Where a person is engaged in employment for a regular wage or salary, a contract of employment is deemed to exist, regardless of whether that person has been supplied with a written statement of the terms and conditions of his/her employment.

What is Contained in a Contract of Employment?

Though a contract of employment may exist in circumstances where the employee has not received such a contract in writing, the Terms of Employment (Information) Act 1994 requires that every employee must receive a written statement setting out the following information:  the names of both employer and employee, the place of business of the employer, the place(s) of work, the title of the job, the nature of the work, the date of commencement of the contract, the duration of the contract in the case of temporary/fixed term  contracts, the rate of pay, whether the employee is to be remunerated weekly/monthly or otherwise, whether overtime is payable, whether sick pay is payable , details of pensions and notice periods in relation to termination of the contract.  This written statement must be provided to the employee within two months of commencement of employment.  An employer who fails to provide such a written statement may be required to pay the aggrieved employee compensation not exceeding four weeks’ pay.

A contract of employment may also provide for what is known as a “probationary period”. A probationary period is normally for a period of six months initially and may be extended to a period of nine months. A probationary period ,therefore, provides an employer with an opportunity to assess the employee and determine if he/she is suitable for the role.

In addition to the foregoing, it is strongly recommended by the Labour Relations Committee that a detailed grievance procedure and disciplinary procedure be provided for in every contract of employment.

Changes to a Contract of Employment:

It is a basic rule of contract law that the terms and conditions of a contract cannot be varied except by agreement of the parties to that contract. Therefore, changes to a contract of employment cannot be made by one party without the prior consent of the other party to the contract.  Terms and conditions of employment may also be varied due to a change in existing law or the introduction of a new law.

Terminating a Contract of Employment:

A contract of employment may be terminated for a number of reasons. The minimum notice an employer is required to give to terminate employment is governed by the Minimum Notice and Terms of Employment Acts 1973 to 2005 and is based on the length of time that the employee has been engaged by the employer. A contract of employment may provide for a longer notice period to be given to the employee but cannot provide for a notice period shorter than that prescribed by the Minimum Notice and Terms of Employment Acts 1973- 2005. However, it is noteworthy that, where there is gross misconduct on the part of the employee, the contract may be terminated immediately without notice.

Employees, before you sign on that dotted line, read your contracts of employment carefully!