Breach of employment contract - What are your rights?

Caragh Bailey
16/09/2020
Breach of Employment Contract advice from employment law friend

If you or your employer fail to meet any of the terms set out by your contract of employment then you, or they, are in breach of employment contract.

Find out what to do, what happens next and how to get help solving a dispute.

What do I do?

    1
    Resolve the issue informally in a discussion with your boss.
    2
    Seek mediation from an impartial third party to settle your dispute outside of the employment tribunal

I have breached my contract of employment


Consequences of a breach of employment contract

Consequences will differ depending on the severity of the incident, and whether this is the first time it has happened. You will likely face a disciplinary procedure relative to the severity of the issue.
  • You have the right to be accompanied to all disciplinary meetings by a colleague or a union representative.
  • You have the right to appeal to a manager if you think the decision reached is unfair, for example, if your behaviour or underperformance is due to illness or disability.

One off incident
If you are otherwise a good employee and have no other disciplinary incidents on your record this will likely be solved by an informal discussion with your boss.

You may be issued with an informal warning or verbal warning.
Misconduct
Issues such as repeated lateness, unauthorised absence, minor errors.
Your employer must:
    1
    Call a meeting to discuss your misconduct. Here you have a chance to explain your reasons for breaching your employment contract, and/or ask for reasonable support to meet the terms of your contract.
    • issue you with a first written warning if they are not satisfied with your explanation.
    • Set out what they expect you to change, and over what length of time.
    • Warn you that if these improvements are not made, you will receive a final written warning.

      2
      Call a second meeting if your performance or behaviour has not improved enough in the time agreed. (Again you have a chance to explain.)
    • Issue a final written warning if your reasons are not satisfactory
    • Set a new time by which they expect to see the improvement.
    • Warn you that if you fail again, you may be dismissed (fired.)

      3
      Call a third meeting if you are still failing to meet the terms of your contract.
    • Warn you that you may face dismissal
    • At this stage you may choose to appeal.

      4
      Tell you if they are dismissing you, or if they are going to give you another chance.
Serious Misconduct
If your breach of contract is serious enough to have caused serious harm to the organisation.
For example: loss of revenue (income) - maybe you made a mistake while filing your expenses, costing your employers significant money.
Or: serious damage to the brand/image (making them look bad.) - maybe your activity on social media is seriously damaging to the public image of your place of work.
Your employer must:
  • issue you with one first and final warning.
  • explain that you may face dismissal if the issue continues.

Gross misconduct
Gross misconduct is any behaviour which is so bad that your employer can dismiss you instantly, without notice or pay in lieu of notice.

Such as: theft, criminal behaviour, physical violence, gross negligence (deciding to ignore your duty to use reasonable care, which has, or might result in causing harm to people or property.)
    1
    Write to your employer, telling them that you are appealing and explaining why.
    2
    You should be offered a meeting to discuss your appeal.
  • This will be similar to your original meeting.
  • You have the right to be accompanied by a companion (colleague/union representative)
  • If possible this meeting should be held by a different person to your original disciplinary meetings.

    3
    You will receive your employer’s final decision in writing.
If you still wish to dispute the decision of the appeal, you may be able to take your case to the employment tribunal.

My employer has changed my contract without my agreement

If you continue working under the new conditions, and fail to act or speak against a change in your contract this may count as having agreed to the changes in your employment contract. Tell your employer, preferably in writing, that you consider the changes to be a breach of contract. Read more below.

My employer has breached my contract of employment

If your employer fails to follow any of the terms in your contract, or makes a change to them without your agreement, it is advisable to raise the issue as soon as is appropriate.
  • You may continue to work ‘under protest’ and state that the new terms are a breach of contract
  • You may raise a grievance
  • You may have the right to refuse to work under the new conditions
  • You may resign and claim
    constructive dismissal
  • You may be able to take the case to the employment tribunal

If you have raised the problem or concern informally, and are still unhappy, you can make a formal complaint.
Write a letter to your employer titled formal grievance complaint, explaining your concerns.
Your employer should have a written grievance procedure which was made available to you with your contract of employment. This procedure will explain what happens next.
    1
    Grievance meeting
    Your employer will hold a meeting for you to discuss the grievance, you may bring supporting documents (previous correspondence, evidence of the issue or supporting statements from other people) and a companion (colleague or union representative)
    2
    Your employer will write to you to explain:
    • Any action they intend to take.
    • Information about how to appeal a grievance decision.

Write to your employer, telling them that you are appealing and explaining why.
    1
    You should be offered a meeting to discuss your appeal.
  • This will be similar to your original meeting.
  • You have the right to be accompanied by a companion (colleague/union representative)
  • If possible this meeting should be held by a different person to your original grievance meetings.

    2
    You will receive your employer’s final decision in writing.
    3
    If you still wish to dispute the decision of the appeal, you may be able to take your case to the employment tribunal.

Your employer may terminate your contract and re-employ you under the new terms. Under UK employment law they must follow
redundancy procedure (or statutory minimum dismissal in NI)

In this case you may be able to take the case to employment tribunal under breach of contract or
unfair dismissal

Take my case to the employment tribunal

(Industrial tribunal in NI)
If you have an issue relating to breach of contract, and have been unable to resolve it with your employer before the end of your employment with them, you may take the case to the employment tribunal.

  • Once your employment has ended, you have 3 months to make a claim.
  • You, or your solicitor, must send a copy of your claim to your employer.
  • Your employer has 6 weeks, from receiving the copy of your claim, to file a counterclaim.

Taking your employer to court can be an expensive, stressful, time-consuming process, read this article before you make a decision:
Should I sue my employer?

If the employment tribunal agrees with your claim they may award compensation for financial loss up to a maximum of 25 000.

Frequently Asked Questions
If your contract is verbal, it will be harder to dispute in a court of law, so it is best to try to reach a resolution informally. However, a solicitor will be able to advise you whether you have a strong enough case to take to the employment tribunal.

Want help fighting your employer over breach of employment contract?
Get in contact and we'll review your case.

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This content is provided free of charge for information purposes only. It does not constitute legal advice and should not be relied on as such. No responsibility for the accuracy and/or correctness of the information and commentary set out in the article, or for any consequences of relying on it, is assumed or accepted by any member of our company. For employment law advice please get in contact and speak to your employment law solicitors.
 
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