An employment contract is an agreement between the employer and the employee, whereby the employee agrees to work under the employer’s direction and supervision in return for remuneration.
Even though an oral contract is binding, it is always a good idea to set out the terms and conditions in writing, as it is easier to settle any disputes when you can show what was originally agreed. An employer must anyway give the employee a written account of the terms and conditions of employment when the employment contract has not been made in writing.
An employer who deliberately withholds or otherwise fails to give the employee a written account of the key terms and conditions of employment is infringing the Employment Contracts Act.
The following points must be settled in an employment contract
- The parties to the agreement (name and address of the employer and employee)
- The length of any agreed trial period
- Whether the employment is open-ended or temporary, or a trainee position, etc.
- The objective reason for the time limit in temporary employment
- The date when the work begins, and the duration of any temporary employment
- The place where the work will be done
- The type of duties for which the employee was hired
- The pay, benefits in kind and payment period
- The working hours (avoid contracts with no guaranteed hours)
- Annual holiday and holiday bonus entitlement
- Sick pay arrangements
- The period of notice of termination
- The applicable collective agreement.
An employment contract may specify a trial period continuing for no more than the first six months of employment. A trial period in temporary employment may continue for no longer than half of the agreed employment period. The trial period may be prolonged by one month if the employee has been absent from work for 30 days due to illness or family leave.
Although both the employer and the employee may terminate an employment contract without notice during a trial period, the employer must have proper and objective grounds for doing so.