How to deal with an unsigned contract of employment

FALSE: “He hasn’t signed his contract, so he is not entitled to our company sick pay.”

FALSE: “She never signed her contract, therefore we can change her hours of work.”

It is prudent for employers to require employees to sign and return a copy of their written contract or statement of terms and conditions to avoid ambiguity about what has been agreed between the employer and employee.

It is also evidence that the employer did actually issue a statement to the employee in accordance with its legal obligations.

However, if an employee does not sign his or her contract, it does not mean that the terms in that contract do not apply.

An employer cannot cite an employee’s failure to sign and return the contract as meaning that the terms are not binding and therefore it can change those terms or deprive the employee of rights under the agreement.

Likewise, employees cannot argue that the fact they never signed their contract means that they do not have to carry out duties under it.

Essentially, if an employer issues a contract and the employee works under it, the terms of that contract are likely to be deemed to have been agreed and accepted.

However, to avoid any ambiguity, it is worthwhile employers putting in place a system for ensuring that all written contracts are signed and returned and, where this does not happen, the matter is followed up with the employee.