Working Without an Employment Contract – What are my Rights?

Having an employment contract has become a common practice before any employee joins a company. This is needed as an employment contract clearly defines the rights, responsibilities and expectations of both employee and employer.  

In other words, it is a means to define the employment agreement. However, there are still instances where an employee becomes employed without having an employment contract.  

Although not illegal, working with no contract of employment can be risky. Contracts exist to define the terms of employment and protect the rights of the employee – including in instances like wrongful termination. Thus, working without a contract can leave an employee in limbo.  

I Have No Contract of Employment, What are My Rights? 

While it’s technically allowed to work without a contract in the UK, it’s not a wise choice. Without a written agreement, dealing with any problems that might arise becomes much more complicated. 

In the UK, employees without a written contract still have statutory rights. This includes benefits like paid holidays and receiving at least the national minimum wage. The Equality Act of 2010 also protects you from harassment and discrimination. Plus, you have the right to a safe and healthy workplace where the risk of injury or accidents is minimised. 

Below is a list of rights that any employee has, even without a contract: 

  • Adequate rest breaks 
  • Protection against workplace discrimination and harassment 
  • Equal pay for the same tasks, regardless of gender 
  • Legal minimum wage payment 
  • Receiving a detailed payslip every week or month, with all deductions being legal
  • If you’ve been with a company for over a month but less than two years, you need to be given one week’s notice before termination
  • For each additional year of employment beyond two years, you should receive a minimum of twelve weeks’ notice before termination
  • Your employer cannot terminate your employment due to pregnancy.
  • Time off for antenatal and doctor’s appointments during pregnancy. 
  • Up to 52 weeks of maternity leave. 
  • Your employer must hold your job for 26 weeks, and afterwards, ensure you get a similar job with the same pay upon your return to work. 
  • Statutory Maternity Pay, which covers up to 39 weeks if you’ve worked for the employer for at least 26 weeks by the time you reach 15 weeks before your due date. 

Implied and Express Terms 

Regarding employment terms, these details can be listed into two categories; implied and express terms.  

For implied terms, these are things that are often not written or spoken but are expected based on common law or statute. This includes the employer’s duty of care for their employees’ overall well-being.  

Implied terms place obligations on both the employer and the employee. For the employer, this means: 

  • Never ask the employee to do anything illegal. 
  • Avoid assigning tasks that could be hazardous to the employee’s health. 
  • Ensuring a safe work environment. 
  • Addressing employee complaints and grievances. 

On the other hand, the employee is expected to:  

  • Maintain confidentiality regarding workplace information. 
  • Refrain from assisting competitors in similar work. 
  • Follow the employer’s instructions. 
  • Work collaboratively and cooperatively.

Express terms are details of employment that have been agreed upon, either through spoken communication (like in the initial interview) or in writing. These terms often cover things like salary, working hours, and vacation time, but they can also include various other conditions, such as clauses about relocating in certain situations.   

When you accept a job, you’re essentially agreeing to all the terms in the contract, unless you negotiate changes. If you do negotiate, it’s essential to keep a written record of the agreed terms.  

Express terms may include these details:  

  • Regular working hours (excluding overtime). 
  • Workplace benefits such as medical health coverage and pension contributions. 
  • Eligibility for Statutory Sick Pay (SSP). 
  • Entitlement to holiday pay. 
  • Payment rates, including overtime and holiday pay rates. 
  • Notice periods, outlining how much notice you or your employer must give if the contract needs to be terminated.


 Q1. Can an employer be penalised for not offering an employment contract? 

Yes, hiring someone without an employment contract can put the employer at risk, including the possibility of legal action or penalties from the Employment Tribunal.  

Not providing employees with a contract can result in disciplinary action by employment tribunals, a process that is costly, time-consuming, and damaging to the business’s reputation. If employers fail to provide essential information about employment terms, employees may take their concerns to the Employment Tribunal.  

In cases where employers overlook contract terms, the Employment Tribunal may impose penalties for non-compliance, potentially causing financial strain and uncertainty for the employer. 

Q2. What risks can employees face when working without a contract? 

Not having an employment contract poses several risks for employees, including job security and fairness concerns.  Below are possible risks for employees without a contract:

  • Creates uncertainty regarding salary and job title. 
  • Employees may face challenges if the employer assigns tasks beyond their job description or attempts to change terms like working hours or salary. 
  • Difficulty in proving specific terms if issues arise with the employer due to the absence of a documented contract. 
  • Impact on the legal binding of the employment relationship. 
  • Leaves employees vulnerable to unfair dismissal, enabling employers to terminate employment without notice or compensation. 

Employees facing dismissal can seek assistance from a third party, but generally, they need to have worked for their employer for a minimum period, typically two years if employed after April 6, 2012, or one year if employed before that date, to qualify for the right to claim unfair dismissal at a tribunal. 

If you are having trouble understanding your employment contract or you do not have an employment contract and need assistance, get in touch with our employment law specialists today!!