As a Nursery Manager or Owner you will be only too aware of your legal responsibilities under employment law. Employment contracts are a critical feature in this area. Ensuring you have a fully compliant and fit for purpose employment contract for your employees’ is essential.
When you are faced with writing a contract I know many of you will have run to the hills screaming or outsourced it to an expert. Whilst outsourcing to an employment specialist is definitely a sensible option, you should have a basic understanding of what key elements should be contained within an employment contract.
Did you know that the terms and conditions of employment should be issued to an employee within the first 2 months of them starting with your Nursery?
To get into good practice it is advisable to send an offer letter and employment contract before the candidate has started their employment with you. It will also allow time for you to carry out DBS checks if the candidate does not already have this in place and to check they are eligible to work in the UK.
Here is the minimum information you should include within your Nursery’s employment contracts:
- The Nursery’s Name;
- Job Title (and possibly a brief description of the job);
- Proposed Start Date;
- If an employee’s previous job counts towards a period of continuous employment, the date the period started;
- Hours of Work;
- Location of Work (where the job is based);
- Any conditions applying to the job offer (for example a DBS check);
- Whether the job is subject to a probation period;
- Salary and Benefits (including any overtime and if this is payable);
- Details of any Collective Agreements if your nursery recognises a Trade Union for example (see further down in article for more information);
- Holiday Entitlement (and if this includes public holidays);
- Any actions to be taken by the candidate;
- Sick Leave Entitlement;
- Pension Scheme Information (all employers must provide a pension from their staging date if they haven’t already got a pension in place. This comes under the recent pension auto-enrolment laws);
- Notice on Termination of Employment (entitlement of both employer and employee following probationary period);
- Reference to the Company’s grievance and disciplinary procedures;
- Where a job is not permanent, details of when the employment is expected to end should be included.
The above list is the core details you should always have within your employment contracts. You can also make reference to other documents within the employment contract. Such documents may include certain policies and procedures such as Safeguarding Children and a staff handbook.
Remember as soon as an employee starts employment with you an employment contract has come into effect. Therefore it is imperative this is provided in writing to the employee to avoid any disagreements about what the employment contract constitutes.
Making sure that the contract is signed by you as the employer and by the employee too is also very important. This confirms that both parties are in agreement with the terms and conditions laid out within the contract. A copy should be kept by the employee for their own records and you should keep one on the employee’s HR record for reference.
Ofsted will expect all employment contracts to be signed and stored safely so they can review these if required at their next inspection.
Sometimes not all terms of employment are found in the employment contract. In this situation such terms could be what are known as an implied term. Examples of an implied term can include:
- Providing a safe and secure work environment for your employees;
- Continuing with a certain bonus scheme that has been in place for several years such as a Christmas bonus;
- Employees’ not stealing from their employer.
Some employers have in place what are known as Collective Agreements. This is where employees’ have a trade union or representatives who negotiate on their behalf on matters such as conditions of pay or working hours.
If your nursery is recognised by a Trade Union or similar representative body then details regarding this should be included within the employment contract.
Providing a legally compliant and fit for purpose employment contract to your employees’ does not have to be as onerous a task as you might think.
Getting the basics in place at the very start will make a considerable difference to supporting the employee in their transition into their new role with you.
Be as transparent as possible when providing the terms of employment and if there are any issues the employee wants to discuss before signing their contract then always speak with them to get such matters resolved early on.
I hope you have found this article useful and as always I would be delighted to hear from you with any feedback you might have.
The Nursery HR People