Are you an SME needing help with your Employment Contracts and Staff Handbook?

What information must be included in an employment contract?

Section 1 of the Employment Rights Act 1996 requires employers to give employees a “written statement of particulars of employment” not later than 2 months of the employee commencing their employment. Section 1(4) lists the information that must be included. However, some information can, and usually is, given in a Staff Handbook.

What information is usually included in a Staff Handbook?

A Staff Handbook will usually include a number of written policies. For the most part, policies set out in the Staff Handbook are there as a matter of good practice, to set out the standards expected of all employees, to assist running the business, and to reduce legal risk by making sure employees and managers understand the legal rights and responsibilities inherent in the employment relationship. Typical handbooks will include policies on the following:-

  • Disciplinary procedures
  • Grievance procedures
  • Health and safety
  • Equal opportunities
  • Data protection
  • Bribery
  • Social media
  • IT policy


We can produce other policies and tailor them to suit the needs of your business.

At Hastings and Co we offer fixed fee packages for employers.

For the smaller business employing between 1-15 employees we would prepare your Staff Handbook and contracts of employment for a fixed fee of £400 plus VAT.

For businesses with more than 15 employees we can offer a sliding scale fixed fee service.

Need a FREE review of your current contract of employment?

It is important to remain compliant with the ever changing legal requirements as an employer.  Your business may have had contracts of employment drafted some time ago which need reviewing, or you may have drafted contracts ‘in-house’ and are worried they are not ‘fit for purpose’.

Hastings and Co will be happy to review your current contract for free giving you peace of mind. If there are any areas for concern then we will advise you of the changes required.   You are under no obligation  to instruct us to undertake these.

We do however offer competitive fixed fees for the preparation of documents if they are deemed necessary.

If you require advice relating to any of the above please call 01621 876031






Who can I instruct to advise on a Settlement Agreement

Hastings and Co Solicitors specialise in Settlement Agreements


What are Settlement agreements?

A Settlement  Agreement is an agreement between an employer and an employee. Settlement agreements are an offer from the employer of financial compensation or another incentive to an employee, which is usually above and beyond what you would be entitled to upon termination of your  contract.

When does an employer offer a settlement agreement?

Your employer will offer you a settlement agreement when they wish to terminate your employment. The onus is on the employer to adequately compensate you for the loss of your job. Once you sign and enter into this agreement you will have no legal rights to claim against your employer at a later date for any further financial reward or compensation.

What am I entitled to in a Settlement Agreement?

It is essential that you seek expert legal advise prior to signing any offer made to you by your employer. Individuals are often  surprised to learn of what they may or may not be entitled to.

At Hastings and Co, Liam is an experienced employment solicitor having provided advice to employees regarding settlement agreements for over 17 years.  Liam will quickly identify what you are entitled to and if appropriate will negotiate better terms for you as an employee before you agree to sign the agreement.

Liam will explain everything simply, in plain English so that you will be confident in his advice at this crucial point in time. He will negotiate the best compensation package for you depending upon your circumstances, should the original offer not be in your best interest.

How much will it cost me to instruct a solicitor to advise on a settlement agreement?

It is a key feature of Settlement Agreements that the employee must receive independent legal advice and it is usual for the employer to pay for that advice. This is usually a pre-determined set fee stated within the settlement agreement itself. Liam would simply charge the employers direct for his services.

Once I have signed a settlement agreement can I make a claim against my employer for compensation

The simple answer is, no. Once the agreement has been signed the only action you can take against your employer is to enforce the agreement itself.

Claims for additional compensation made at a later date cannot be made under any circumstances which is why you seek advice at Hastings and co.

For simple, friendly expert advice call 01621 876031


National Minimum Wage Increase

On April 1st 2017, the UK National Wage will be increasing

  • For Apprentices the rate will increase from £3.40 to £3.50
  • For those under the age of 18 the rate will increase from £4.00 to £4.05
  • For those aged 18-20 the rate will increase from £5.55 to £5.60
  • For those aged 21-24 the rate will increase from £6.95 to 7.05
  • For those aged 25 and over the rate will increase from £7.20 to £7.50

Hastings & Co Solicitors are based in Maldon, Essex and specialise in Employment Law. Please telephone 01621 876 031 or email for advice.


Hastings & Co Solicitors successfully defend constructive dismissal claim

We recently acted for an employer in successfully defending a claim for constructive dismissal.

The facts briefly are that the employer confronted the employee about some allegations which if proven would have likely amounted to gross misconduct. The employee went off sick for several months before resigning and making a claim for constructive dismissal. The employee alleged that the employer was aggressive and oppressive in the manner in which the employee was confronted.

Constructive dismissal occurs where the employer commits a fundamental breach of contract and the employee resigns in response to the breach. It is a key feature of a constructive dismissal claim that the employee must not affirm the contract and waive the breach of contract. This means that an employee wishing to claim constructive dismissal should resign immediately and any delay could be detrimental to the claim.

In this case the determined that the employee had affirmed the contract by not resigning immediately and consequently the constructive dismissal claim failed.

