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I started a new full-time position today, my boss said she should have the contract ready by tomorrow... but that will be day 3 of me working there.

I feel like she will send it eventually but I didn't expect to have to pester her for it.

I've sorta got alarm bells going off at the minute... should I be concerned or is this pretty standard?


I should point out that I have had a formal letter (via email) to state the working hours and salary... so I have at least had something, just not a full contract with all the finer details

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    Is this an actual employment or a contracotr setup? How big and established is the company? Do you have a contract draft at least? If not, what exactly are the terms of employment did you accept - and how?
    – Aida Paul
    Jan 2 at 18:48
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    Thanks for the update. Honestly my worry here is if this even a legitimate company. Do you work from an office location that is legit? Or do they have big and confirmable online presence at least? Can you look them up on companies house?
    – Aida Paul
    Jan 2 at 18:55
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    @AidaPaul I've seen the contract only appear late on the first day in major universities in the UK - HR waiting weeks, doing it the day before then using internal mail. And I've heard of longer delays. That's not too bad thing when you're not coming from a previous job, but a different matter if you're relying on a signed offer to resign elsewhere
    – Chris H
    Jan 3 at 14:26
  • I have experienced it taking a week or two to get the formal contract here in Sweden. I think that you can relax for some days and not worry. But if you haven't got the contract after a week, you should ask your boss about it.
    – md2perpe
    Jan 3 at 18:59
  • Do you work in a company office or fully remote?
    – til_b
    Jan 4 at 7:19

6 Answers 6

14

IANAL - So take the following with a Grain of Salt.

My understanding of UK employment law is that it is very well developed and mature - even without a contract, you have a number of legal protections.

If this is a Minimum wage job, I'd be less concerned about a lack of contract - since there is a statutory requirement to be paid at least the minimum wage. You are still entitled to Public Holidays, annual leave, sick leave etc. etc.

However, if I was promised a salary much higher than Minimum Wage - and I didn't have a contract to prove it (or some other documentation in writing) - I would be more concerned. If you have an offer letter or email or txt message outlining what you will be paid, that should suffice in lieu of a Contract (if push came to shove).

Additionally - a few days isn't ringing alarm bells for me. It's not unheard of to get a new Contract and take 1-2 days to read through it before signing. Admittedly normally this is done prior to starting somewhere - but that's not always the case, depending on the role and circumstances.

The final thing is, so long as they pay what was agreed, I'd be less concerned per se - If they honor that part, I'd be more comfortable waiting for a Contract.

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  • While getting final and signed contract coming in after start is not unheard of (in startups very common actually), you would at least have draft with you before day one, or terms fo it outlined in an email, something. Not having any of that would be not something I hard of in the UK yet. So we need op to clarify.
    – Aida Paul
    Jan 2 at 18:49
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    @AidaPaul - as I read it, you are legally entitled to a statement of the role, which as you say outlines a few terms - but yeah, I agree it's odd - but then, it is over the holiday period and perhaps they needed someone now, but their lawyer on retainer is off on holiday? Jan 2 at 18:51
  • You really don't need a lawyer for a new hire, it's almost always just same employment contract but with blank fields filled in, hence why not even having a draft available would be very, very odd, as you really do not need to change much from one employee to another.
    – Aida Paul
    Jan 2 at 18:53
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    @AidaPaul - For sure - point was more a plausible scenario where there could be a delay in generating a contract Jan 2 at 19:10
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    Or their one HR person who knows how to do all of that was out on holiday. In a small enough company that doesn't believe in being bus resistant, its very possible. Especially around this time of year.
    – Questor
    Jan 3 at 18:38
21

Impossible to tell.

  • Some (most?) companies are well organised and you would have seen the contract before formally accepting the offer.
    • Personally I would never accept a job without seeing the contract but appreciate your circumstances may be different.
  • Some companies are a bit disorganised and don't manage to get all the dots lined up before the new employee starts. This is often incompetence rather than maliciousness though.
  • A very, very, very few companies are deceitful.

Only you can really tell if there are other red flags which would tilt the balance to your employer being malicious.

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  • I'm surprised your experience (or even the average experience by SO users) would suggest most companies are well organized. Maybe specifically for getting a contract prior to starting work, but I've job hopped more than most in my 14 years of software dev and it feels like onboarding is a very difficult step for companies.
    – aaaaaa
    Jan 3 at 16:44
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    @aaaaa I find UK companies are generally pretty competent around the legal stuff on contracts etc, as there are significant penalties if companies cannot show they have kept appropriate evidence that everyone working for them has permission to work in the UK. Agreed it can all go a bit haphazard after that. Jan 3 at 18:16
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I have been in my current job for over 28 years now, and I still don't have a contract.

