Employment contracts form the basis of the employment relationship between an employer and employee, regulating the terms and conditions of employment.
At its most basic, if an offer of employment has been made and accepted, then a contract of employment has been created. Generally speaking however, it is preferable for the employer and employee to enter into a clear and concise written contract so as to minimise the risk of future misunderstandings and disputes.
Employment contracts will usually contain provisions such as:
- Starting date for employment
- Weekly hours
- Holiday entitlements
- Duration of probation period
Some employment contracts will also extend to conditions addressing:
- Ownership of intellectual property
- Restraint of trade clauses
- Warranties and undertakings (promises) provided by each party
- Detailed duties statement
- Meal breaks
- Accommodation and travel arrangements etc
It is generally accepted that the following implied terms will exist within every contract of employment:
- Duty of both parties to trust and cooperate with each other
- Duty of both parties to adhere to workplace health and safety
- Duty of both parties to act in good faith
- Duty for employees to obey reasonable instructions
- Duty for employer to pay wages in a timely fashion
The contract of employment provides many of the essential terms of employment. Additional terms of employment however may be contained within letters of offer, employment awards and company policies etc.
If your contract contains complex conditions such as those relating to restraint of trade and ownership of intellectual property rights, then it is a very good idea to have the contract reviewed by a lawyer so that you can fully understand the conditions that you are being asked to agree to.
If problematic conditions exist within a contract, it is preferable to address them prior to employment (when they can still be negotiated) rather than at the end of employment when good-will between parties may be lacking).