Law The Law and The Servant 100407

Contract of Service - Length of Notice Required - Circumstances which Justify Immediate Dismissal

If the contract of service is not to be performed within the year, it must be in writing to be enforceable, although a parol agreement for more than a year is not necessarily void.

A general hiring is a yearly one, but with regard to the general hiring of menial and domestic servants it is a well-established custom that the service may be determined by either party on giving a month's notice. A servant may also be dismissed without notice on payment of a month's wages, but a servant is not justified in foregoing a month's wages in lieu of giving a month's notice. The reason for this is that it would lead to an intolerable state of things if servants were allowed suddenly to take their departure without giving their masters a reasonable opportunity of engaging others in their place. Servants whose wages are paid weekly are entitled to a month's notice or wages, unless there is some agreement to rebut the assumption of its being a general hiring. When the first month is to be one of trial, it should be so stipulated between the master and servant.

Length of Notice If the hiring is a general one in regard to clerks and other servants of a superior class, it will be assumed to be for a year, and so on, until determined by a notice expiring at the end of some current year. It is impossible to say what length of notice is required, but probably three months would be sufficient.

A manager of a shop who received a salary of 30 a year which was paid monthly was held to be hired for a year.

A foreman hired at 2 a week and a house to live in is hired by the week only. An engagement of an author to write tales weekly in a magazine for twelve months at the rate of 10 a month is a yearly hiring.

Governesss have been held entitled to three months notice, a sub-editor to six months and an editor to twelve. A manufacturer's agent hired at a yearly salary was held entitled to a month's notice only, as there was a well-established custom to that effect.

Dismissal Without Notice

A master or mistress is justified in dismissing a servant without notice who is dishonest, intemperate, immoral, hab tually negligent, disobedient, or incompetent. For theft, immorality, or drunkenness a servant may be sent away on the spot without notice and without wages; but servants not residing in the house are not dismissable for immorality unconnected with their service To justify instant dismissal for drunkenness, it would probably be necessary to prove that the servant was an habitual drunkard or that the intoxication was accompanied' by violence or insolence; a single lapse from sobriety would scarcely be sufficient, unless accompanied by circumstances which rendered it so. Thus a master might well hesitate before again exposing himself to the risk of being driven by an intoxicated chauffeur.

Negligence There is, probably, only one kind of negligence which would justify the summary discharge of a domestic servant, and that is in certain cases where, owing to gross negligence on the part of the servant, some grave injury is done to the master; as, for instance, where a nurse allows a child to fall out of window, or where it may result, as in leaving a house with young children unattended. Using the word servant in the wider sense of the term, a master is justified in dismissing a clerk who has been gambling on the Stock Exchange or engaged in betting transactions, and thereby neglecting his master's business and exposing himself to temptation.