What different employment contract types are there in the UK?

Familiarise yourself with these different employment contract types

27/08/2018

There are a number of different employment contract types in the UK, so it is important that you know what all of them mean and what laws apply to each of them.

Full-time employment

Most commonly, there is full-time employment. A contract that is full-time is usually a permanent position with either an annual salary or hourly wages. As well as a set salary, an employee can also expect to receive:

  • paid holiday days
  • pension benefits
  • parental leave allowances
  • Statutory Sick Pay

(Employee perks and benefits will differ depending on which company you work for.)

There is no minimum number of hours that you must work for full-time, this is at the discretionary of your employer, although most full-time roles are 35+ hours per week.

Part-time employment

Essentially, the main difference between full-time and part-time workers is that a part-time employment contract will have fewer contracted hours than a full-time employment contract. Within a part-time employee’s contract, you’ll find the number of hours expected to work per week.

Similar to the full-time contracts, these positions are often permanent and will offer a salary/hourly wages to suit the amount of hours worked, as well as benefits and perks. Part-time employment contracts are great for people who have other commitments.

Fixed-term or temporary employment 

Fixed-term or temporary employment contracts mean that you are contracted to work a certain amount of months, e.g. sometimes these roles are created to cover someone on maternity leave, which means that an employee may receive a 12 month contract.

Fixed-term and temporary employees receive the benefits as permanent contracts; however paid holiday entitlement will depend on the contract length. If during your contracted time you have impressed your employer, the contract could be extended or you could also be offered a permanent position.

Zero contract hours

The idea behind zero hour contracts is that the employer will ask the employee to work when they are required. The employer doesn’t have to offer any set amount of hours and the employee doesn’t have to work when the employer wants them to.

Zero hour contract employees receive similar entitlements and benefits to a permanent worker and the employer must pay at least the National Minimum Wage. It is also worth noting that employees on a zero hour contract can look for work and work elsewhere.

Freelancers or contractors

Freelance and contracted employment contracts will differ, depending on the business and contract offered. The freelancer or contractor may receive a contract with a specific start and end date; alternatively they may be contracted to work until the project is complete.

Freelancers and contractors are often self-employed, which means that they need to look after their taxes and their National Insurance contributions. This type of contract also means that the freelancer or contractor won’t receive the same rights and benefits of permanent employees.

Agency staff

Agency staff contracts are agreed and managed by recruitment agents. The contracts offered are usually temporary; the length of the contract will depend on the employer.

The agency looks after the employees’ rights, whilst the employer pays for the employees National Insurance contributions and Statutory Sick Pay. Legally after 12 weeks’ of employment in the same role, the agency worker will receive the same rights as permanent employees at the business.


Not sure about your employment contract and want it clarified? Or perhaps you are looking for employment? Then check out our Twin Employment and Training website and contact our team today.