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  1. Why do I need a written contract of employment?  
  2. Can I sign a contract then back out?
  3. What is the least I should be paid?
  4. My previous employer won’t give me a reference! Can I take them to court?
  5. I feel my probation period is unfair.
  6. What should I do if I have a problem at work?
  7. I feel stressed at work. What can I do?
  8. I feel I am being racially abused at work. What can I do?
  9. What are my rights if I’m having a baby?
  10. I’m about to become a father. What are my rights?

Why do I need a written contract of employment?    

Written contracts offer protection in case of legal troubles between employee and employer. It is also a legal requirement for an employer to give their employees a written statement of employment if they are to be employed for at least one month.

The statement should include your employer’s name, employer’s address, a description of the work you will be doing, date of employment, salary/wage, when you will be paid, hours of work, holiday entitlement, length of notice and other details. If in doubt, check with a solicitor to confirm.

Can I sign a contract then back out?

If you wish to back out a contract after accepting, you should contact the employer in question post-haste. Technically this is grounds for breach of contract if you do not work the amount of notice as set out in the written contract, but employers tend not to take such action if you contact them as soon as possible after changing your mind.

What is the least I should be paid?

Your employer must not pay you less than the national minimum wage (NMW) under the National Minimum Wage Act 1998. However, there are different rates of NMW depending on your age and role.

The NMW rates are as follows:

  • 21 and over: £6.31

  • 18 to 20: £5.03

  • Under 18: £3.72

  • Apprentices: 2.68

My previous employer won’t give me a reference! Can I take them to court?

Providing a reference for an employee or ex-employee is not a legal obligation and they can refuse to provide a reference if they wish. However if the employer has a consistent policy on providing references and refuses to provide one for you, they could be at risk of an allegation of discrimination. Speak to a solicitor as soon as possible if you discover your employer or ex-employer has refused to deliver a reference.

I feel my probation period is unfair.

Probationary periods tend to range from between six months and two years depending on the role, though there is no statutory limit on the length of time for which the period can be set.

However, those who began work after April 2012 need to have been employed for two years or more in order to make a claim for standard unfair dismissal. Those who started employment before this time only need one year of continuous service.

What should I do if I have a problem at work?

If you have a complaint about something that is happening at work, employees can speak with a senior member of staff informally or follow the employer’s grievance procedure by making a complaint in writing. If this does not solve your problem, you can make a claim to an employment tribunal.

You must apply to an employment tribunal within three months less one day from when the act you are complaining about took place. For instance, an incident that occurred on 1 May 2014 would have to be brought before a tribunal by 30 July 2014.

I feel stressed at work. What can I do?

If you feel you are becoming stressed about work, the first person you should tell is your employer. Your employer has a legal duty to look after your physical and mental health and by informing them about your levels of stress, your employer has an opportunity to take action.

If you employer does not do enough to reduce your stress level, you may be able to take legal action against them. For example, you could seek compensation from your employer if you suffer a stress-related mental illness.

I feel I am being racially abused at work. What can I do?

Take action immediately. Taking abuse because of your colour, race, nationality and ethnic and national origin is not acceptable and doesn’t even have to be intentional for you to take action.

Find out if other colleagues are receiving similar treatment and ask if others have noticed you receiving similar treatment. If possible, approach the person who has been discriminating you directly; this can be done with another colleague or union representative at your side.

During this time, you should also be collecting evidence of abuse. This can including making notes about dates, times and locations of abuse, what was said or done, and other records that could help you raise a written grievance or make a race discrimination claim in an employment tribunal.

There are strict time limits involved in making a claim to an employment tribunal so it’s worth taking action as soon as possible.

What are my rights if I’m having a baby?

Women have the right to take up one full year of maternity leave. In terms of pay, Statutory Maternity Pay (SMP) entitles working mothers to receive six weeks at 90 per cent of normal working pay followed by 33 weeks at SMP pay (£138.18 per week). The final 13 weeks of the year is unpaid.

To qualify, you must have worked for at least 26 weeks before the 15th week the baby is due.

I’m about to become a father. What are my rights?

Working fathers are allowed to take one or two weeks off (paternity leave) when they have a child. However, they must have been employed for at least 26 weeks at the end of the 15th week before the expected delivery date, they must be the biological father, or be married or the partner of the mother and they must have some responsibility for bringing up the child.

You can also take the paternity leave at any time (within 56 days) once the baby has been born (or adopted).

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