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WHEN AN EMPLOYEE DOES NOT SIGN THEIR EMPLOYMENT AGREEMENT

The Employment Authority has recently considered a case where an employee declined to sign their Employment Agreement.

In that case, the employer purchased an existing business in which the employee worked.   The employee’s employment with the old employer was terminated on the sale.   Standard individual employment agreements were then circulated to all of the staff and those were to apply to the new employment.   The employee in question never signed his agreement.

The employee claimed in the Authority that the employer was refusing to negotiate the terms of employment.

At the time that the ownership of the business changed, the staff had entered into negotiations with the new employer with a view to making amendments to the proposed agreement and some amendments were made.

The Employment Authority found that the terms of the individual employment agreement which had been supplied with the agreed amendments were the terms of employment that applied as between the parties.

The employer had been very clear during the negotiations with the employee that whether he signed the agreement or not, if he continued to work, he would be regarded as being covered by the terms of the standard employment agreement in the same way as all other staff were covered by its terms.

The issue in this case was whether one employee could continue to demand changes which had not been agreed by the employer or whether the employee was effectively bound by the terms which had been distributed.   The Employment Authority was clear that there was no basis in law on which the employee could insist that the employer agreed with the employee’s various claims.   If the employer was satisfied that they had made all the concessions they wished to make in respect of a negotiated arrangement then that was an end to the matter.

The Authority found that this was a straightforward example of a negotiation which had resulted in a conclusion which one party remained unhappy with.   It was noted that this is commonplace in employment negotiation.   Just because one party wants further concessions from the other does not entitle those concessions to be made and there is no legal basis on which the Authority can force a party to make concessions to the other.

The Authority was clear that if the terms and conditions of employment that are preferred by the employer are not acceptable to the employee, then the employee’s remedy is to resign his employment and seek alternative employment elsewhere.

The case in question involved a part time position in a business where there was not a large margin with the result that the scope for negotiation on the financial elements of the employment relationship were meagre to begin with.   The case is useful in confirming that a party to an employment agreement can seek to negotiate its terms but cannot force the other party to continue a negotiation or to conclude an agreement on different terms.