Breach of contract is a legal term used to describe circumstances where a party takes action which conflicts or contradicts with the agreed terms of employment between an employee or employer.
Either the employee or employer can be in breach of contract.
The circumstances for a breach of contract will vary from case to case, and the resulting course of action will depend on a large number of factors.
We’ll provide you, an employee, with an overview of information outlining what an employment contract is, what a breach of contract may look like, walk you through some common examples, and talk about the process.
In addition, we’ll cover how our experienced solicitors can help you throughout this type of employment dispute with your employer.
Definition of an Employment Contract
An employment contract can take multiple forms and will be considered to be valid if it’s a written document, verbal agreement, or even an implied contract. Most employers will usually give you a contract of some type to sign that gives you details on the roles and responsibilities of the job. Indeed, by law, employers are required to give you certain information in writing within two months of you starting work (and, from April 2020 this must be given before you start work).
Regardless of what form it takes, in the eyes of the law a contract of employment exists between employer and employee from the moment the employee unconditionally accepts an offer of employment.
The specific contract will vary from business to business but generally covers all of the conditions of employment, the job roles and responsibilities, your duties within the role, and may clarify your rights.
Under an employment contract you and your employer agree to maintain ongoing trust and confidence through co-operation, to act in good faith towards each other, and to take reasonable care to ensure health and safety in the workplace.
What is a Breach of Contract?
A breach of contract can happen when a person, either the employee or employer, acts in a way that breaks the trust or agreements outlined in an Employment Contract.
It is important to keep in mind that the terms of an employment contract can change during the course of your employment, and that in some cases you may have inadvertently accepted the change by continuing to work.
You should seek legal advice if:
- You feel like you’re being treated unfairly at any point
- You’re being asked to do something that is wrong or illegal
- You’re being asked to do something that is beyond the scope of the terms of your employment
Breaches of contract are categorised as a type or form of employment dispute which means they are time sensitive. This is why it’s best to speak with a solicitor as soon as you think there may be a violation.
What are common examples of a Breach of Contact?
At this point, you might be wondering, what does a breach of contract look like?
A breach of contract may result from (but isn’t limited to):
- An action or behaviour
- A request
- A verbal change
- A written change
- A failure to follow an outlined procedure
- A failure to give proper notification
- A failure to get the proper approval from the other party
A breach of contract may not involve all of these factors, but will typically involve at least one. We’ve broken down these even further to give you an idea of common scenarios for employees or employers that are in violation of an employment contract.
As an employee you may find yourself in a breach of contract for any number of reasons. Typically, we see employee-focused disputes arise from breaches of confidentiality, resigning without giving proper notice, or even going to work for a competitor.
These situations may escalate further if the employer can prove, or may try to prove, that they’ve suffered a financial loss to the business. And it may be cited in the dispute as a reason (or part of a reason) for your dismissal.
Your employer or previous employer may try to seek a claim for damages against you if you’ve not properly performed your duties, resigned without giving proper notice, or you are responsible for any other action or inaction which results in any financial loss to the business.
We recommend you speak with a solicitor for advice on your working rights, as well as further insights on how to handle this type of situation, and to answer any questions you have about the process.
Your employer can be in breach of contract if they do something that doesn’t match what you’ve agreed under the terms of your employment contract.
We are frequently involved in cases where the employer has failed to give an employee proper notice when dismissing them. Sometimes, it’s a genuine oversight, other times it could be the result of a heated exchange. But that’s why the law is there – to protect employees from unfair or unreasonable actions from the employer.
Increasingly, we’re seeing rising numbers of cases which stem from an employer making changes to an employment contract and failing to properly notify employees.
These changes may come in written amendments or verbal changes to working hours, job duties, or rate of pay.
In these instances please contact a solicitor right away as they can advise you on the best course of action. This is important because if you continue working even if you object to the changes, it might be considered acceptance of the new terms by the employer and even the court.
Where are Breach of Contracts handled?
Depending on your case and the type of claim you’re seeking, there’s a chance you might have to go to both an Employment Tribunal and a Court.
It’s important to note that you can only make a breach of contract claim to an Employment Tribunal if you no longer work for your employer. If you’re still working for your employer you’ll need to handle the Breach of Contract claim in Court.
Your Solicitor will advise you on which route is best suited for your specific case once they know all of the details relating to your specific situation.
How can a Farleys’ Solicitor help me?
At Farleys, we provide our clients with expert services and friendly, straight-talking legal advice, all at a fair cost!
Employment law is highly complicated and it’s often difficult to ensure you’re taking the best course of action without legal advice. We can give you expert legal advice specific to your situation and employment contract.
Our clients love that at Farleys, we’ll be there every step of the way! We can answer your questions, advise you on the best course of action, prepare and submit court documents on your behalf, and represent you when the time comes.
If you need to speak with one of our specialist breach of Employment contract solicitors about a possible employment dispute, or you’d like more information on our services, there are a number of ways to get in touch. Feel free to give us a call on 0845 050 1958, chat with an expert, send us an email, or visit our offices.