“Always read the fine print.” Don’t you say that? It’s a vicious business world that revolves around dog-eaters, and most of the time, it’s the underdog who suffers. However, if this underdog is properly prepared and has a few tricks up his sleeve, the tables could be turned.

If you feel abused by your employer and they are violating your employment contract, you can take action. With the right knowledge and foresight, you don’t have to worry about being scammed by your boss or your company.

It is a sad fact, but most workers are simply unaware of their contractual rights. They very rarely take the time to read through their employment contracts. This is a dramatic oversight that can easily be corrected by simply taking the time to read what they agree to.

What is classified as a breach of contract?

Like all formal contracts, employment contracts are legally binding documents with the express purpose of establishing a written agreement between you and your employer. If one of the terms of this contract is violated, this is considered a breach of contract.

However, the problems arise when the violations are directed against unlisted clauses as they are far more difficult to prove. For this reason, it is always advisable that you include each term that you negotiate with your employer in your contract. It may seem a little paranoid at this point, but it’s better to play it safe.

What can I do if my contract has been breached?

Woman checks her employment contract with her boss

If you think your employer is breaking your contract, the first thing to do is check the printout and make sure. There might be clauses written in Legalese that you may not understand (in fact, that’s essentially the whole point of Legalese) so you may need to hire a lawyer or seek help from a legal professional . Then you should take the problem to your employer and try to resolve it face-to-face. If that fails, you may need to take legal action. The most common breaches of contract for which you may be able to seek compensation include (but are not limited to):

  • Failure to pay wages or travel expenses owed
  • Failure to pay vacation or sick pay as stipulated in your employment contract
  • Changes to your contract terms that you have not signed (e.g. if your contract stipulates that you will receive a company car and the car will be taken away from you.)
  • Failure to pay during your “notice period” (the period between you quitting your job and leaving your job)

Remember that not all of the terms and conditions of your employment relationship are included in your employment contract. Some of the provisions of your statutory law and some of the terms such as working hours and the job description itself may be found in the original job posting. So remember not to delete or throw them away! Pay slips, personnel manuals and other information can also be used as legally binding documents in the event of a breach of contract.


Woman signs an employment contract after an interview

Such matters are seldom easy to deal with, and it is to be expected that there are numerous common misconceptions and “loopholes” that employers can and will use to legitimize their breach of contract. You might think (for example) that it is not in the power of your employer to force you to move against your will, but there might be something called a “mobility clause” in your contract that says your employer has the right has to move you and avoid paying if you refuse.

There are also workarounds that they use when it comes to bonuses and myriad other special features. So make sure you have at least a vague knowledge of what you are signing before signing it. Really, it’s as easy as checking it out before you sign, something far too few people are willing to do.

If you’re not familiar with the terms of your employment contract, go ahead! Getting used to it will make dealing with your employer a lot less stressful and, if you’re really smart, you can even renegotiate terms in your favor! Stranger things have happened in business.

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This post was originally published earlier.

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