Anyone who works for an employer for a regular wage or salary automatically has a contract of employment. While the complete contract does not have to be in writing, an employee must be given a written statement of terms of employment within 2 months of starting work - see 'Rules' below.
The majority of employees work under open-ended contracts of employment. In other words, the contract continues until such time as the employer or employee ends it. Many other employees however, work under fixed-term or specified-purpose contracts which are contracts which end on a specified date or when a specific task is completed.
The contract of employment will include some or all of the following elements (regardless of whether the employer and employee have specified them or not):
In addition, custom and practice in a particular workplace may form part of a contract. An example would be a particular level of overtime pay for employees.
The Terms of Employment (Information) Acts 1994–2012 provide that an employer is obliged to provide an employee with a written statement of terms of employment within the first 2 months of the commencement of employment. However, this requirement does not apply to an employee who has been employed for less than a month. You can find a sample written statement of terms of employment (pdf) on workplacerelations.ie.
The statement of terms must include the following information:
* In the case of these items instead of giving each employee the details in writing, the employer may refer an employee to other documents, for example, a pension scheme booklet or a collective agreement, provided that the employee has easy access to such documents.
The statement of terms must indicate the reference period being used by the employer for the purposes of the calculation of the employee's entitlements under the National Minimum Wage Act 2000. (Under that Act the employer may calculate the employee's minimum wage entitlement over a reference period that is no less than one week and no greater than one month).
While the statement of these terms must be signed and dated by the employer, there is no requirement for the employee to sign it. The employer must keep a copy during the period of the employee’s employment and for at least a year after it ceases.
The Workplace Relations Commission has a Code of Practice: Grievance and Disciplinary Procedures which states that employers should have written grievance and disciplinary procedures and they should give employees copies of these at the start of their employment. Under the Unfair Dismissals Acts 1977–2007 employers are required to give the employee in written notice of the procedures to be followed before an employee is dismissed. This must be done within 28 days of entering the contract of employment.
In recent times, some employers are adding in specific provisions in contracts of employment that limit the ability of employees to work in a certain sector, with certain suppliers, clients, for a period following termination of employment. (For example, it may specifically state that the employee cannot work in a certain sector, with or for suppliers or clients of the former employer.) There is nothing in employment law that strictly forbids this, but there is no provision in employment law that allows this either.
Essentially, this is an issue of contract law - that is, the contract of employment signed and agreed between the employer and employee. If you have any concerns about this issue, you are strongly advised to seek legal advice from a competent legal professional in advance of signing this contract. However, even if the contract is signed, you are always free to seek such legal advice. Solicitors' fees can vary widely so shop around and obtain some quotes for legal advice before you proceed.
The contract can include a probationary period and can allow for this period to be extended. The Unfair Dismissals Acts 1997–2007 will not apply to the dismissal of an employee during a period at the beginning of employment when he/she is on probation or undergoing training provided that:
The above exclusion from the Acts will not apply if the dismissal results from trade union membership or activity, pregnancy-related matters, or entitlements under the maternity protection, parental leave, adoptive leave and carer's leave legislation.
Changes to your contract of employment can occur due to a change in the law, but otherwise, changes must be agreed between your employer and yourself. The requirement for both the employer's and the employee's consent to changes in the terms of the contract is part of contract law.
You can find out more about your employment rights in this explanatory booklet on the Terms of Employment (Information) Acts (pdf) or from Workplace Relations Commission's Information and Customer Services - see 'Where to apply' below.
If your employer fails to give you written details of the terms of your employment, you can bring a complaint using the online complaint form available on workplacerelations.ie. You must make the complaint while you are in employment or within 6 months of leaving your employment.
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If you have a question relating to this topic you can contact the Citizens Information Phone Service on 0761 07 4000 (Monday to Friday, 9am to 8pm) or you can visit your local Citizens Information Centre.