Contracts of employment: key differences in Scotland and Northern Ireland
Updating author: Sue Johnstone
Scotland: The Scottish Law Commission has consulted on a draft Contract (Formation) (Scotland) Bill, which, if and when enacted, will provide a statutory basis for determining whether or not a contract is formed, replacing certain aspects of the current common law. Under provisions in the Bill, a contract will be formed if the parties intend an agreement to have legal effect and where it can be given legal effect taking into account other statutory requirements. On 4 February 2019, the Scottish Government published its response to the Scottish Law Commission's Report on review of contract law: Formation, interpretation, remedies for breach, and penalty clauses. In its response, the Scottish Government indicated that it will continue to consider if and when there would be a suitable opportunity to progress the recommendations.
Northern Ireland: Under provisions in the Employment Act (Northern Ireland) 2016, the Government may make regulations to prevent abuses in connection with the use of: zero-hours contracts; non-contractual zero hours arrangements; or workers' contracts, of a kind to be specified in the regulations. The relevant regulations are yet to be published.
Changes to the provisions on written statements of employment particulars take effect from 6 April 2020 in England, Wales and Scotland. The right to a written statement will extend to all workers (rather than just to employees). Employers will have to provide most of the information required in the statement in a single document by the start of employment and the information that must be provided will be expanded (see Future developments in Written statement of employment particulars, for more information). However, there are no corresponding provisions for Northern Ireland.
The common law contract of employment rules in England and Wales and Scotland are essentially the same and decisions in one jurisdiction are used as persuasive precedents in another.