The importance of knowing and understanding the details within your Employment Contract cannot be underestimated. If you’ve not taken a look at your contract for some time – get it out now, familiarise yourself with it.
The contract between you and your employer forms the basis of your working relationship and it is vital that you fully understand its implications. If it is a written contract it may also refer to other documents / terms and conditions, such as a job description, house rules and so on. So, tedious as it might seem, you are well advised to go through all this information properly at the start of a new position and periodically thereafter. Caution: Just because the documentation has been produced / checked over by your nanny agency, this does not necessarily mean the information provided is correct, lawful or fair. You MUST take responsibility for checking all documentation personally. If you are a member of BAPN we will do this for you.
Written Contract or Verbal?
It is not true that an employment contract has to be in writing. It is preferable that they are, but verbal contracts are equally valid. If you have agreed to work for someone and will be paid in return, that is a legally binding contract and as such, provides you with employment rights. If a written contract is expected, then it should be with you within 8 weeks of starting your new job. BAPN encourages all nannies to request a written contract.
A written contract will cover, as a minimum, the hours you are expected to work, where you will be working, notice periods, how your pay will be calculated and your entitlements in terms of holidays, sick pay etc. A written contract is likely to include much more but certainly should not include less. If you have asked for a written contract and your employer is refusing to provide one, please be persistent. Caution: There is no good reason why a contract should not be given, and you can obtain a template from BAPN for FREE. See https://www.bapn.org.uk/free-downloads
Some jobs you apply for may be offered on a fixed-term basis which means that the employment contract on offer will specify a date on which the employment will come to an end. This is often for quite valid reasons, for example, covering the family’s nanny who is on maternity leave and is expected to return to work after her maternity leave has come to an end. Caution: it is sometimes the case that a fixed-term contract is used to limit the employer’s legal obligations. If you are unsure about the terms being offered, then you should probe further. If the prospective employer is vague, it usually suggests they’re not being straight with you and therefore perhaps you should not be considering their job offer.
Contract variations are often required when the employer’s needs change. As a contract is an agreement between both parties, if one side breaks it then the other side will have legitimate cause for complaint. For a nanny, this means that if a change is forced upon you that is unacceptable you are able to declare the contract terminated and leave, claiming Constructive Dismissal. Caution: NEVER do this without seeking expert advice first. You can also choose to stay and make a claim for breach of contract, which, if successful, you could be awarded compensation. Again, should a variation of contract be forced upon you please seek professional advice before acting. Members of BAPN should contact us immediately.
Requests for variation of contract can come from the nanny too. Caution: Your employer is duty bound to fully and fairly consider your request for a variation of contract. However, they are not legally obliged to accept your requested change. That said, should they decline your request, they must give you their reasons in writing and also give you a right of appeal. If in doubt, seek independent expert advice.
Members can get advice from BAPN and non- members should contact either Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB) https://www.citizensadvice.org.uk/about-us/contact-us/contact-us/contact-us/ or ACAS, the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service https://www.acas.org.uk/index.aspx?articleid=1410
Obviously, you’re not going to be looking at your contract of employment every day, but you should be fully aware of the details just in case a dispute arises. Being aware of your terms and conditions you’ll be better prepared. Caution: If you are treated unfairly and fail to act or take ill advised advice, you could inadvertently find yourself in breach of contract and actually jeopardise any legitimate claim you may have had.