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My favourite movie series of all time is Harry Potter. The fictional world centred around Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry is nothing short of magical. The employee-employer relationship exists in the series, just look at the Ministry of Magic.
However, I want to focus on Voldemort and his Death Eaters, who carry out work on his behalf. If Voldemort decided to formally make his Death Eaters employees, he would be required to issue each Death Eater with a contract of employment. I appreciate that the magical world has its own laws, however, if Voldemort was subject to UK Employment Law, he would require to comply with section 1 of the Employment Rights Act 1996 (ERA) when creating his Death Eater employment contract.
The Dark Lord has approached his solicitor with some questions about the creation of his employment contract. The answers may also help employers create compliant contracts.
My Death Eaters will be trained to the highest standard. What do I need to consider when drafting the employment contract?
The requirement for employers to note in the employment contract any training entitlement provided to the employee is a relatively new one, only coming into force on 6 April 2020. Employers must detail any employee entitlement to training, together with what training entitlement they require employees to complete which the employer does not pay for. Voldemort is new to the world of employment contracts and so his will be compliant with the most up-to-date provisions of ERA. However, it is worth employers conducting a review of their employment contracts to check what, if any, provision is made relative to employee training.
I want to assess whether a Death Eater is suitable for employment. Does this need to be factored into the employment contract?
Yes, it does. Voldemort wants to make his Death Eater’s employment subject to the completion of a successful probationary period. This is also a relatively new requirement, again coming into force on 6 April 2020.
ERA defines a probationary period as a ‘temporary period’ which begins at the start of employment and is intended to allow the employer to assess whether a worker is suitable for employment. Probationary periods usually last for three or six months. It is up to the employer to decide how long is reasonable for them to be able to properly assess an employee’s suitability, and whether they want to retain the option to extend the probationary period in certain circumstances.
As the Dark Lord is incredibly powerful, it is natural to assume that it will not take him very long to work out whether a Death Eater is suitable. If he decided that they were not, he could terminate their employment before the probationary period expires. To do this, he would require to provide in the contract that employment may be terminated on shorter notice than that which his employee would be entitled to upon completion of a successful probationary period.
I want to build a global movement of Death Eaters, they will not be solely working in the UK. How do I make sure this is properly factored into the employment contract?
There is a requirement for employers to expressly state whether or not an employee is required to work outside of the UK.
In situations where employees are required to work outside the UK for a period of more than one month, more detail requires to be added into the contract. Employers must detail for how long the affected employees are required to work outside the UK, the currency in which the employee’s wages will be paid while working outside the UK, any further monies and benefits due to the employees for working outside the UK and any terms and conditions relative to the employee’s return to the UK.
In the context of the current pandemic, the final point is incredibly important. It is advisable for employers to review their clauses relative to employees working outside the UK and provide for situations whereby employees may need to self-isolate and follow government guidelines upon their return to the UK.
My Death Eaters will have set working hours but they may be varied if Harry Potter comes close for capture. What does this mean for the employment contract?
Voldemort requires to note his employees’ working hours carefully. Employers must note not only an employee’s normal working hours, but they should also note the days on which an employee is required to work. In terms of variation of working hours or days, employers should state whether this is possible and, if so, how they will vary or how the variation will be determined.
Thinking about the current pandemic, employers may have to reduce an employee’s working hours. If variation is provided for in the contract then this is fine however, if it is not, employers should provide the employee with written confirmation of the change in working hours.
The pandemic has brought the concept of furlough to the tip of almost everybody’s tongues but what about when this runs out? Employers should consider adding a lay-off clause into their employment contracts to provide for situations where there is no work to offer the employee. This would enable employers to ‘lay-off’ employees with no work and no pay while retaining them as employees and avoiding a potential redundancy situation. Similarly, this should include the option to place the employee on short-time working.
I require my Death Eaters to work at various locations. Do I need to expressly state this in the contract?
Yes, employers need to state the employee’s place of work. If the employee is required to work at various locations, this also needs to be stated together with the employer’s address. The pandemic has meant that a vast majority of employees are now working from home and if this is a requirement by employers, they should provide for this in the employment contract.
Voldemort will need to make sure his employment contracts comply with all other ERA requirements. This includes information relative to remuneration; holidays; other paid leave; notice periods; and pension schemes. Failure to comply may land him in Sirius hot water with his Death Eaters, who will undoubtedly highlight his riddikulus lack of employment contract compliance.
If you need any advice regarding employment contracts, please get in touch with Blackadders’ Employment Team working in Aberdeen, Dundee, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Perth and across Scotland.
Blythe Petrie, Trainee Solicitor
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