Does an employment contract have to be in writing?

The Basic Conditions of Employment Act (BCEA), section 29, requires certain particulars to be given to the employee in writing on commencement of employment.

It does not have to be in the form of a contract, but it is a fairly comprehensive list including details of the employer; the employee’s occupation (or a description of the work); details of remuneration; notice period and details of other relevant documents. Any future changes must also be given to the employee in writing.

However, when disputes arise over the nature of the relationship, requirements of the job or unfair labour practices, the CCMA and labour courts will not restrict themselves to details of written contracts. They will include expectations created, the understanding of the parties, verbal statements made and anything else that may have affected either party’s understanding of the real (not merely the written) contract of employment.

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Ian Webster

From Methodist minister to Customer Relations manager in a computer bureau to HR Manager in a newspaper printing and publishing company. Now focussing on training and developing people, people-management consulting and writing and editing.

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