We are a group of physiotherapists and first aiders that cover events at the various athletic venues around Sydney. Today I turned up for a five hour shift ( to start at 4 pm) to be told it was cancelled and unfortunately I hadn’t been told or notified because they forgot. We work according to a roster but have no contract in place at all. Do we need a contract to protect minimal hours to be paid in this situation or how should it work. We get paid by Athletics NSW or Athletics Australia depending on the event. I have looked at other posts and your book and can’t find anything relevant.

What is unclear is the relationship with Athletics NSW or Athletics Australia.  If each person is paid directly, has tax deducted, is directed when and where to attend etc then they may be employees.  In which case any claim for payment for minimal hours would depend on the terms of their employment contract and any relevant award.

If the ‘group’ contracts with Athletics NSW or Athletics Australia or even each person contracts individually, that is send an invoice, pay their own tax, bring their own tools of trade, then the collective group or each member may be contractors.

A contract requires some essential elements.  There must be an offer, acceptance of that offer, an exchange of something of value (consideration) and an intention to enter into legal relations.   It is not an essential element that a contract is in writing.  A contract may be oral (ie based on things said) and may be implied where by the conduct of people it’s clear they intended to enter a contract even if they didn’t say it or perhaps even know it.

The problem is that the terms of the contract are not explicit.  Some terms can be implied, eg that the physiotherapists and first aiders will act with appropriate professional skill and car.  A term will be implied if the contract makes no sense or would not achieve its purpose, or if the conduct of the parties can only be explained by an assumption that the implied term was part of their agreement. Can the correspondent charge for attending and finding the job has been cancelled? That would depend on what was said during the negotiations.  If there had been payments made in those circumstances earlier then that could be implied.    I doubt, however, that such a clause could be inferred at least not from the information I’ve been given.

So should they have ‘a contract to protect minimal hours to be paid in this situation’ the answer is ‘of course’.  If you’re going to run a business it’s much better to have an agreement or contract that sets out who agrees to do what.  It should cover such things as fees; when and how they are invoiced; cancellation notice and payments; issues of insurance; hours that care is to be provided; what care is to be provided (physiotherapy? First aid? Both?); costs for travel; liability indemnity; etc etc etc.   Exactly what goes into a contract depends on the way the business is being run and negotiation with the other contracting party.    If the ‘group’ is running a business, they should seek legal advice to develop a standard form contract.

Conclusion

This answer is clearly incomplete as I don’t have nearly enough information about the way this particular business is run, but the answer to the question is ‘Yes, if you’re going to run a business you should have a contract – set out clearly who is going to do what’.  Anything less just leads to confusion and conflict.