It’s surprising how often this query comes up. For many employers, especially those with a number of staff but without a dedicated HR person, it’s not unusual to find one or two members of staff never actually got round to signing their contract of employment.
So what happens when an employer come comes to try to enforce part of the contract? Can they rely on it? What are the legal implications?
The starting position is simple – if you sign the contract, you’re bound by it, even if you did not you read it (unless of course there has been some type of misrepresentation or fraud). But is the reverse true? Not necessarily.
What affects enforceability of an unsigned contract?
In looking to decide whether or not an unsigned contract is enforceable, the court will have a good look at the behaviour of both parties – in particular, has any money changed hands under the contract [ e.g. has a salary been paid?] and have employer and employee actually conducted any of the terms of the contract. If an employee has received a salary and if both employer and employee have been acting under the terms of the contract – it’s more likely that that contract of employed will be both valid and enforceable.
The term of the contract in question will also need to be both reasonable and fair, and it’s best if the employee has never objected to it.
In these circumstances, arguing that the contract is entirely enforceable is probably a very weak one, and the employer should be able to rely on the contract, even if it remained unsigned.
Having said that, the safest position is always to have a signed contract on file for each and every employee.
Our advice – if you have not already got one in place, construct a system to make sure that everyone signs their employment contract, and if you’re ever unsure about whether or not you can rely on an unsigned contract, speak to one of our specialist employment lawyers.
Looking for employment law advice you can rely on? Our employment lawyers can help
The expert lawyers here at Bonallack & Bishop can help employers and employees alike with all aspects of employment law. Get in touch today to find out more about how we can help you.
- Call the team on FREEPHONE 0800 1404544 or (01722) 422300, or
- Complete the enquiry form below.