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Unraveling the Mystery Behind Employment Law and Implied Duties

A contract of employment

This article provides a general overview of the implied duties of employees. For specific legal advice or inquiries, it is recommended to consult with a legal professional.


In the realm of employment, the relationship between an employer and an employee is not only governed by the express terms of a written contract of employment but also by a series of implied duties that are recognized under our inherited English common law. These duties, although not explicitly stated, are fundamental to the employment relationship and are legally binding. They also apply where there is no written contract of employment.  

Though sometimes phrased differently, the implied duties are generally as follows:

Duty of Fidelity

Employees owe a duty of fidelity

At the heart of an employee’s implied duties is the duty of fidelity. This duty encapsulates the expectation that an employee will serve their employer with good faith and loyalty. It is a broad duty that prohibits employees from competing with their employer, soliciting customers, or misusing confidential information. It requires employees to be honest in their dealings with their employer and prohibits employees from working with a competing business whilst employed. It also prohibits an employee from making a ‘secret profit’ using the employer’s assets or the employment relationship.  

Duty of Care and Skill

A skilled professional, employee has a duty of care

An employee is also under an implied duty to perform work with reasonable care and skill. This means that employees must utilize their abilities and competencies to the best of their capabilities and adhere to the standards of their respective profession or industry.

Duty to Obey Lawful and Reasonable Orders

Employees have a duty to obey lawful instructions

Another key duty is the obligation to obey lawful and reasonable orders from the employer. Employees must comply with the directions and decisions of their employer, provided they are within the scope of the employment and do not contravene any laws or regulations.

Duty of Cooperation

employees cooperating

Also called the duty of trust and confidence, the duty requires employees to work in a manner that does not disrupt the operations of the employer. This includes collaborating with colleagues and not engaging in conduct that would undermine the employer’s business. This is a mutual duty also imposed on both the employer who must not do anything to undermine the employment relationship.  

Duty of Confidentiality

Employee protecting trade secrets

Even though it may not be expressly stated, employees have a duty to maintain the confidentiality of their employer’s trade secrets and sensitive information. This duty survives the termination of employment, meaning that ex-employees cannot disclose confidential information even after they have left the company.

Duty Not to Accept Bribes

A bribe, employees are prohibited from accepting bribes

Employees must not accept bribes or other improper advantages that could influence their judgment or actions in the course of their employment. Accepting bribes is a breach of the duty of fidelity and can lead to serious legal consequences.


These implied duties are essential for the smooth functioning of the employment relationship. They fill the gaps where express terms may be silent or where there is no written contract of employment and ensure that both parties act in a manner that is conducive to a productive and harmonious workplace. Employers and employees alike should be aware of these duties to avoid any potential breaches that could lead to disputes or legal actions.

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