Companies warned over issuing contracts to employees

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EMPLOYERS who flout the law by failing to issue contracts of employment could be taken to an industrial tribunal, the British Chambers of Commerce has warned.

The Trade Union Reform and Employment Rights Act, passed earlier this year, gives more employees the right to a written contract of employment, with effect from the end of November. All new employees working more than eight hours a week and employed for longer than eight weeks will have the right to a contract; previously the qualifying period was 13 weeks. 'A number of small employers pay scant regard to employment law, and have inadequate contracts of employment for the protection of themselves, and for their employees' protection,' says Robin Bussell, director of exports and trade at the British Chambers of Commerce.

To improve employers' practice, the British Chambers are marketing a new software package that makes the issuing of contracts 'child's play', according to Mr Bussell. The program is IBM-compatible and produced by Management Advisory, a company based at Hinckley, in Leicestershire. The package comprises software, a manual, a list of clauses from which the employer can select, as well as a telephone back-up service. The first 13 clauses in the list are statutory, and the program will not allow the contract to be printed in breach of legal requirements. The company says that it will regularly update the software as more legal changes come into effect.

'As far as we are aware the system is unique,' said Andrew Kimberley, a consultant who is working with the company on this project.

'We have endorsed the software package, and it is marketed as a BCC product, with our logo,' said Mr Bussell. 'It is being marketed through about 12 chambers.' The link with Management Advisory came about through an introduction by Coventry Chamber of Commerce, after it approved the program.

The British Chambers of Commerce can be contacted on 0203 694492.