Outdoor Fitness & Reasonable Access to Documents

Offer + Acceptance = Contract

When your employer sends you a contract of employment it constitutes an offer (the first part of a contract between two or more parties).

When you sign (and return) your contract of employment to your employer it constitutes acceptance (the second part of a contract between two or more parties).

However, if you make any changes to the contract it is now a counter-offer; which your employer make accept, decline or make a counter-offer of their own. In reality, the vast majority of employees will just sign the contract of employment and return it to their employer. A simplistic view but it will suffice for this article.

  • ‘Contract of employment’ means a contract of service or apprenticeship, whether express or implied, and (if it is express) whether oral or in writing: think Hospital Consultant).
  • A contract for service usually implies an independent contractor, i.e. self-employed: think General Practitioner (GP).

Now to ‘Reasonable Access’. In this I am talking about documents which are referred to in the contract of employment (this makes them legally binding for both you and your employer).

For example:

  • On Monday 01 January (PM), via telephone, you are offered a job as a Manager with ABC Outdoor Fitness Ltd in Hull with a company vehicle as part of the deal.
  • The company office (the only office) is located in Exeter.
  • On Thursday 04 January (AM) you receive your contract of employment which states: “The Employee Handbook is available for you to consult in the office.”
  • On Thursday 04 January (PM) you sign and return your contract of employment.
  • On Monday 08 January (AM) you are given your extranet log in details.
  • On Monday 08 January (AM) you look for the Employee Handbook but it is not available on the company extranet facility.
  • On Monday 08 January (PM) you receive your vehicle.
  • You start your first session, in Hull, on the same evening arriving at 6.30pm and leaving at 8.30pm.
  • On the way home at 8.45pm, a speed camera ‘catches you’ doing 35mph in a 30mph area.
  • On Monday 22 January (AM) you receive an email from the company office stating that they have received a speeding ticket for the vehicle you were driving on Monday 08 January. The email also states that your pay will be deducted with the amount of the fine, plus an administration fee, as per the Vehicle Policy which is referred to in the Employee Handbook (which you have still not been given access to either as a hard- or electronic copy).

The question is: Was the employee given reasonable access to the document and therefore the company can legally deduct the money from the employee?

An employer must allow an employee reasonable access to any documents mentioned in a contract of employment as they form a legally binding obligation.

The employee could argue that the deduction of the fine and admin fee from their wages could be construed as an unlawful deduction of wages as per the Employment Rights Act 1996 (as amended from time-to-time).

Further, when returning a signed contract of employment to the employer in which an employee has not had access to certain documents, they could reply with something along the lines of:

I acknowledge receipt of the contract of employment for the position of [insert full title] at [insert full company name], ‘the Company’, which I received on [insert day and full date].

I appreciate that documents referred to in the contract of employment form a legally binding obligation on me as an employee of the Company.

Therefore, as per my rights under the Employment Rights Act 1996 (as amended from time-to-time) I am informing the Company that I have not had reasonable access to the following documents:

  • [Insert full document title]; and
  • [Insert full document title].

Until I have been given the opportunity to read the aforementioned document(s), I do not accept that they have created a legally binding obligation on me as an employee of the Company. Once I have been given reasonable access to and read the aforementioned documents I will write to the Company stating this.

Employment Rights Act 1996 Chapter 18

  • Section 6, Reasonably accessible document or collective agreementIn sections 2 to 4 references to a document or collective agreement which is reasonably accessible to an employee are references to a document or collective agreement which:
    • (a) the employee has reasonable opportunities of reading in the course of his employment, or
    • (b) is made reasonably accessible to the employee in some other way.
  • Section 13, Right not to suffer unauthorised deductions:
    • (1)An employer shall not make a deduction from wages of a worker employed by him unless:
      • (a) the deduction is required or authorised to be made by virtue of a statutory provision or a relevant provision of the worker’s contract, or
      • (b)the worker has previously signified in writing his agreement or consent to the making of the deduction.
    • (2) In this section “relevant provision”, in relation to a worker’s contract, means a provision of the contract comprise:
      • (a)in one or more written terms of the contract of which the employer has given the worker a copy on an occasion prior to the employer making the deduction in question.

Remember, a signed contract of employment can work for/against you in discipline, grievance and even employment tribunal proceedings. Overall, this is a fairly simplistic article but it has been written as a discussion piece.

If in doubt, always seek advice from an appropriately qualified legal professional.

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