Ben Jones : Hello, my name is XXXXX XXXXX it is my pleasure to assist you with your question today.Before proceeding please note that as I am a practising solicitor, I am often in and out of meetings, travelling between clients or even at court when I pick your question up. This may even occur at weekends. Therefore, I apologise in advance but there may be a delay in getting back to you and providing my advice. Please be patient and I will respond as soon as I can. You do not have to wait here and you will receive an email when I have responded. For now please let me know how long you have worked there.
Customer: Hi, BenI am being asked to sign an employment deed instead of an employment contract, and I am worry about what kind of implications it will have on my employment rights. For example, in one of the clause it stated "...The employee agrees and confirms that the 48 hour weekly working time limit under the Working Time Regulations shall not apply to him...". Is the deed overriding the UK employment Law??
Customer: also, in the "intellectual property" section, it stated "...If at any time during the employment and whether or not in the course of his duties under this agreement, the Employee shall either alone or jointly make, discover or acquire any invention, development, improvement, design process or secret whatsoever or any trade mark, trade name or get-up, registered design, design right... any such Intellectual Property made or discovered by the Employee or his share in that Intellectual Property if made or discovered jointly shall belong to and be the absolute property of the Company...". Does that mean the Company will take the right of any non-related intellectual property I made on my spare time??
Ben Jones : Thank you very much for your patience. Whether you are being asked to sign a deed or a contract would not make much of a difference in terms of your employment rights as you and the employer will be bound by either type of document and the terms within it.
Ben Jones : When it comes to the contents of such a document, there are many clauses which could vary from one job to another and which would be legally binding in your employment. For example, pay, hours of work, breaks, etc. However, at the same time the contract/deed would not be able to overrule statute and there are still certain rights which you would be entitled to regardless of what your agreement states.
Ben Jones : Looking at the specific clause you have mentioned, it is true that as a basic rule, workers have a limit of 48 hours to work in a week. However, this limit can be overruled by a written agreement between employee and employer. So if you agree to work over that limit you can opt out of the 48 hour a week working limit and work more hours than that. Saying that, you cannot be forced to agree to this and you have the right to refuse and stick to the limit, without being subjected to any detrimental treatment. It is your legal right to refuse to opt out so if you are not happy about working more than the 48 hours a week (calculated over an average 17 week reference period) then you can do so and inform your employer of your decision.
Customer: Thank you Ben, how about the issue with Intellectual Property I mentioned?
Customer: and so what is the difference between a deed and a contract?
Customer: also, my employment deed require me to sign it in the presence of a witness, is this normal?
Ben Jones : the IP issues are entirely normal, in fact there is legislation that says any inventions, etc made by an employee in the course of their employment would belong to the employer. I am not sure why the employer is executing this as a deed, it does not make much of a difference in the circumstances. It will potentially extend any time limit for making claims under it from 6 years to 12 years but nothing else I can think of. It is certainly not usual to execute employment agreements as deeds
Customer: so if I make a patent during my employment on my spare time in an un-related technology, my employer should not be able to claim it, right?
Ben Jones : technically yes, but it has to be something that was done in your own time and not using the employer's resources
Customer: ok, if I sign the deed, it ask for a witness, is that necessary?
Ben Jones : to be valid as a deed, yes
Customer: they sent me 2 copies but ask both to be signed and send them back, am I not suppose to have a copy?
Ben Jones : you can just photovopy one for your own records
Ben Jones : you do not need an original, but can ask them for one
Customer: Thank you Ben, one last question, What the difference between an employment contract and employment deed?
Ben Jones : Not much, as mentioned above it extends the limitation period of any claims but there is nothing really in employment law that would warrant a preference for a deed over a contract, is not common to be honest
Customer: ok, thank you very much for your help
Ben Jones : My pleasure. Please take a second to leave a positive rating for the service I have provided you with as that is an important part of our process. Thank you