7 Employment Myths

 We’ve clarified the truth on some of the most common employment law myths.


 Myth 1: No employment contract exists if there is nothing in writing or signed

 Fact: Even verbal agreements are binding. An employment contract exists from the moment a job offer is accepted. Legally, an employer should within two months of an employee starting work, issue a written statement of terms and conditions of employment. Even if this document has never been issued a binding employment contract still exists.

The written statement does not have to be signed so if an employer issues one but the employee does not sign it, the employer and the employee are still bound by the terms stated in it.


Myth 2: Holidays start to accrue once the probationary period is successfully completed.

Fact: Holidays start to accrue from the first day an employee is employed. The existence of a probationary period will not affect a new employee’s length of service or statutory employment rights.

Myth 3: Employees can say when they take their holidays

 Fact: Employee’s requests for annual leave can be refused by an employer for business reasons. However, when considering leave requests employers should also bear in mind the employees family responsibilities and entitlement to rest periods. Based on business needs employers can specify certain periods where annual leave can or cannot be taken. Employers should consult with employees at least one month before any holidays are due to commence.

Employers are advised to agree with employees how and when employees should give notice of annual leave. But in the absence of any agreement it is recommended that the notice period should be at least twice the period of leave to be taken. So for example if a weeks’ leave is requested then two weeks’ notice should be given.

Myth 4: Employees on long-term sick leave should be left alone.

Fact: Although employers should not put undue pressure on employees who are on long-term sick leave, they are entitled to find out more information about the illness with the aim of establishing when and how the employee could return to work.

This would include consultation with the employee and, with permission, writing to the employee’s GP (and any specialist) to find out about the employee’s condition, the prognosis and whether there is anything the employer can do to help facilitate their return (such as reduced hours).

Myth 5: If an employee is on maternity leave it’s illegal for an employer to contact her about any work-related issues

Fact: Employers can and should keep in contact with employees on maternity leave. It’s good practice to agree beforehand how this contact should take place and to be sensitive to an employee’s circumstances and preferences. You could agree when is best to telephone, write letters or email employees about workplace developments.

Myth 6: An employee’s continuous service resets after moving roles within a company

Fact: Moving roles within the same company does not ‘reset’ an employee’s continuous service. Although after the move the employee may be in probation, this does not mean that their previous service for the same employer can be discounted.

Myth 7: A worker cannot be accompanied by a trade union representative at formal meetings unless the employer recognises the union

Fact: Workers have a statutory right to be accompanied at formal discipline and grievance hearings by a trade union official, and there are no requirements regarding whether the specific union has been recognised by the employer or not. Alternatively, a worker can be accompanied by a colleague.