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Case Study – Understanding your job offer and contract

Dr X contacted MDS regarding an issue with their contract of employment and rota. Dr X was contracted to work 37.5 hours; however, they were on a rota for a 40-hour week. They were advised by their colleagues that they take half an hour lunch break. Dr X wanted to clarify that they were not working in excess of their contracted hours, and not being paid for work
completed.

MDS’s advice
MDS reviewed Dr X’s contract which stated that the contracted hours were 37.5 hours per week. Usually contracts expressly state whether the working hours are inclusive or exclusive of lunch breaks, which are unpaid. Dr X’s contract was silent on this point and did not indicate whether their lunch break was inclusive or exclusive of the weekly contracted hours. As Dr X was on a rota for 40 hours, this was strongly indicative that the weekly contracted hours of 37.5 hours were exclusive of a 30-minute unpaid lunch break. However, as this was not clearly stated, and to ensure that Dr X was not working in excess of their contracted hours, MDS advised Dr X to contact the HR department to clarify the weekly contracted hours inclusive of an unpaid lunch break. If Dr X’s HR department confirmed that the unpaid lunch break was included in the contracted hours, then they would be entitled to be paid for the additional 2.5 hours work each week. However, if Dr X’s HR department advised that their lunch breaks were not included in the contracted hours, then the 40-hour weekly rota is correct.

Learning Points
Once an employee is offered a job, it is very important that the employee is clear about all the terms of the employment contract. In particular, hours of work, location of employment, locality clauses, holiday entitlement, lunch hours and on call hours must all be clearly stated in the contract. If the employee is unsure of any of the terms of the contract or the terms are not clearly stated, then the employee should contact their HR department for clarification before signing or commencing the job. Taking these steps before the commencement of a new job will prevent future issues with an employment contract. MDS offers a contract checking service whereby we can check proposed contracts of employment and advise on any aspects that may require further clarification to ensure that the employee fully understands the terms and conditions they will be working to.