‘We can issue US-style 'at will' contracts to our new UK hires’

The most common employment misconception we see from US businesses is the assumption that they can use an ‘at will’ contract in the UK. Both US and UK have a legal requirement to provide a written statement of terms, but at will contracts are not enforceable in the UK. In the UK, employers must follow a fair process before terminating the employment and, for the most part, can only end the employment in certain circumstances.

This is a fundamental difference for many US companies as they begin to appreciate that a hiring decision should be made with the intention of maintaining that relationship for a reasonable amount of time and cannot be ended without good reason. 

Employment contract templates should be reviewed annually to pick up any changes in the law, which happen frequently in the UK. Recycling old contracts for new hires should be avoided because they may not be up to date legally.

The risk of using unenforceable or out of date employment contracts is that it can expose the business to an employment tribunal claim and reputational damage. This can damage employee relations and deter talented candidates from joining.

From 6 April 2020, employers must also provide employees and all workers with a written statement of particulars on or before their first day of employment. This includes all casual workers, bank workers, and zero hours workers regardless of the length of their contract.  

The mandatory information that must be provided in these documents is also changing, to include details about probationary periods, training, and paid leave. Businesses must therefore review their contracts and onboarding processes to comply with these changes.

We can help

Our Foreign Direct Investment team knows how critical it is to get expansion plans right first time. We can provide expert advice to ensure you have the right long-term solution.

Contact us to discuss your business.