Your Employment Contract; the contention

I know this might sound very basic but it’s important for me to state it here. An Employment Contract is simply an agreement between you and your employer setting out the terms and conditions of engagement. It’s a legal document that is used as a point of reference in instances of labour or industrial complaints. Some employees get jittery when issued with an Employment Contract and argue that if it’s written down, it will be too binding. Well, even if it is not written down, it is still binding.

There are three types of contracts; written, verbal and implied. The first two are self explanatory. As for the third one, it is based on assumptions. For instance, if come and start working in your company even though you didn’t formally hire me and you do not stop me and you proceed to pay my salary for say the next 3yrs then one day wake up and claim that I’m not your employee, you’d have gone against the implied contract we entered into. That I worked for you for that long and you paid me in exchange even though we’ve never sat down to discuss the terms simply means that we were in some form of agreement.

There are two aspects of an employment contract that have continued to be contentious between employers and employees; annual leave and probation. This is what Part V, Section 28 1 (a) of the Employment Act 2007 says about annual leave; ‘An employee shall be entitled after every twelve consecutive months of service with his employer to not less than twenty one working days of leave with full pay‘. What this simply means is that for every completed month, an employee earns 1.75leave days. In essence, an employee begins to accrue leave immediately they get employed and NOT after they complete their probation. It therefore means that I were to apply for 1day after the first month of service, I’d have rightfully earned it. Company policies however vary of how this leave is taken. That’s why in most employment contracts, it will be indicated that leave will be granted in agreement between the employer and the employee. There are companies that grant express leave; the 21days run consecutively while others, due to the nature of work would like employees to take their leaves in bits.

On matters probation, Part VI, Section 42, 2 & 3 of the Employment Act 2007 says the following; ‘2 – A probation period shall not be more than six months but it may be extended for further period of not more than six months with the agreement of the employee. 3 – No employer shall employ an employee under a probationary contract for more than the aggregate period provided under section 2‘. There is the part of the employment contract where employers indicate that upon successful completion of the probation period, a confirmation letter will be issued to the employee. Then they proceed not to issue this confirmation letter because of one reason or the other.

Let’s be clear about something here, the minute as an employer you fail to issue this confirmation letter and does not also inform the employee in writing that their probation has been extended for a given period of time, what you have implied as an employer is that the employee has been confirmed into employment. Your silence in essence means ‘yes’. Therefore in future should you claim that the employee was still under probation even though the six months had elapsed, you’d be pushing the envelope.

As an employee, it is important that you read that Contract once issued to you and ensure you seek clarification on areas of contention as much as possible. As for employers, remember that there is the law and then there is policy. Company policy does not supersede the law. Be advised accordingly!