1. What types of employment contract are recognised in the United Kingdom?

Employment contracts must be in writing and employees must receive a written statement of terms of employment.

Different levels of contract carry different levels of legal protection as set out below, starting with contracts containing the most protected employee rights down to the ones with the least rights:

  • Employee
  • Worker
  • Agency Worker
  • Apprentice

2. How can a contract of employment be terminated in the United Kingdom?

A contract of employment can be terminated in several ways:

  • following notice given by an employer or employee;
  • mutual agreement where the parties agree to terminate the contract immediately usually with a severance payment to the employee; or
  • dismissal for serious misconduct, which can be immediate with no compensation.

Compensation may be payable when terminating an employee’s contract.

3. What are the applicable notice periods, and what determines their length?

The minimum notice to be given (unless dismissed for misconduct or by mutual agreement) is one week for every year worked up to a maximum of 12 weeks. A contract may include a longer notice period, especially for a senior manager.

The contract usually sets out the notice provisions but the legal requirement above applies if it does not.

4. What are the rights for women who become pregnant during their employment contract, and are they protected from being dismissed?

A woman receives maternity leave rights after 26 weeks employment. These rights are:

  • 39 weeks paid maternity leave (this is less than her full salary entitlement);
  • a minimum of two weeks leave and maximum of 52 weeks leave;
  • the automatic right to return to work on the same terms as prior to maternity; and
  • rights to take holiday accrued during maternity leave (or payment in lieu).

Men are entitled to two weeks unpaid paternity leave.

5. What types of paid days-off are the employees entitled to in the United Kingdom?

Full-time employees have a right to a minimum of 20 days paid leave, plus the eight statutory national holiday days in each year.

Employees can take sick leave of up to one week without a medical certificate. Employers must pay statutory sick pay (less than usual salary entitlement).

6. Is it possible to include a non-competition clause in the employment contract, and what are the grounds for concluding a valid non-competition agreement?

Many employment contacts include non-competition agreements but, except in a very limited number of extremely specific circumstances, they will not be enforceable by the employer.

7. Are there any courts specially appointed for the purpose of dealing with labour law matters in the United Kingdom?

The Employment Tribunal is a specialist court which handles all employment matters.