Hastings & Co Solicitors are based  in Chelmsford and Maldon and specialise in Employment Law. For further information contact Liam Hastings on 01621 876 031 or email

Disclaimer: this blog only gives a brief overview of the law and is not intended as a substitute for legal advice.

Hastings & Co Solicitors win constructive dismissal claim

Hastings & Co Solicitors recently acted for an employee in a successful constructive dismissal claim against their former employer.

Constructive dismissal occurs when the employee resigns in response to something which the employer has done. The employee feels that they have no choice but to resign.

In this instance the employee felt that they were being forced out of the company and after a number of incidents eventually resigned. Hastings & Co Solicitors then acted for the employee in bringing a claim for constructive dismissal in the employment tribunal. The claim eventually settled shortly before trial.

Hastings & Co Solicitors act for employers and employees and specialise in all aspects of employment law including constructive dismissal claims.

T. 01245 835 305.

Disclaimer: this blog is only intended to give a brief overview of the law and is not a substitute for independent legal advice.

Employment Law Update: Minimum Wage Rise

With effect from today the national minimum wage has increased. The rates have increased as follows:-

  • for apprentices the rate has increased from £2.68 to £2.73 per hour.
  • for those aged 16 and 17 the rate has increased from £3.72 to £3.79 per hour.
  • for those between 18 and 20 the rate has increased from £5.03 to £5.13 per hour.
  • for those aged 21 and over the rate has increased from £6.31 to £6.50 per hour.

Hastings & Co Solicitors are based in Essex and specialise in Employment Law. Please telephone 01245 835 305 for advice or email

Employment law update: financial penalties for employers

From 6th April 2014 Employment Tribunals will have the discretion to levy financial penalties for employers for breaches of employment law.

The changes are introduced by Section 16 of the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Act 2013 which amends Section 12 of the Employment Tribunals Act 1996.

These penalties will be in addition to any compensation which is payable to the employee however the Employment Tribunal will only be able to levy a penalty where there are one or more “aggravating features”. The imposition of the levy will be completely at the discretion of the Employment Tribunal however the Employment Tribunal will have much less discretion over the amount of the penalty, which must be 50% of the amount of compensation awarded to the employee (subject to a £5,000 cap). There is a 50% discount on the levy if paid within 21 days. The levy goes to the Secretary of State and not the employee.

The Employment Tribunal must have regard to an employer’s ability to pay when deciding whether to order the employer to pay a penalty.

This comes shortly after other changes which could affect how much employers who lose claims will pay.

Fees in the Employment Tribunal

Fees were introduced for Employment Tribunal claims commencing after July 2013. When they were introduced it was unclear whether employers would be ordered to pay the fees of successful claimants however recent guidance from the Lord Chancellor indicates that losing employers should be ordered to reimburse the fees paid.

ACAS Code of Practice

Employment Tribunals can increase the compensation payable to employees by up to 25% where the employer has failed to follow the ACAS Code of Practice on Disciplinary and Grievance Procedures.


It has always been the case that employers can pay a heavy price for failing to comply with employment laws. However the situation is now much worse for employers in breach of employment law.

Employers wishing to discipline, dismiss or make redundant employees should ensure that they follow all the necessary procedures and any employer who is unsure should seek advice.

Hastings & Co Solicitors specialise in litigation and employment law.

T. 01245 835 305.

Disclaimer: this blog is only intended to give a brief overview of the law and is not intended as a substitute for independent legal advice.

Employment law update: early conciliation

The Employment Tribunals (Early Conciliation: Exemptions and Rules of Procedure) Regulations 2014 comes into force on the 6th April 2014 introducing compulsory “early conciliation”, also known as “pre-claim conciliation”.

From 6th April 2014 Claimants must contact ACAS before issuing a claim in the employment tribunal. There is no actual requirement to engage in conciliation however ACAS will offer conciliation.

The rules can be summarised as follows:-

1. Before issuing a claim in the employment tribunal Claimants must either fill in the early conciliation form (this can be done online or by post) or telephone ACAS. Initially, the only information that the Claimant has to give is the Claimant’s name and address and the employer’s name and address.

2. ACAS must then make reasonable efforts to contact the Claimant and if the Claimant consents they must make reasonable efforts to contact the employer.

3. The parties then have one calendar month to try and reach a settlement (although this may be extended by up to 14 days if the parties consent).

4. If a settlement is not reached or the ACAS conciliation officer considers that a settlement is not possible, ACAS must issue an Early Conciliation Certificate. Only then may the Claimant submit claim in the employment tribunal.

5. The Early Conciliation Certificate will contain a certificate number which the Claimant will need to insert on the ET1 claim form.

What about time limits?

The usual time limits stop during the early conciliation period and if the usual time limit for issuing a claim would otherwise have expired during the early conciliation period, the Claimant benefits from a month’s extension of time from the end of the conciliation period.

Hastings & Co Solicitors specialise in all aspects of employment law including disputes. For further advise or assistance please telephone 01245 835 305 without any obligation.

