DUTIES OF THE EMPLOYEE
1. Duty to obey orders:
It is the duty of the employee to obey all lawful and reasonable orders of his employer. A servant repudiates the contract of service if he wilfully disobeys the lawful and reasonable orders of his master (PEPPER v WEBB). This means that where an employee disobeys a lawful and reasonable order given by the employer, the former is liable to dismissal without notice or compensation.
A dismissal must be distinguished from a termination of employment. A termination is procedural according to the terms of employment. While it may be said that both end the relationship between the two, in a dismissal, the employee is not entitled to gratuity but in termination of employment, notice or money in lieu of notice is usually given as provided for in the contract of employment. Termination could be by resignation by the employee or removal from service by employer. There is a difference between termination of a contract of employment and a dismissal. Termination gives the parties the right to determine the contract at any time by giving the prescribed period of notice or payment in lieu. Dismissal on the other hand, is a disciplinary measure, which carries no benefits and can only be exercised by the employer
What is reasonable or lawful order will depend upon a number of circumstances. An order which exposes the health or life of the employee to danger is not a reasonable order.
2. Duty of fidelity:
In every contract of employment, a term is implied that the employee will serve the employer in good faith and honesty. He is, therefore, not supposed to put himself in a position where his personal interest will conflict with that of his employer. In Sinclair v Neighbour, a betting shop manager ‘borrowed’ fifteen pounds which he replaced later. He knew that if he had asked for a loan it would have been refused. It was held that his conduct was incompatible with his duty as manager.
Ordinarily, engaging in spare-time work by the employee does not constitute a breach of the duty of faithful service. An employee can utilise his spare time for his or her own gain. However, the position is different where the nature of the spare-time is such that the employee may compromise the interests of his employer; for example, where he works in his spare time for a rival company. In HIVAC v PARK ROYAL SCIENTIFIC INSTRUMENTS, it was stated that the employer need not show that confidential information has actually been divulged, it is sufficient if the opportunity to divulge the information has been created.
It is part of the employee’s duty of fidelity not to accept bribes or make secret profits on his employer’s business or contracts (BOSTON DEEP SEA FISHING & ICE v ANSELL).
Where there is a restraint of trade covenant in the contract of employment, the employee is bound by such covenant. A restraint of trade covenant is one which proscribes an employee from taking up employments in rival companies or from starting similar trade after retirement. In ROBB v GREEN, an employee secretly copied from his employer’s order-book a list of names and addresses of the customers, which he intended to use for his own benefit after he had left his employer’s service and set up similar business on his own. When his contract with his employer terminated he went ahead to use the list. The court held that there was a breach of the implied duty of good faith.
With regard to restraint of trade covenants, two conditions must be satisfied before it can be enforceable: a. the restraint must be reasonable b. the restraint must be for public benefit or interest. The courts may further consider things like the subject matter of the restraint, the nature of the business of the employer, the position held by the employee in the company, the nature of the opportunities that the employee has been exposed to by the reason of his employment. In KOUMOULIS v LEVENTIS TECH, the employee contracted not to carry on or be employed in any business carried on by his employers within a radius of 50miles from any trading station in West Africa owned or managed by his employers for a period of one year after the determination of his employment. After the determination of his employment, he took up an appointment with a rival company operating within 400 yards of the business premises of his employers. The court held this to be a breach of the covenant.
3. Duty of care and skills:There is an implied term that an employee who accepts a particular job and takes it up possesses the necessary skill required for the reasonable performance of the job, and that he would carry out his duties with reasonable care. A breach of this duty makes the employee liable in damages to the employer (LISTER v ROMFORD ICE & STORAGE).