An employee is bound by the terms of their signed contract of employment even if they have failed to read it unless there was some form of fraud, misrepresentation or other breach at the time they entered into it.
But what happens where a contract has not been signed by an employee and an employer wants to enforce one of its terms against that employee?
Is the employee still bound by the contract or can they claim it is unenforceable?
The answer is that where an employee’s employment has already started, an unsigned contract will not mean that they can refuse to adhere to its terms – the fact that the employee has been working shows quite clearly that there is a contract in place. Provided that the term that the employer is seeking to enforce is reasonable and fair, and provided that the employee has not objected to that term at any time, then it will be difficult for the employee to argue that they are not bound by it, even though the contract has not been signed. To avoid such an argument arising, an employer should ensure that it holds a signed contract for every employee and they should also have a system in place for chasing up unreturned contracts 14 days after they are sent out.
Partner, Employment Law