There are many commonly held versions of the application of employment law which are simply not true. It is very important that these nuances are ironed out if employers are to correctly navigate their employee issues. In the first of a series, here are 3 employment law urban myths.

No employment contract exists if there is nothing in writing

Even verbal agreements are binding.  Where terms are agreed orally, the situation is ripe for dispute at a later date, and it therefore makes sense for employers to ensure that the terms agreed are put in writing as soon as possible and in any event within 2 months of their start date. Verbal terms are an enforceable as written terms so it is not true that, in the absence of a written agreement, there is no contract in place.

An employee whose fixed-term contract comes to an end cannot bring a claim for unfair dismissal

A fixed-term contract will terminate automatically at the end of the fixed term. However, the expiry of the term can constitute a dismissal. In the event of a claim for unfair dismissal, the employer would have to be able to demonstrate what the reason for the dismissal was, that it was substantial, and that it acted reasonably in dismissing the employee for the reason given.

An employer can dismiss an employee on the spot without following any procedure, providing the employee is guilty of gross misconduct

‘Gross misconduct dismissal’ does not mean a ‘no procedure dismissal’. Dismissing without procedure is highly risky in any circumstance, leaving the employer open to an unfair dismissal claim if the employee has the required length of service, and a possible breach of contract claim for all employees if contractual procedures are not followed. Even where an employee is caught red handed, stealing from their employer, the employer must follow a fair procedure before dismissing the employee and they should be given an opportunity to explain their actions.