Disclaimer: this blog is only intended to give a brief overview of the law and is not intended as a substitute for independent legal advice.

Legal Expenses Insurance

A lot of people have Legal Expenses Insurance as part of their home or car insurance. Sometimes it is automatically included as a feature of the policy. Sometimes it is an extra that has to be specifically selected. For certain types of legal problem it is always worth checking to see whether cover is in place.

The way to find out if you have cover is to check your insurance policy schedule and somewhere it will say “legal expenses insurance” or it might say “family legal protection”. It will then say “included” or “not included” as the case may be. Or it might say how much the premium is to indicate that you do have cover.

If you do have cover, then your insurance policy terms and conditions booklet (usually a glossy pamphlet) will tell you what types of dispute it covers and any conditions attached to it. Most Legal Expenses Insurance policies will cover personal injury claims and employment disputes. Some will also cover general contractual disputes.

The terms and conditions booklet will also tell you how to claim on the policy. There will be a telephone number and if you phone it they will refer you to one their “panel solicitors”. In our experience, the panel solicitor is rarely local and so the client does not get to meet their solicitor in person. In order to get on the panel in the first place, the solicitor has probably paid a referral fee (in the case of personal injury claims) or agreed much lower rates than usual (in other cases). The solicitor is then forced to keep their costs down and they often achieve this by using paralegals to do the work.

The good news is that you do not have to use the solicitor nominated by your Legal Expenses Insurer. You are free to choose your own solicitor however they will not tell you this. If we agree to take your case on, and if you have legal expenses insurance, we will contact your legal expenses insurer for you and ask them to pay our fees.

So in the first instance, we would encourage you to speak with us first about your legal issue and we will check to see if you have legal expenses insurance to pay our fees.

Hastings & Co Solicitors specialise in personal injury claims and employment law. Telephone 01245 835 305 for further advice or assistance.

Disclaimer: this blog is only intended to give a brief overview of the law and is not a substitute for independent legal advice.

Employment contracts checklist

Strictly speaking employers are not required to give their employees written employment contracts however they are required to give each employee a written statement of particulars of certain important terms within 2 months of the employee commencing employment (section 1 of the Employment Rights Act 1996).

The written statement should contain the following information:-

  1. The names of the employer and employee.
  2. The date when the employment began.
  3. The date when the employee’s period of continuous employment began.
  4. The scale or rate of remuneration or the method of calculating remuneration.
  5. The intervals at which remuneration is paid (eg weekly, monthly or other specified intervals).
  6. Any terms and conditions relating to hours of work.
  7. Any terms and conditions relating to (a) holiday entitlement (including bank holidays), (b) sickness and sick pay and (c) pensions and pension schemes.
  8. The length of notice required by the employer and the employee to terminate the contract of employment.
  9. Job title or brief job description.
  10. Where the employment is not intended to be permanent, the period for which it is expected to continue.
  11. The place of work or, where the employee is required or permitted to work at different places an indication of that and the employer’s address.
  12. Any collective agreements which directly affect the terms and conditions of the employment.
  13. Where the employee is required to work outside the UK certain further particulars.

What happens if I do not give my employee written particulars or an employment contract? This is not a standalone right so that the employee cannot bring a claim simply for not having written terms. However, if the employee brings another type of claim, the employee can also claim compensation for not having written particulars of between 2 and 4 weeks pay. More importantly however a well drafted employment contract will contain a number of important terms which are there for the benefit of the employer. It is therefore in the employer’s best interests to ensure that all employees have written employment contracts. Employers should consider including the following clauses in their contracts (in addition to the clauses mentioned above):-

  • Restrictive covenants. This is a must for sales staff and other key staff to reduce the risk of employees leaving and poaching customers or staff or setting up in competition.
  • A clause entitling the employer to put the employee on garden leave during their notice period.
  • A clause entitling the employer to make a payment in lieu of notice.
  • A mobility clause entitling the employer to move the employee’s place of work.
  • A clause reserving the right to make deductions from wages.

It is also advisable to have a handbook containing various policies and procedures. The handbook will often contain the following types of policies and procedures:-

  • Disciplinary and grievance procedures.
  • Detailed sickness policy.
  • An internet / IT policy.
  • A car policy.
  • An expenses policy.
  • An equal opportunities policy.
  • A retirement policy.
  • A harassment policy.
  • Health and safety policy.
  • Maternity/adoption/paternity/parental leave policy.

The employer should think about what rules and procedures they want in place whether it be a provision in the employment contract or a separate policy.

As dispute lawyers we are mindful that a significant number of disputes (and not just employment disputes) are caused by uncertainty. Parties enter into relationships and the expectations are unclear. If the parties at the beginning set out what they expect from each other they are less likely to fall out at a later date.

Hastings and Co Solicitors specialise in all aspects of employment law. For further advice please telephone 01245 835 305 without any obligation.

Disclaimer: this blog is only intended to give a brief overview of the law and is not intended as a substitute for legal advice.