The Benefits of Contract of Employment
The contract of employment in Irish employment legislation is probably one of the most valuable documents available to the employer and the employee alike.
A well written contract of employment will cover all aspects of the employment relationship and in doing so, will help eliminate the friction which can occur when problems are not dealt with.
Take something as simple as a retirement age. If none is mentioned in the contract, and you let a worker go because they have reached a certain age, you will be guilty of discrimination in respect of that person's age, and will be facing the prospect of having to pay compensation, and other remedies.
Let's look at why you need a contract of employment, can you change the terms to reflect changing needs in the business and related topics.
Why do I, as an employer, need to provide a contract of employment ?
There is no legal obligation to provide a written contract of employment. The Terms of Employment (Information ) Act 1994 places an obligation on the employer to give an employee a written statement of certain terms of employment within 2 months of starting work. For more click here
UPDATE : CHANGE TO LEGISLATION ON 1st MARCH 2019 See here for more
This covers many of the areas contained in a contract of employment in Ireland, but it does not include everything. In simple, practical terms, if you have to go to the trouble of providing the above terms, why not include everything and reduce the risk of being sued?
As a busy business person, you know the value of making best use of your time. When you start a job, would you leave it unfinished halfway through? That's why it makes sense to put all the applicable terms and conditions of employment into the contract at the same time, and reduce the risk of problems arising in the future. The employee will be content to know that the contract contains a list of problem solving procedures which they can follow in the event of a difficulty arising. It will also let them know what is expected from them. This sets a good foundation for the working relationship. If you fail to address problem issues in this way, you may lose control over them, should they arise in the future.
Can I change the terms of employment to reflect the changing needs of the business?
This depends on the contract. If it is expressly agreed in the contract that you may change the terms, then you can, where the change is necessary and reasonable.
In cases where there is any ambiguity, then you can't.
Where there is no clear contractual right to vary the terms of employment, then you have to get the employees consent to the change.
In many cases this consent may be implied. For example, where an employee has been clearly notified, and works under the new terms, he may be deemed to have accepted the change. This is very dependent on the circumstances of each individual case, and we cannot generalise. You should seek advice prior to implementing any unilateral changes to an employees contract of employment.
Clear communication with employees is essential in order to gain support for the proposed changes. Explain the need for the changes and the benefits accruing.
Can other documents form part of terms of employment?
Yes. The wording of the advertisement for the job, can form part of the contract of employment. The job offer letter can also for part of the contract. You should be very careful when drafting the wording of this letter. A badly worded letter has been held to offer a term of employment which exceed the probationary period and therefore the employee was unfairly dismissed when their employment was terminated during the probationary period.
You will need the employee's written consent to take up references and medical reports.
Is there a DIY solution to drafting a contract of employment ?
Yes. We advise you to get help from our experts. However if you want to do it yourself you can download our updated employment contract document, together with our simple guide to completing it . You can opt to have the completed document reviewed by one of our experts for peace of mind. Just click on the blue button to view our selection of employment law documents to help reduce your legal expenses.
The key message
Spend a little time and money now and save a lot of time, money and aggravation later.
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