Duhaime's Law Dictionary

Employment Definition:

A contract in which one person, the employee, agrees to perform work for another, the employer.

Related Terms: Employee, Employer, Employment at Will

A species of contract by which one person agrees to perform a job, service or task for another, with or without remuneration although, as with all contracts at common law, some form of consideration must flow.

Thus, as stated by Justice Dennan in Patridge v Mallandaine:

"I do not think that employment means only where one man is set to work to earn money. A man may employ himself so as to earn profits in many ways."

In a 1925 South African case, Justice Gardiner added, in Martheze:

"It seems to me that to constitute employment there must be control by the employer over the employee - the right to give the employee instructions as to what he is to do."

In Fraser, Justice Saunders of the British Columbia Court of Appeal used these words:

"Largely read, employment may refer to work, or an activity in which a person receives valuable consideration .... More narrowly read, employment may refer to the position of a person in the service of another or performance of services under a contract of service...."

The importance of the term surfaces in workmen compensation schemes where entitlement to benefits depends on the injury occurring in the course of employment. Other instances where the distinction may be essential is the area of vicarious liability for employees; whether the tort caused by the employee occurred inside or outside of the employment.

Statutes, such as the United Kingdom Employment Agencies Act 1973 (§13), the Social Security Contributions and Benefits Act 1992 (§122), the Trade Union and Labour Relations (Consolidation) Act 1992 (§218) define employment as:

"... a professional engagement or otherwise under a contract for services.... any trade, business, profession, office or vocation.... any relationship whereby one person personally does work or performs services for another....":


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