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What Can You Do If Your Employer Is In Breach Of Contract?

What Can You Do If Your Employer Is In Breach Of Contract?

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“Always read the fine print.” Isn’t that what they say? It’s a vicious, dog-eat-dog business world and more often than not, it’s the underdog who suffers. However, if that underdog is properly prepared and has a few tricks up his or her sleeve, the tables could be turned.

If you feel as though you’ve been mistreated by your employer and they are in breach of your employment contract, you can take action. With the right knowledge and the proper foresight, you should never need to worry about being swindled by your boss or company.

It’s a sad fact, but most workers are simply not aware of their contractual rights. They very rarely take the time to read through their employment contracts. This is a dramatic oversight that is easily rectified by employees simply taking the time to read what they are agreeing to.

What is classified as a breach of contract?

As with any formal contracts, contracts of employment are legally binding documents with the express purpose of establishing a written agreement between you and your employer. If any of the terms of that contract are broken, then it’s considered a breach of contract. The problems arise however when the breaches are against terms that were not written down as they are far more difficult to prove.

For this reason, it is always advisable that you make sure every term you negotiate with your employer is written down in your contract. It might seem a little paranoid at the time but it’s better to be safe than sorry.

What can I do if my contract has been breached?

If you think your employer is in breach of your contract then first, check the hard copy over and make absolutely sure. There could be clauses written in ‘legalese’ that you may not understand (indeed, that’s essentially the point of legalese) so you might need to hire a lawyer or ask a friend from a legal profession to help.

First, you should take the problem to your employer and attempt to sort it out face-to-face. If this fails, you could try some form of mediation through an agency such as Acas (the ‘Advisory’, ‘Conciliation’ and ‘Arbitration’ Service) but if neither of these routes bare fruit, you may be forced to take legal action.

Common breaches of contract that you could be able to claim compensation for include (but are not limited to):

  • A non-payment of wages or travel expenses owed.
  • A non-payment of holiday or sick pay that was negotiated in your employment contract.
  • Changes to the terms and conditions of your contract  that you didn’t sign off on (for example if a term of your contract is that you are given a company car and the car is taken away from you).
  • A non-payment during your ‘notice period’ (the period between handing in your notice and leaving a job).

Remember that not all of the terms of your employment will be written into your employment contract. Some of the terms of your right by law and some of the terms such as work hours and the job description itself might be found on the initial job advertisement, so remember not to throw that away! Payslips, staff handbooks and other particulars can also be used as legally binding documents in the case of a contractual breach.

Loopholes

It’s  rarely straightforward when you’re dealing with matters such as these, and as you would expect there are numerous commonly held misconceptions and ‘loopholes’ that employers can and will use in order to legitimise their contractual breach.

You may (for example) think that it is not in your employer’s power to force you to relocate against your will but there could be something called a ‘mobility clause’ in your contract that states your employer has the right to move you and avoid paying you if you refuse. There are also workarounds that they’ll use when it comes to bonuses and countless other specifics, so make sure that you have at least a vague knowledge of what you’re signing before you sign it.

Really it’s as simple as looking before you sign, something far too few people appear willing to do. If you’re not familiar with the terms of your employment contract, get on it! Familiarising yourself with it will make dealing with your employer far less stressful and if you’re really clever, you might even be able to renegotiate terms in your favour! Stranger things have happened in business.


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Amy Elliott This article was written by Amy from de Poel. Amy has worked in recruitment for a number of years and likes to share her advice and ideas by writing blog posts for her company, temporary staffing providers de Poel.