispute arises, during or at the end of employment, it will be much easier to resolve if both parties’ rights and obligations are clearly set out in the contract and other documentation.

Have you heard about our
IVP Membership?

A wide range of veterinary CPD and resources by leading veterinary professionals.

Stress-free CPD tracking and certification, you’ll wonder how you coped without it.

Discover more