Types of employment agreements

An employee can have an individual employment agreement or if they’re a union member they’ll be covered by any relevant collective agreement.

Collective employment agreements

Collective employment agreements are negotiated by registered unions (representing employees who are members of the union) and employers. Employees who are union members and covered by the collective agreement coverage clause must be on the collective agreement.

Other things to note:

  • Employers must not unduly influence employees to join or not join a union.
  • A new employee who is a union member can show they agree to the terms and conditions of an existing collective employment agreement by signing an offer of employment (but the collective agreement will apply even if they don’t).
  • If the employee is covered by a collective employment agreement, they can also have additional individual terms. These should be set out in writing and signed by the employer and employee.

Collective bargaining has more information about individual terms and agreement options.

Individual employment agreements

Individual employment agreements are negotiated by an employer and an employee; they should discuss the terms and conditions of employment fully and put these in the employment agreement before the employee starts work.

If an employee isn’t happy with something in the intended agreement, they should tell their employer this as soon as possible, and try to negotiate the issue they’re not happy with.

An individual employment agreement should be signed by the employee and the employer to show they both agree with it. If an employee doesn’t sign their employment agreement, but also doesn’t say they don’t agree to it, the employer might take their silence and their other conduct as being agreement. The employment agreement could apply to the employee, even if they haven’t signed it, unless:

  • they can show they didn’t agree to all or part of it, or
  • some part of it is unlawful.

There are minimum rights and entitlements that must be met even if they’re not in the employment agreement or the agreement has a lesser entitlement. The employee’s individual employment agreement:

  • is just between the employee and their employer (even if its terms and conditions are similar to a collective agreement)
  • can be based on a current collective agreement as long as there is no intent or effect to undermine collective bargaining or the union agrees
  • can be similar to other individual employment agreements in the workplace or unique to that employee. Employees on individual employment agreements don’t have to have the same terms and conditions even if they do the same job in the same workplace
  • must be in writing and contain at least the terms and conditions of employment that have to be in an employment agreement
  • can’t have anything in it that is less than the minimum required by law, or is inconsistent with the law
  • should be kept in a safe place by the employee and employer (but an employee can ask their employer for a copy if they lose theirs)
  • can be changed by agreement by the employee and employer.

Things an agreement must contain provides terms and conditions that must be included in an agreement.

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