What are the key terms and conditions of an employment contract?

An employment contract can be a confusing and complicated piece of HR documentation. But it’s also essential.

When preparing a contract of employment for a new starter, employers and business owners often wonder what key terms and conditions must be included.

Here, we look at the key terms and conditions and what you must include when writing an employment contract.

What is a contract of employment in Ireland?

A contract of employment in Ireland is an agreement between an employer and employee that outlines the key terms and conditions of the employment relationship.

When an employee joins your business, they may come on board as one of the following:

  • Full-time.
  • Part-time.
  • Agency workers.
  • Fixed-term.

These roles, in turn, may require one of the following contract offers:

  • Unconditional: The employee can accept the offer without having to meet any conditions.
  • Conditional: The employee must first meet certain conditions before they can accept the offer.

What are the three types of contractual terms?

The three contractual terms that exist are the statutory, implied, and express terms of a contract. Let’s look at each.

Express terms

Express terms of a contract are drawn to the attention of the employee. An express term can be included in an employment contract in writing or communicated to the employee orally. Put simply, it doesn’t have to be written to be an express term.

Implied terms

The implied terms of a contract are those that haven’t been put in writing or communicated to the employee. Instead, the terms are implied into the employment relationship through custom and practice.

An example of an implied term is one deemed obvious by both parties, so much so that it doesn’t need to be directly mentioned. Or it may be because the term helps the contract work efficiently.

Statutory terms

Some terms are inserted into a contract because the law requires it.

What this means is that if a term is included in an employment contract which is below the statutory minimum that must be provided, the statutory minimum will override it and make the contractual term void. Examples include minimum notice periods and the National Minimum Wage.

It’s important to remember that terms, including those not written in any contractual document, may form part of an employee’s terms and conditions through workplace custom and practice.

What must an employer do if they want to update an employment contract?

If you want to update an employee’s employment contract, you must notify them of any change to their contract unless that change is the result of legislative updates, administrative provisions, or collective agreements referred to in the contract.

To cover yourself and avoid potential conflict, first ask the employee for their agreement to any change in writing.

If the change applies to either an express or implied term and you don’t seek the employee’s consent, the question becomes one of reasonableness. For example, was it reasonable for you to make the change and was it reasonable for the employee to refuse it?

In essence, and accounting for situations where an employee didn’t agree to a change, it may be possible for you to make a change where the employee’s refusal was unreasonable.

Our HR consultants can help with your employment contracts

For help with your contracts of employment in Ireland, contact one of our HR consultants today for support on 01 886 0350 or request a callback here.

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Nora Cashe


Nóra studied Law in Griffith College Dublin and qualified as a Barrister in 2008, practising in the area of Criminal law. She is also member of the Irish Employment Law Association.

Nora has extensive experience representing clients at Employment Tribunal hearings, Conciliation / Mediation meetings before both the Workplace Relations Commission and the Labour Court. 

Nóra is a member of the Irish Employment Law Association and engages with the WRC Adjudication Service as part of their stakeholder engagement forum.

Deiric McCann

Genos International Europe

Deiric McCann leads Genos International Europe – The EU division of a world-leading provider of emotional intelligence solutions. 

With over two decades experience at the highest levels of management, Deiric supports clients to develop the resilience, emotional intelligence, psychological safety and engagements of their employees.

Rhiannon Coyne

Graphite HRM

Rhiannon Coyne is a Senior HR Consultant at Graphite HRM and will be providing an overview of best practice on how to deal with complaints of bullying and harassment in the workplace. 

With a number of recent updates to employment laws, Rhiannon will take a closer look at employment equality and how it is interlinked to Health & Safety and what employers can learn from recent case laws.

David Begg

Workplace Relations Commission

David Begg was appointed Chairperson of the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) in January 2021.

David is also a professor at Maynooth University Institute of Social Sciences. Mr Begg’s extensive history in the trade union movement included leading the ESB Officers Association and Irish Congress of Trade Unions, stepping away from the latter in 2001 to chair international aid agency Concern.

David Begg was also previously a director of the Central Bank of Ireland between 1995 and 2010.