They made me an offer all those years ago. I accepted it. They had an employee booklet setting out hours, overtime, etc. (all online now). I work for them, and they pay me. There's no actual requirement for a bit of paper saying "contract" at the top.

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    "They made me an offer all those years ago. I accepted it." – That is literally the definition of a contract. Jan 3 at 14:51
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    In jurisdictions with workers' rights, contracts are necessary because they show what you agreed to (time, vacation, benefits...), and that can be enforced. In jurisdictions without workers' rights, there is this "employee handbook" thing, which the company can change at will without notice and then you don't have those benefits anymore (and if you do not like that, there's the door). That is why you need a contract in many jurisdictions.
    – wimi
    Jan 3 at 17:39
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    @coppereyecat - Given the user has a picture of an English Harp - I suspect strongly it is. A Contract is good protection, but if you have an employer and employee that always act in good faith - as the answer says - they are both happy with the arrangement. Jan 3 at 18:47
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    @coppereyecat That could equally be an Irish harp. It's not a picture of any of the harps I own, but a retouched bit of clip art I found online under a Creative Commons licence.
    – Simon B
    Jan 3 at 21:04
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    You, (Simon B) do have a contract, which appears to be 100% legally acceptable. According to gov.uk/employment-contracts-and-conditions: "An employment contract does not have to be written down." Contracts are not necessarily written, but as the saying goes: a verbal is not worth the paper it is written on. Jan 3 at 22:01
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Considering you have the formal letter, I wouldn't be too worried. Having something on paper is key here. You got the important bits covered.

Unfortunately it's relatively common, even in western European countries where labour law with worker rights is well estabilished. I live in the Netherlands and I see the same here, in Belgium and Germany. Especially with people that don't have a long working history yet. People who do tend to avoid the situation whenever feasible.

2-3 days. If you don't have one by lunch of the third day, start sending daily reminders. After a full workweek, it's time to start sitting on the desk of whoever is supposed to get your papers in order if necessary. Get at least something in writing that the contract is still on its way (and preferably a reason why it was delayed, usually miscommunication about the date or someone not reading their e-mail due to holidays).

Long story short: the usual situation is that they do want to hire you but someone screwed up the paperwork. After a few days, it's time to make it a priority.

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You should pester your boss about this.

This is now more your boss' and/or the company owner(s') problem. Should you get hurt they will probably go to jail. If you do something stupid and hurt someone else, they'll not be covered by insurance. You cannot be fired. You cannot not do your job, as in; you cannot do anything wrong and nothing you don't do was required by you to have been done. As you have been let inside the door, and have been doing work for them any decent lawyer will be able to successfully claim that you were employed, if they want to go that route.

PS: I am assuming you are working at a particular place that the company owns, using company owned equipment. If not things get muddy.

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    The body of this answer seems to contrdict the title - in the UK not having a contract is largely a problem for the employer, so no you should NOT pester your new boss about it. If you have specific concerns then ask those questions politely...
    – MikeB
    Jan 4 at 11:47
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    "Should you get hurt they will probably go to jail." HSE obligations apply whether or not someone has a contract, so this is at best a misleading statement. Jan 4 at 12:05
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2 days is too early to tell, also, I advice not to nag your employer about it. I know that some people might say: "but is your right", "it is ok to ask", "your employer is on the wrong", etc...but in the end of the day, he is still the employer and you are the employee. Many people do not care who is on the right or wrong, they just don't like being nagged.

FYI. I worked 2 months without a contract (South America), but it all worked out in the end.

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  • Is it normal to work for 1 or 2 months without a contract in South America ? Jan 3 at 7:50
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    Your location is listed as "South Korea" in your profile. Did you mean to say that you worked for 2 months without a contract in South America or in South Korea ? Jan 3 at 7:51
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    Big -1 for the suggestion that this is 'bugging' to get your contract sorted because of some unexplained "he is employer and you are employee" balance. Not how things operate in the uk. Maybe could at least explain what exactly do you expect to happen and why, and how exactly should OP keep about it to get the contract in timely fashion.
    – Aida Paul
    Jan 3 at 17:24
  • @Job_September_2020: as I commented in another post. Some jurisdiction might enforce a rule about written contracts for some purposes, but a contract is a contract, even if it's just a verbal agreement. Jan 4 at 17:28
  • @Job_September_2020 South America. And yes, it is normal to work 1 or 2 months, or even years without a formal contract. I have employees with 2 jobs that have been working their second job without a contract for years.
    – Eric Ahn
    Jan 10 at 10:43

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