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Contracts of employment: key differences in Scotland and Northern Ireland

Original author: Sue Johnstone

Updating author: Zuraida Curtis

Consultant editor (Scotland): Gillian MacLellan, consultant editor (Northern Ireland): Gareth Walls

Future developments

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. No such regulations have yet been published.


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.