Breach of Contract 

What can you do as an employee? 

A breach of contract can be very serious. It could result in you being unfairly or wrongfully dismissed, having unlawful deductions made from your wages or changes to your entitlements to name a few. 
If you think there has been a breach of contract by you or your employer you should first try to resolve this with them directly. Remember, they have a duty to provide a grievance procedure. Make use of it. It will help you later if you end up at an Employment Tribunal. It will also help you keep within the time deadlines.  
In most cases, you must make your application to an employment tribunal within three months minus one day of the date when the event you are complaining about last happened. 
You can always seek legal advice before you approach your employer. It will increase your confidence in any discussions and probably costs less than you think. 

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The Employment Contract 

There are many Acts of Parliament (such as the Employment Rights Act 1996 and the Equality Act 2010) that affect employees and workers in an employment law context, but the law of contract also applies to those who are employed. 
Laws relating to unfair dismissal, redundancy and discrimination are a relatively recent development. The law of contract has been in existence for considerably longer and ‘modern’ contract law has its origins in the 19th Century. Much of the law of contracts has developed through cases brought before the civil courts. It has a significant role to play in the employment law field. 

Why is the law of contract important? 

Every employee who works for an employer has a contract of employment. The express terms of the contract and those implied into it by law affect the employer/employee relationship significantly. 

How can a contract be created? 

A written contract may be given to an employee before or when an employee starts work. But it doesn’t matter that an employer may not have provided a written contract; a contract will still exist. The law implies certain terms. Others may have been agreed between the employer and the employee in discussion, perhaps at interview (an oral agreement is just as binding as a written one). A letter of offer of employment may refer to terms that are part of the contract. The way in which the parties conduct themselves could indicate what they have agreed. 

What impact will a contract have? 

The contract will have real implications that affect the employer/employee relationship. 
The contract, in conjunction with employment legislation, will affect how the employment relationship operates in practice. It will contain many of the parties’ rights and obligations in relation to one another. Some of them express, some implied by law. 
Breach of contract may give rise to claims and remedies. The law of constructive dismissal, for example, is based on the principles of breach of contract. 
The contract may contain a detailed job description which will have a direct bearing on what an employer can require an employee to do during employment; what the employee may refuse to do and will be important in redundancy cases where an employee’s job is said to be at risk. 
The contract will set out important matters like rates of pay, hours of work, holiday entitlement, benefits that accrue to the employee during employment such as a pension. It may incorporate disciplinary and grievance procedures. It may include express duties of fidelity, provisions about confidential information and intellectual property. 
The contract may set a limited-term for the duration of employment. It will contain information about notice that the parties are required to give to each other to bring the employment to an end. 
The contract may dictate how and when work is to be done by the employee including, say, a provision for shift work. The contact might say that the employee could be required to work in a different geographical location – perhaps some way distant from the original place of work. 
Some contracts include the right of an employer to insist that the employee undergoes a medical examination. A right to search employees is sometimes contained within the contract. 
Some contracts restrict an employee to working only for the employer during employment. The employer may reserve a right to put an employee on garden leave. The contract may contain restrictive covenants that attempt to protect the employer from unfair competition from an employee when the relationship ends. 

A breach of contract 

A breach of contract can occur in many ways. A failure to pay an employee for work done is an obvious example. Unlawfully deducting money from wages is another. An attempt by an employer to vary a contract of employment without agreement will be a breach of contract. Suspending an employee without having a contractual right to suspend will also be a breach. 

Wrongful dismissal 

Wrongful dismissal is a dismissal in breach of contract. It’s important not to confuse the term with unfair dismissal which has a different meaning. 
Wrongful dismissal may occur where an employer fails to give the correct period of contractual notice to an employee thus giving rise to a claim for breach of contract. However, if the employee has been employed for less than two years he or she may not have a claim for unfair dismissal. 
Conversely, an employee who has worked for more than two years may receive the correct notice to end employment (no breach of contract and no claim for wrongful dismissal), but unless the employer’s reason for ending employment is one of the potentially fair reasons set out by statute, the dismissal may be unfair. You can find more information about wrongful dismissal here

Get in touch 

Do you have a legal matter you'd like to discuss with us? Get in touch using the details below or use the form here and a member of our team will be in touch to discuss your enquiry. 
Phone: 0121 452 5130 
Address: Spencer Shaw Solicitors Limited 
Vancouver House, 111 Hagley Road, Edgbaston, Birmingham B16 8LB 
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