Starting a new job is an exciting time but things can change quickly. This is why you need to insist on an employment contract to ensure swift resolution on matters like payment disputes, leave, and benefits.

Landing a new job is a lot like entering a new romantic relationship. There are high expectations, promises of commitment and excitement about a future together. However, when things don’t go as planned and one person cools off, things could get ugly. If you are an employee and you don’t have a contract listing the terms, conditions and all the promises you were made to attract you to the job, the deal may be up for debate or dispute.

When you accept a job, it is a requirement of law that you get an employment contract detailing the terms and conditions of your employment. This document is useful for both parties because it details the benefits, remuneration and job description. In a nutshell, it describes what is expected on both sides of the arrangement.

An employment contract should also regulate the behaviour of the employee in the workplace – listing all company policies, procedures, and disciplinary codes.

Even if you are a part-time staff member you must have a contract. The law applies if you are temporary or part-time, have a fixed employment period, only work one day a week, only work every weekend or only work half-day

In other words, anyone who qualifies as an ‘employee’ should receive this document. If you do not have a contract it is very difficult to get resolution in terms of payment disputes, leave, and benefits that may have been promised.

If there is a dispute, the first port of call for resolution is often the CCMA. If it still can’t be resolved a court will decide what the actual terms were by looking at all the other documents and evidence.

They will look at the email that was sent offering the job (if there was one), the advertisement for the job, and the employer’s work handbook and even spoken agreements will be considered. This situation, however, is not ideal. It is easier to prove that an employer broke a contract if it’s in writing. If the contract is verbal, it is always better to have witnesses. If you don’t have witnesses, then it is your word against the employer’s word.

Your employment contract should include:

A job description, number of hours that the employee will be expected to work, ordinary and overtime rates of payment, deductions, leave granted, the notice period, date of payment. It would also include details of pension membership and life cover in terms of their group policies.

These are all very important details that will ensure that you comply with the demands with the job and your employer will be good for the package and benefits they promised before you signed up. If you are currently employed without a contract raise the issue with your employer immediately.