An basic employment contract – what to expect
If you agree to work for someone, and that person agrees to pay you for this work, then you and the employer have entered into a contract of employment. You are called the employee.
The type of work that you must do, hours of work, wages, etc. are all part of your agreement with your employer. These are called terms and conditions of employment. They are express terms of the contract.
Even if you and the employer did not talk about some terms and conditions of employment, for example, taking annual leave and it is the custom that all employees take annual leave, then you can also take annual leave. This is part of your contract, even if you did not talk about it. These are implied terms of the contract.
The law says that a contract does not h ave to be in writing. If two people speak and they agree about the contract, then this contract is called a verbal contract. A verbal contract is also legal and enforceable.
A written contract is better. If all the conditions of the contract are written on a piece of paper, and the employer signs the paper, then you have proof of what was agreed. This is useful if ever there is a dispute about what was agreed between you and the employer.
Based on Section 29 of the Basic Conditions of Employment Act (BCEA), anyone who works for you - whether they are full - time, contractors or temporary workers - must r eceive a document containing certain information regarding the conditions of their employment.
A contract can take the form of a letter of appointment or you can create something more formal and suited to your business. By getting your employee to sign the document, you can avoid disputes about whether or not it was given and what it contains.
Information that must appear in an employment contract includes:
Employer and worker d etails - employer's full name; employer's address; worker's name; and w orker's occupation, or a brief description of the work .
Employment details - place/s of work; date of employment; and working hours and days of work
Payment details : salary or wage, or the rate and method of calculating wages; rate for overtime; any other cash payments; any payments in kind and their value; frequency of payment; and any deductions.
Leave: any leave the worker is entitled to. This can include sick leave, annual leave or family responsibility leave.
Notice/contract period: period of notice required for termination or period of contract .
The law requires that the contents of the contract must be explained to the employee in a language that he or she understands.
You must also update this employment document and provide the employee with a new copy when: the law changes; you and your employee agree to changes in the terms and conditions; and you increase the employee's pay or benefits. In this regard, you can simply add a supplementary letter to the original contract .
A contract of employment must comply with terms and conditions of employment in the Basic Conditions of Employment Act (BCEA), Bargaining Council Agreement or collective agreement or Sectorial determination (depending on what the employee is covered by), and any other laws which protect employees such as the Labour Relations Act and the Occupational Health and Safety Act. If a contract breaks any of these protective laws, it is not enforceable unless the conditions are more favourable to the employee.
If an employee is covered by the BCEA, terms and conditions of employment in the BCEA override those in any contract of employment which are less favourable to the employee than those in the BCEA. In other words the contract cannot be less favourable to the employee than the conditions laid do wn in the law.
Date: 14th February 2014
Legislation: Basic Conditions of Employment Act (BCEA)
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