The terms ‘disciplinary procedure’ and ‘dismissal’ strike fear into the hearts of most employees, however new research has found that many SME employees are sailing dangerously close to the wind by failing to fully read their contracts.
The research, by employment law consultancy Protecting.co.uk, found that just 1 in 166 employees had properly read and understood their contract. The rest remained in the dark about the terms of their employment. While this might not impact on their day to day work life it can be crucial if there is a dispute with their boss and may leave them in a very vulnerable position especially if they think they’ve been unfairly dismissed.
1,000 employees from SMEs across the UK were asked if they’d ever read their work contract in full. Surprisingly, the vast majority (909) said they hadn’t read it and more than half (56 per cent) admitted to not even knowing where their contract is!
Spokesperson for Protecting.co.uk Mark Hall comments,
‘You would have thought that you would read through an important document before you put your name to it, but it appears that for most people that’s simply not the case.’
Many workplace disputes reportedly happen because an employee has broken a clause that has been written into their contract. Common oversights include ‘moonlighting’ for other companies, timeliness (whereby an employee is contracted to strict core working hours) and workplace behaviour. Another common blunder is said to be shop or factory workers taking damaged or unwanted goods home and seeing it as perk of the job when it can, in fact, be classed as theft.
Head of Businesscomparison.com, Philip Brennan says contracts are there to protect SME leaders and employees,
“Work contracts exist as a partnership between employers and employees to set out the standards expected by businesses from their staff and, on the other hand, to protect the interests of workers. Reading them carefully can help avoid lengthy disputes that cost time and money and can be distressing for those involved.”