That was the question the Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) had to decide in Stefanko and others v Maritime Hotel Ltd.
All employees who are engaged for a month or more must be given a written statement setting out the key terms and conditions of their employment - Section 1 of the Employment Rights Act. The information can be set out in more than one document including an offer letter but, it must be provided within two months from the date the employee starts work.
Employees who don't receive a statement can obtain up to four weeks' pay as compensation.
The Claimants were employed by the hotel as waiting staff and were poorly treated. They were sacked when they complained about shortfalls in their wages, falsification of their wage slips and late payment. At this point, two had worked for over two months, and one six weeks.
They all successfully complained they had been automatically unfairly dismissed because they had asserted a statutory right. But only the two waiting staff who had worked for over two months received four weeks pay as additional compensation because they had not received a "section 1" statement. The Tribunal said that the waitress who had worked for only six weeks was not entitled to compensation even though she hadn't received a statement because the employer had two months to provide this.
The EAT reversed the decision and said the waitress should be compensated because she did not receive a section 1 statement.
It said that employers must give this information to all employees who have worked for them for a month or more - even if they leave before working two complete months.
At the moment only employees have the right to receive a section 1 statement and you don't have to give this information to anyone you engage as a worker.
However, from 2020 you will have to provide information about the terms and conditions of employment to all your staff (including workers) from day 1 of their employment. There will be no "grace" period.
Even before these changes take place, it is good practice to provide written particulars as soon as possible as this protects both you and your staff. As the EAT put it , this will "minimise the risk of ambiguity or misunderstanding of the terms agreed that form the contractual basis of the employment relationship."
Section 1 statements don't have to be complicated and we can help you prefer a template for your business.
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"This decision will impact on employers in industries such as hospitality or retail with relatively high staff turnover. HR departments need to be on the ball and adept in getting statements to people as soon as possible." - Melanie Stancliffe