The relationship between an employer and employee should be, and is usually, contained in the employee’s contract of employment. The contents of this contract of employment should include the following protections in favour of the employee:
- The Nature of the Employment – The contract of employment should clearly state the exact nature of the employment and the duties expected to be carried out by the employee. As much as possible, the contract of employment should spell out the exact functions to be carried out by the employee. This protects the employee from being used to perform duties outside the agreed functions. An employer cannot force an employee to do things outside the purview of his/her employment under the contract of employment.
- Termination of Employment – The contract of employment should state clearly the circumstances and procedures for termination of employment. There have been unfortunate instances of people having their employment suddenly terminated without reason, prior notice or compensation particularly in the private sector. Where there is no contract of employment stating circumstances and procedures for termination, some employers take advantage of this. Every employee should have a contract of employment listing circumstances that would result in the termination of employment, the proper steps to be taken by the terminating party (notices, etc) and compensation (if any) to be paid the employee in certain circumstances of termination. Breach of any of these terms allows an employee grounds to sue for unlawful termination of employment. If the contract is for a fixed term, the date when it expires should be clearly stated.
- Work Hours – The contract of employment should clearly state the working hours expected of the employee. The contract should specify the number of hours the employee is expected to work (e.g. 9am- 5pm) and the days the employee is expected to work (e.g. Monday – Friday every week). Where this clause is entered into a contract of employment, an employer cannot force the employee to come to work at any time or day not provided for in the contract. It is not uncommon for there to be another clause providing for where an employee is required to work outside official office hours that there would be some form of compensation more commonly known as “overtime” pay.
- Remuneration and Calculation of Wages – The contract of employment should clearly state the remuneration or salary the employee will receive while in employment as well as when the payments will be made (e.g. every Friday, last day of each month, last Friday of each month, etc.) The remuneration clause protects the employee from being shortchanged by some unscrupulous employers who may decide to pay the employee less than what was agreed for their services. The remuneration clause of the contract of employment should expressly state how the employee’s wages is calculated particularly where the employee works on commission. A clause should also be added stating circumstances that should be met for increase in wages or salary.
Every person about to enter paid employment should request a copy of their contract of employment before committing themselves to make sure their interests are protected and make sure the contract is properly signed.