by Nadine de Souza

The best way to ensure that there are no future disputes is to get your employment contract in writing. It’s the best way to safeguard against future disputes.

So what goes in an employment contract? The purpose of an employment contract is to set out the rights, responsibilities, duties and employment conditions. These are called the ‘terms’ of the contract.

Express terms

These are the terms that are agreed by the employer and employee. These may be written or oral, but it’s obviously preferable to put these terms in writing as if there is a dispute in the future it will be easier to prove what was agreed.

Even though in practice express, oral terms may be just as binding as written ones, they are very much more difficult to prove.

Implied terms

These terms are not stated expressly in the contract because:

  • They are too obvious to be recorded.
  • They are common practice within the particular business or industry and are precise, reasonable and well known.
  • They are necessary to make the contract work.
  • The parties to the contract have shown by their behaviour their acceptance of such terms.

A term is not implied simply because it would be reasonable to include it. There are terms which are accepted as commonly implied in employment contracts relating to the employer’s and the employee’s duties. The employer’s duties are:

  • To pay wages.
  • To co-operate with the employee and maintain mutual trust and confidence.
  • To take reasonable care for the health and safety of the employee.
  • To take reasonable steps to bring to the employee’s attention any contractual rights which are dependent on his taking action, but which the employee may be reasonably unaware of.
  • To exercise pension rights in good faith.
  • To deal reasonably and promptly with employees’ grievances.
  • To give a reasonable period of notice of termination when no specific period of notice has been agreed.

The employee’s duties are:

  • To work for the employer with due diligence and care.
  • To co-operate with the employer, including obeying lawful orders and not impede the employer’s business.
  • To follow a duty of fidelity, i.e. not compete with the employer and not disclose confidential information unless it’s in the public interest.
  • To take reasonable care for their own safety and that of fellow employees.
  • To give a reasonable period of notice of termination when no specific period of notice has been agreed.

Statutory terms

These are terms imposed by legislation which automatically apply to any contract.

It’s also possible for terms to be incorporated into a contract of employment from other sources, such as a staff handbook.

Help from Lawpack

If you want more in-depth information – from an employment lawyer – about all aspects of employment law, then read our guide Employment Law Made Easy. Packed with tips and expert advice on complying with employment legislation.

This article has been adapted from Lawpack’s Employment Law Made Easy.