Contracts of Employment
A contract of employment exists where an offer of employment at a given rate of pay has been accepted. This does not have to be agreed in writing to be enforceable but the terms will be clearer if they are put into writing. In Jersey law, the Employment Law 2003 states that an employee must be provided with a written statement (of the terms of their employment) not later than 4 weeks after employment begins. Even if the employment ends before 4 weeks is completed, an employee has the statutory right to ask for a copy of the written terms that would have applied.
Not all the terms in a written statement need to be contractual, but the statement should clearly indicate if any terms are intended to be non-contractual.
What do most contracts contain?
Some - or all - of the following:
- Express terms, which are specifically agreed
- Implied terms, which may include: Terms which are too obvious to need writing down, for example terms necessary to make a contract workable (eg a driver will need a current driving licence) - though it is usually best to write down such terms.
- Terms incorporated into individual contracts through such documents as collective agreements - that is agreements made between employer and trade union(s) acting on behalf of employees - or by reference to Staff Handbooks
- Terms imposed or implied by law (eg the right to a minimum period of notice)
Where are details about contracts contained?
Within 4 weeks of starting employment you should have your main contractual terms put into a document called a written statement of terms of employment. Other places where terms may be found include the company handbook and other company documents or collective agreements.
There are some specific particulars prescribed by law which need to be contained within the written statement of terms of employment. Others that are relevant to the organisation can also be included. A good rule of thumb is that terms that are important to either party should be treated in this way and put in writing.
How can contracts be changed?
The obvious way to do so is by agreement, either with individuals or by collective agreement, where such agreements form part of the contractual terms. It is not always a simple matter to obtain agreement, particularly if the change is potentially detrimental to workers. The best way to do so is through discussion - explaining why such changes are necessary, listening to and responding to any counter proposals, etc. For more information click here.
What happens if agreement cannot be reached?
Where agreement cannot be reached and the employer considers change to be essential then the employer may choose to either impose the change or to terminate the contract and offer new, revised, terms. Implementation of a change may be regarded as a breach of contract and could lead to court action or reference to the Tribunal in Jersey. Any change should be given to the employee in writing, within 4 weeks of the date of change, or the employee should have reasonable access to information about the change. Employers considering this form of action should take further advice in advance of carrying it out.
What are the consequences if an employee breaches their contract?
If an employer suffers a measurable financial loss because an employee breaches the contract of employment, then the employer is entitled to seek damages by making a claim of breach of contract.
The normal place for pursuing such a claim is the Royal Court or the Petty Debts Court depending on the value of the claim.
What are the consequences if an employer breaches an employee's contract?
If an employee suffers a measurable financial loss because the employer has breached the contract of employment, then the employee may be entitled to seek damages by making a breach of contract claim.
Under the provisions of the Employment Law 2003 an employee can pusue a claim up to £10,000 through the Employment Tribunal. Alternatively, a claim could be pursued in the Royal Court or the Petty Debts Court, again depending on the value of the claim.
Where can you get more information on contracts of employment?
For further details please contact JACS on 730503.