Labour Research January 2009

Law Queries


Q: We have always been paid Christmas bonuses in the past but now we are being told we won’t get a bonus this year. Do we have a right to the bonuses?

A; It depends what your contracts of employment say. First, check the written contract, including any incorporated documents such as collective agreements. Is there an express right to a quantifiable bonus? If there is no mention at all of bonuses in the written contract, has there ever been a verbal agreement and can it be proved?

If not, the question is whether there is an implied contractual right to the bonus. A right can be implied by custom and practice, for example, if a bonus has been paid without exception for many years. But it must be possible to quantify what the implied right is, for example, everyone always gets one week’s wages.

Working out the contractual position can be difficult and you may need expert advice.