An employment contract is a legally binding document between an employer and an employee. It sets out the terms of the employment relationship and what each can expect from each other. If either party fails to abide by these terms, they could be in breach of contract.

Our employment lawyers are experts in litigation and dispute resolution. We represent both employers and employees and can help you whether you’re pursuing or defending a breach of contract claim.

Common complaints involving a breach an employment contract include:

  • Pay during an employee’s notice period
  • Bonus and other forms of pay
  • Gross misconduct
  • Restrictive covenants – especially if an employee has taken valuable intelligence or clients with them into a new role.

Whether you’re an employer or an employee, we’ll be able to advise you of the best course of action to protect your interests. We’re experienced in resolving disputes and bringing claims both to Employment Tribunals and Court.

Contact our expert team today on 01142 781 629 or message us online and we’ll get back to you.

What Is An Employment Contract?

An employment contract is the legally binding contract between the employer and the employee which sets out the terms of the employment relationship.

Employers are legally obliged to give employees a written statement setting out certain contractual terms within two months of their employment starting. An employment contract can, however, also be verbal.

What Sort Of Terms Might A Contract Include?

Employment contracts are made up of express and implied terms.

Express terms are included in writing in the contract or are agreed verbally. Typically they cover details such as pay, working hours or notice periods.

Implied terms aren’t explicitly set out in the contract but must still be followed by employer and employee. Common implied terms include the duty of trust and confidence, such as the employer’s duty to act fairly and the employee’s duty to act faithfully. Terms can be implied by law or through custom and practice.

Contracts for senior staff may also include restrictions, usually in the form of enhanced confidentiality provisions or restrictive covenants.

Find out more about how we can help you draft employment contracts for your business.

How Could An Employee Breach Their Contract?

Any breach will depend on the specific terms of the employee’s contract, but some common examples could include:

  • Minor misconduct or gross misconduct
  • If the employee resigns without giving the proper notice required under the contract
  • If the employee breaches restrictive covenants.

Internal disciplinary action could be the best way to deal with minor breaches. If an employee’s behaviour constitutes gross misconduct, however, you may be within your rights to dismiss them without notice.

If one of your employees has committed a breach of contract, our lawyers can advise you on the options that best protect your business. Call today on 01142 781 629 or message us online and we’ll get back to you.

How Could An Employer Breach The Terms Of An Employment Contract?

An employer can breach the terms of the employment contract in a number of ways. If the breach is fundamental, the employee may resign in response to the breach and claim constructive dismissal.

For example an employer could breach a contract by:

  • Failing to pay salary, bonuses or commission
  • Dismissing the employee without proper notice.

If your employer has breached the terms of your employment contract, we can advise on the best course of action to defend your rights.

Contact our expert team today on 01142 781 629 or message us online and we’ll get back to you.

What Action Can Employees Take? Will It Go To Employment Tribunal?

Employees can only pursue a claim for breach of contract in the Employment Tribunal if their employment has already ended. There’s also a £25,000 limit to damages they can be awarded.

In general, any damages awarded will be for notice pay – i.e. the salary that should have been paid if the employer had observed the proper notice period.

If the employee's claim is worth more than £25,000, or they are still employed by the person or company they are claiming against, they will need to submit a claim to either the County Court or the High Court (depending on the value of the claim).

Employment Tribunal claims are often quicker and simpler. As a rule, the loser doesn’t need to pay the winner’s legal fees.

The High Court and County Court (known as ‘civil courts’) are governed by the Civil Procedure Rules which are far more complex and formal than the Employment Tribunal Rules of Procedure. Generally, the loser will have to pay the winner's legal costs.

You have three months minus one day from the date of the alleged breach of contract to submit a claim to the Employment Tribunal. You have six years if you’re submitting it to the civil courts.

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Case Study - Company Avoids Threat of Confidential Information Leak

Along with our litigation team, we’ve helped a number of employers manage confidentiality breaches by employees and ex-employees.

One client faced an ex-employee potentially leaking highly confidential business information to his new employer, a competitor.

We minimised the damage for our clients and helped them with a full review of their contracts’ confidentiality and restrictive covenant clauses to protect them in the future.




When we work with an employer, we don’t just solve your immediate problem but help you put a plan in place to prevent it happening again.

With this case, we noticed that our client wasn’t getting the protection they needed from their employment contracts. With our help, they’re now much better placed to handle confidentiality breaches from their employees."

Irwin Mitchell Solicitor

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