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Three steps to avoid employment contract disagreements with your employees

by , 13 January 2015
Many employers face disagreements with their employees about terms and conditions of employment.

And in most cases, these disagreements get ugly and turn into full blown legal disputes.

'What must I do so I don't get it wrong?' you ask.

Get the basics right.

Make sure you take the following three steps at the start of the employment relationship to avoid employment contract disagreements later on.

To avoid employment contract disagreements with your employees take these three steps

Experts behind the Labour Law for Managers Loose Leaf Service say you must:
Step 1: Design an employment agreement (whether it's in the form of a letter or contract) that complies with the law, but fits in with your business requirements.
Step 2: Make it a requirement for any person you hire to sign the contract or letter before they start to work for you.
The Basic Conditions of Employment Act (BCEA) makes it clear that you must give your employees the terms and conditions of their employment in writing. This document can take the form of a letter of employment. Or you can create a more formal contract of employment. The form doesn't matter; it's the content that's important.
So give your new employees contracts when they start and make sure they sign.
Step 3: Explain (if necessary have an interpreter help you) the contents of the contract to your employee in a language he understands.
Here's why it's a great idea to take these steps…

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With these three steps, disagreements over employments contracts won't feature

This is because:
  • You'll have your employee's written confirmation that she agrees with the contents of the employment contract. She can't later challenge you on things you agreed on;
  • You'll have written evidence to prove your employee understood the contract and willingly agreed to it; and
  • You'll avoid situations like the one below:
You hire Jeanie as your editor. She starts work on Monday without signing her employment contract. On Thursday you ask her to sign the employment contract. She refuses because she doesn't agree to the restraint of trade clause. You threaten to cancel the contract. She threatens to go to the CCMA because, having started work, she's automatically become your employee.
In this situation Jeanie is right. You can't cancel the employment contract. If you want her to sign it, you have to take out the restraint clause. Rather ensure Jeanie signs the contract including the restraint of trade clause before you appoint her or before she starts work. If she refuses to accept the terms of employment, you don't have to employ her because she has neither signed the contract nor begun work.

South African labour laws protect employers when it comes to contracts of employment

Our labour laws offer your employees protection, but they also allow you a degree of flexibility in what you agree with your employee. You just need to be proactive and protect yourself by taking these three steps today.
The bottom line: An employment contract lays down the foundation of your employment relationship. Get it right by taking these three steps so you can avoid disagreements with your employees.
PS: If you want a contract of employment sample to use and more information about employment contracts, the Labour Law for Managers Loose Leaf Service is your best bet.

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