Why written employment contracts matter
Workforce Guardian routinely represent employers who've become involved in disputes with current or former employees, and the one thing that's almost always missing is a clear, mutually-signed and fully-compliant contract.
Just imagine how much time, money and distress could be saved by key terms of the employer/employee relationship being put in writing and signed off by both parties.
Below, we take a look at why written employment contracts matter to you.
1. Contracts Create Certainty
Good contracts help avoid misunderstandings and ensure you and your employees are on the same page from day one. For example, a contract that clearly confirms a worker's wage/salary and employment status (i.e. casual or permanent) will go a long way towards avoiding problems down the track.
2. Written Agreements May Be Required
Although there is no legal requirement for full employment contracts to be issued to employees, many Modern Awards require certain employment-related matters to be recorded in writing. By far the best place to record these mandatory details is in the contract of employment itself.
3. Contracts Help Ensure Fair Work Compliance
When clients approach us asking for help with a tricky employee issue or with a claim already before the Commission the first thing we'll always request is a copy of the employee's contract of employment. Many of the contracts we subsequently receive contain terms which are inconsistent with the National Employment Standards (NES), applicable Modern Award(s) or other parts of the Fair Work Act 2009.
It's critical to remember that you cannot enforce a contractual term (whether it's a written or verbal contract) if that term is inconsistent with the requirements imposed by the NES, Awards or other Acts. As I'm sure you're already well aware, Australia's employment laws are extremely complex and are constantly revised. As a result, it's important to take time to ensure your contracts are consistent with current legislation.
4. Contracts Protect Employers
The NES, Modern Awards, and other employment-related 'instruments' all contain details of employee rights and entitlements. Good employment contracts will help level the playing field by including clauses which also impose obligations and responsibilities upon employees. Contracts can also reference your workplace policies and procedures, thereby making it much easier for you to take disciplinary action if an employee doesn't follow your rules.
We really can't over-emphasise the importance of good contracts.