Breach of Contract Claims
As discussed in our other employment pages, certain basic terms of the employment contract should be put in writing and given to the employee within a certain period of starting employment. The employment contract does not just arise in written terms however, and can also arise or be amended by oral agreement, business practice or conduct. Of course, if changes occur in this way, it is unsurprising that the current contractual terms become harder to keep track of and more likely that breaches may therefore occur, possibly unintentionally.
If an employer does not comply with the contractual terms it can give rise to a claim by employees for damages. Some examples of the most common breaches of contract are:
- unlawful deduction of wages;
- failure to provide or pay the correct holiday entitlement;
- failure to give or pay the correct notice period;
- failure to follow procedure (e.g. disciplinary/grievance procedure);
- failure to provide maternity/paternity leave;
- working time regulations (insufficient breaks, working too many hours per week).
On the other hand, if an employee does not comply with the employment contract, the most common claims which are experienced are:
- over payment, resulting in a debt claim for repayment to the employer;
- breach of confidentiality obligations;
- breach of post termination restrictive covenants (for example, preventing an employee from working for a competitor for 3 months following termination of employment);
- failure to follow procedures (for example reporting to work during sickness);
- failure to return company property;
- failing to provide the correct notice period.
We can help to reduce the risk of such claims being necessary if you simply contact us for assistance. Our team can review the employment contract and ensure that you fully understand your obligations and rights under the contract.
Further, we can assist you in determining whether any changes have been made to the written contract by oral agreement, custom or practice.
Breach of contract claims can be time consuming and expensive, particularly when relating to breach of confidentiality and restrictive covenants. Unlike claims brought in the Employment Tribunal, a breach of contract claim brought in the civil courts may entitle the winning party to recover their legal costs, thereby effectively doubling the legal costs the losing party will have to pay. You must consider however, whether the person you are seeking to claim against has the means to pay even if you win, as otherwise, your claim could effectively be worthless.
Not sure whether to proceed? Our professionals are on hand to discuss the options with you and help you make the right choice for you, as employee or employer, to suit your circumstances.