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Ben Jones
Ben Jones, UK Lawyer
Category: Law
Satisfied Customers: 50204
Experience:  Qualified Solicitor
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When starting my job i was asked to sign a contract stating

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Hi there,
When starting my job i was asked to sign a contract stating i must remain at the company for at least 2 years. This was the wording in the email:
"Key things to note is that this is a 24 month contract and by signing it you will be required to stay a minimum of 24 months at COMPANY NAME."
However within the document i signed, the wording was as below:
"The Company shall pay a retention bonus payment of £5,000 (the “bonus”) (in addition to the Employee’s salary but subject to the usual deductions for PAYE and NI) to the Employee in the event that (i) the Employee remains employed by the Company on the date which is 24 months from the date of this Agreement; (ii) has helped to secure new customers for the Company and helped to keep existing ones and (iii) has played a leading part in the Company’s seminars. The Company shall not be obliged to make subsequent bonus payments."
I wish to leave after only 9 months of employment. I am obviously happy to work the 3 month notice period as agreed. However, i was wondering how legally binding this email is. As the contract i signed did not explicitly state this. The reason i am leaving is due to stress and depression caused by the job itself.
Can anybody help me with this.

Hello, my name is***** am a qualified lawyer and I will be assisting you with your question today. Do you still expect to be paid the bonus mentioned?

Customer: replied 1 year ago.
I do not expect to be paid the bonus mentioned. I have attached the full agreement that i signed to this message (just in case that helps).All i want is to hand in my notice, complete my notice period and leave without fear of being pursued by my employer for breach of contract.The agreement doesn't explicitly state that i must stay at the company for two years, it simply states that if i stay for two years i would get a retention bonus.However, because of the wording in the email that that agreement was attached to states "Key things to note is that this is a 24 month contract and by signing it you will be required to stay a minimum of 24 months at COMPANYNAME." I didn't know if this constituted a legally binding agreement that my employer could act on if i was to leave before the end of the two year period.

How would the company be affected if you left early - could they find a replacement quite easily?

Customer: replied 1 year ago.
It might be a little difficult for them to find a replacement for me and possibly take some time. However, that's why my notice period is 3 months (as opposed to 2 months for other employees). The staff turnover at the company is extremely high which is why i think he wanted me to agree to those terms.

The agreement you reached at the start could still be legally binding, even if its terms were not specifically mentioned in the contract you were subsequently issued with. A contract is formed when there is an offer, acceptance and consideration so if they offered you the job on the basis of it being a 24 month minimum contract and you accepted it, a binding contract is likely to have been created on these terms even if it was not included in the formal employment contract.

If you were to breach the agreement and leave earlier, the employer then has the option of suing the employee to seek compensation for damages resulting from their breach. However, in reality such claims are very rarely made. This is mainly due to the costs and time involved, also the relatively small damages that can be recovered. Also the employer has to show that actual losses have been incurred and often that is not easy to do. Also if you are willing to serve your notice period and they find a replacement in the meantime, their losses are likely to have been offset or completely removed. So whilst there is no way of predicting whether the employer will take this any further or not, chances are that they will not. A more likely outcome is that the employer refuses to provide a reference in the future or if they do, it could mention that the employee had breached their contract.

Finally, there are circumstances when an employee may be entitled to leave with immediate effect and without honouring their contract. This occurs when an employer has committed a serious breach of contract first. The whole contract then becomes immediately void and the employee would be treated as being 'constructively dismissed'. So if there are reasons to believe the employer has acted in breach of contract, whether a breach of an express contractual term, or other breaches such as bullying, exposing the employee to unreasonable stress, discriminating against them, etc this reason can be relied on in order to leave earlier than agreed.

I hope this has answered your query. I would be grateful if you could please take a second to leave a positive rating (3, 4 or 5 stars) as that is an important part of our process and recognises the time I have spent assisting you. If you need me to clarify anything before you go - please get back to me on here and I will assist further as best as I can. Thank you

Customer: replied 1 year ago.
Hi thank you for your detailed answer. If i was to discuss options for my leaving with my employer and state that i will be willing to work part-time should a replacement not be found during my 3 months notice period. Would this be something that could offset the risk of him trying to claim compensation for losses?
Customer: replied 1 year ago.
Could he try claim compensation from me based on costs to recruit a new member of staff to replace me?
Customer: replied 1 year ago.
34;The first month of the employment shall be a probationary period and the employment may be terminated during this period at any time on 1 week's notice or payment in lieu of notice. The Company may, at its discretion, extend the probationary period for up to a further 3 months. During the probationary period the Employee's performance and suitability for continued employment will be monitored. At the end of the probationary period the Employee will be informed if he has successfully completed his probationary period."I was never informed that i had completed my probationary period, either verbally or in writing. Could this constitute breach of contract?

yes it could help but of course it depends on whether any losses would be suffered anyway, so I cannot guarantee that but it is worth trying. In any event the employer has a duty to mitigate the losses so they cannot just sit back and do nothing and incur costs - they must take steps to try and reduce these as much as possible. But they can claim the costs that may be incurred in getting a replacement at short notice - that would be a direct result of your breach. Saying that, you could have a potential case against them for the way you were treated so if you make it clear that you may pursue that if they try and pursue you for the costs, then they may think again.

The probationary issue is not a breach, it just means you have automatically passed it if they did not inform you of this.

If your original question has been answered I would be grateful if you could please quickly rate my answer by selecting 3, 4 or 5 starts at the top of the page - it only takes a second to do and is an important part of our process. I can still answer follow up questions afterwards if needed. Thank you

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