Breach of contract solicitors offering advice when it counts

A breach of contract is a serious employment law issue which may result in an employer dismissing a staff member or an employee resigning and then claiming constructive dismissal. An employment contract is a legally binding contract, which is why it’s so important that before signing both employers and employees fully understand: 

  • what they are agreeing to
  • what actions would be considered a breach of contract, and 
  • what  are the potential consequences

This can be a particularly confusing area of employment law, so let’s take a look at some of the main points relating to breach of employment contracts. 

What is a breach of contract?

If any of the terms of an employment contract are broken – either by the employer or by an employee this is referred to as a breach of contract.

Examples of an employer breaching the terms of a contract could be: 

  • Unlawful reduction of staff pay
  • Changes to working hours and other terms of the employment contract without approval
  • Dismissal
  • Not paying for travel expenses, holiday entitlements and contractual sick pay
  • Withdrawing an unconditional job offer after the candidate has accepted
  • Failure to follow appropriate procedures for grievances, disciplinary actions, and dismissals
  • Varying the terms of an employment contract without the employee’s consent, unless the employer is allowed to unilaterally make changes. Any changes would still need to be reasonable.

Examples of an employee breaching the terms and conditions of their employment contract include:

  • Resigning without giving the appropriate notice period
  • Breaching restrictive covenants.
  • Gross misconduct.

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What happens if an employee breaches a contract? 

If an employee has breached a term of their contract, the practical initial response of the employer may be to resolve the matter informally.

An employer can sue for damages, but only if they can prove the business has suffered financial losses resulting from the actions of the employee. So, for example if an employee doesn’t work their notice period and it leads to financial losses, then an employer can sue for the losses.

If an employee breaches their restrictive covenants by going to work for a competitor or setting up a similar business, then an employer can apply to the Court for an injunction to stop them.

If you’re in any doubt about your rights as an employer, please get in touch. As experienced employment law solicitors, we work with a number of clients from High Wycombe, Marlow and the surrounding areas helping them deal with issues such as these. 

What’s the process if an employer is in breach of contract? 

If an employee thinks there has been a breach of contract, the first thing they should do is try and sort out the problem directly with the employer. If this course of action fails, before taking legal action, it’s worthwhile trying some form of mediation. This is the process whereby an independent mediator facilitates an agreement between the two parties by:

  • Finding a solution that everyone agrees to
  • Improving communications between both sides
  • Stopping more grievances being raised.

Some companies will have their own trained mediators, but professional mediation services are also offered by organisations such as Acas

If the dispute cannot be resolved, then it may be necessary to take legal action. A breach of contract claim can only be made to an employment tribunal if the employee no longer works for the business. If they are still working for the employer, they have to make a breach of contract claim to a court.

If you’re in a situation where you think your employer is in breach of contract, and are based around Marlow or the surrounding areas,  please get in touch.  As experienced employment lawyers, we can help you with all the legal complexities, confirm if there has been a breach and advise what you should do next.

What about Settlement Agreements? 

A settlement agreement is a legally binding contract between employer and employee which settles claims that the employee may have against their employer. Although the specific terms and conditions of the agreement may vary, all settlement agreements will see some kind of financial compensation awarded to the employee. In exchange, the employee must agree not to pursue any claims they might have brought against the employer.

Helpings businesses around Marlow and the local area

Whether you’re a Marlow business looking for advice about employment contracts, a senior executive who thinks their employer is in breach of contract, or are simply looking for Marlow solicitors, we would be delighted to help you out. Please get in touch today for an initial discussion.