Can my employer enforce a contract I don't have?
May 14, 2008 6:07 PM   Subscribe

My current employer hasn't provided me with a contract, despite promising to on several occasions. I'm fine with this. I actually *don't want* a contract.

I know that you are not a lawyer, and that you are not my lawyer. I am not asking for legal advice, but either some help searching, or a link to the correct section on the UK Govt. website.

My question is this - since I have no contract, are either myself or my employer legally (not morally) bound to give the other the "standard" 1 weeks notice of termination of employment?

Possibly pertinent information: I've been employed with this company for less than a year, in the UK. It's not a "cash in hand" job - I'm on the payroll, get taxed, etc.


If you're thinking of telling me that walking out would be a bad idea, please read the following paragraph. If not, I thank you for any help you are able to give me.

I know that leaving unannounced would be a bad idea, would burn bridges, blah blah blah. I am well aware of the potential repercussions of leaving at a moments notice. Your thoughts on whether this is a good idea or not are unwelcome.
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (6 answers total)
i can't answer your question but, as an alternative, if you have accrued vacation time, I know people who have given two weeks notice and walked away from the job using two weeks of vacation time to cover those final days.
posted by metahawk at 6:15 PM on May 14, 2008

You do have a contract. It's just not in writing.

I believe the information you want is here. According to ACAS, the answer is yes, you are legally bound to give at least one week's notice, assuming you have been employed for at least a month.
posted by grouse at 6:25 PM on May 14, 2008

Info link

If you have an employee-employer relationship then you do have a contract, whether or not the written terms and conditions of it have been set out on paper. The statutory notice, if you've been employed over a month but less than 2 years, is a week on either side. With no written terms, verbal terms or "custom and practice" may be relevant and supercede the statutory minimum, eg if you were hired on the understanding that you'd give a month's notice then that may arguably be enforcible.
posted by wilko at 6:31 PM on May 14, 2008

Seconding wilko... and reinforcing that the presence or absence of paper means very little. The biggest reason for a signed contract is to provide a common reference and prevent "But you said...." disputes later.

UK laws, like the laws in the US, don't require written contracts. They're a convenience that usually benefits both sides, though. The same 1 week law exists, like all workplace/employer laws, paper or not.
posted by rokusan at 6:38 PM on May 14, 2008

Well, in the US, I believe a two week notice is standard, with a month or more preferred--it all depends on your employer. I don't know about U.K. law, but the important thing is this: if you quit before a week's notice--which, really, is not far removed from not showing up one day--you run the risk of not being able to use that employer as a reference. If that doesn't matter, and it's a bridge you don't mind burning, then don't worry about it. Personally though, I've done this in the past and years later it came back to bite me. Once I was applying to a job and in my cover letter and resume I wanted to list a previous job I worked at where I did the exact same type of work...but I had quit that job on really short notice and didn't want to risk a bad reference.
posted by zardoz at 12:05 AM on May 15, 2008

The legal term for this kind of contract is an implied contract. As opposed to an express contract, in which all the terms of the contract are clearly laid out and agreed to (usually in wiriting), an implied contract exists when there is consideration involved (your payroll) and the conduct or circumstances of the parties involved would tend to indicate that an implied contract existed.

I'm trying to think of a way that violating this implied contract could come back to bite the OP, and I'm having trouble thinking of one. Unless what you do is extremely critical, I'm having a hard time imagining an employer suing you for one week of lost work, and if your employer didn't sue you in this way, I don't see any other negative consequences that the OP didn't already mention in the question's last paragraph.
posted by ikkyu2 at 12:57 AM on May 15, 2008

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