Breach of Employment Contract Explained

Author:
David Hession
Employment Law Associate Solicitor
Date:
01/09/2020

A breach of an employment contract happens when either you or your employer breaks the terms of your contract of employment.

In England and Wales, an employment contract usually takes the form of  a legally binding document made between you and your employer. You are entitled by law to have your terms of employment set out in writing if you are an employee, worker or agency worker.   This is commonly referred to  as a ‘written statement of employment particulars’.

Your written statement of terms should include:

  • The identity of the parties;
  • Start date ;
  • Scale or rate of remuneration and intervals of pay;
  • Hours of work;
  • Any terms relating to:
    Holidays and holiday pay
    Sickness and sick pay
    Pensions and pension schemes
  • Length of notice;
  • Job title or brief description of work;
  • Place or places of work;
  • Details of any collective agreements; and
  • Details of the disciplinary dismissal and dismissal rules and grievance procedures.

There are a number of ways that your employer could break these terms. If you think they have, you should try to resolve the issue with them informally first. But if that doesn’t work, you should get legal advice as soon as possible.

For an initial consultation, contact one of our Employment Solicitors.

Call us on 08002605010 or request a callback and we will help you.

What Counts as a Breach of Employment Contract?

A breach of contract could happen if you or your employer breaks one of the terms of your employment, but it’s important to remember that you could also breach your contract. Your employer could claim against you for a breach of contract in the same way you could against them.

Some examples of how your employer could breach the terms of your employment contract are:

  • They didn’t pay your salary;
  • You were dismissed without notice or pay in lieu of notice;
  • They made changes to your terms and conditions that you didn’t agree to, such as changing your duties; and
  • They’ve withheld a contractual entitlement such as a company car.

My Contract Has Been Breached - What Should I Do?

If you think the terms of your contract of employment has been breached, you should check your contract and then raise it informally with your manager or with the HR department, if your employer has one.

It could be a simple misunderstanding, which is put right as soon as you raise the issue. In that case, you don’t need to take any more action.

But, if you raise a breach of contract issue and your employer doesn’t put it right, you should probably raise a grievance. This is a formal process of trying to raise and resolve a dispute with your employer.

Your employer will probably have a procedure in place outlining how to raise a grievance, who you should send it to and the complete grievance procedure. If your employer doesn’t have a formal grievance process, you can always get guidance from ACAS on what you should do if you want to get specialist legal advice you can speak to one of our Employment Law Solicitors. They could draft a formal grievance letter for you if you don’t feel confident doing this. We often work in the background for our clients, or we can contact your employer directly; on your behalf.

Legal Action for Breach of Employment Contract

You should think carefully before looking at taking legal action. Is it worth the time, stress and financial cost of legal action? This really depends on how serious the breach and how much of a financial impact the breach had on your life. 

You have two options for legal action and the time limits are different for each.

The first is to take your claim to an Employment Tribunal. You will only have 3 months less one day from the date of the breach (e.g. for unpaid wages, the date payment was not made) to make a claim. You will have to go through Early Conciliation with ACAS to try to resolve the issue before getting to Court. The time limit will be extended as you go through the Early Conciliation process. You don’t pay a fee to make a claim with the Employment Tribunal but the Tribunal can only award up to £25,000 in compensation arising from a breach of contract claim. However, you may be able to bring a claim for unpaid wages under a separate head of unlawful deduction of wages, which is not subject to the £25,000 cap.

Your other option is to use the Civil Court to make a breach of employment contract claim against your employer. The time limits in a Civil Court are much longer and you have 6 years from the date of the breach to make a claim. You will have to pay a Court fee based on the value of your claim.

You don’t have to have a minimum length of service to make a breach of contract claim.

Get Legal Advice from an Employment Solicitor

Our Employment Law Solicitors have many years of experience in helping people who’ve suffered from a breach of the terms of their employment contract.

If your contract has been breached, get specialist legal advice from one of our expert Solicitors who can explain your options and provide legal advice on the best route for you to take.

For an initial Consultation call our Employment Solicitors

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