This time last year the phenomenon of #me too was unleashed to great effect dividing opinion as to the dividing line between harmless flirtation and the far more sinister predatorial behaviour targeting the workplace and subjecting men and women to the unwanted sexual attention that undermines dignity at work.
So many column inches have already been devoted to the #me too commentary that to join the bandwagon of commentators I would consider to be somewhat, me too and so the subject of this article is an attempt to answer a much more mundane question that frequently occupies the thoughts of employers, is it necessary for my employees to sign their contracts of employment and what are the risks to an employer of a failure to obtain that signature?
The simple answer to this question is yes. Obtaining an employee’s signature on a contract of employment will generally go a long way in allowing the employer to demonstrate that the employee agreed with the content, especially where the contract contains terms which may be considered to be detrimental to the employee. A good example of this is where the contract seeks to prevent the employee after the employment relationship has ended from joining a competitor, setting up a competing business, poaching colleagues or interfering with supplier relationships. These terms are generally referred to as Post Termination Restrictions.
Employers often suggest that if an employee continues to work after a contract has been given to them then this is evidence that they agree to and accept the terms, even if they have not signed the written contract that has been given to them. This view is not entirely accurate and is likely only to be valid where the terms contained within the contract have an immediate impact on the employee.
In the case of post termination restrictions the impact on the employee is only triggered after the employment relationship has ended. This is the point at which the employee is likely to say that the reason the contract is unsigned is because they did not agree with its terms. In addition it is common for employment contracts to contain a provision which states that the employee confirms understanding and acceptance of the terms by signature. Such a clause is likely to seriously undermine an employer’s ability to place reliance on the unsigned document.
It is often the case that employees with long service have more than one role within the employer’s business either through promotion or lateral moves. Where this happens employers should always ensure that the change is reflected in new contracts being issued, which are tailored to the new circumstances and that a signed copy is retained on record in the employee’s personnel file.
In summary, there are compelling reasons for employers to ensure that all employees sign their contracts of employment but it is even more important in the case of senior employees whose contracts are likely to contain clauses where the impact is only triggered after the employment has ended.
Where the role or conditions of employment changes issue new contracts that reflect the changed position. A failure to do so may seriously undermine an employer’s attempt to protect its business, especially after the employment has ended. In the land of the contract the signature is king!
For further information or assistance contact a member of the Employment Team at FG Solicitors. firstname.lastname@example.org or 01604 871143