Labour law (also known as labor law or employment law) mediates the relationship between workers, employing entities, trade unions and the government. Collective labour law relates to the tripartite relationship between employee, employer and union. Individual labour law concerns employees’ rights at work and through the contract for work. Employment standards are social norms (in some cases also technical standards) for the minimum socially acceptable conditions under which employees or contractors are allowed to work. Government agencies (such as the former US Employment Standards Administration) enforce labour law (legislative, regulatory, or judicial).
The basic feature of labour law in almost every country is that the rights and obligations of the worker and the employer are mediated through a contract of employment between the two. This has been the case since the collapse of feudalism. Many contract terms and conditions are covered by legislation or common law. In the US for example, the majority of state laws allow for employment to be “at will”, meaning the employer can terminate an employee from a position for any reason, so long as the reason is not explicitly prohibited, and, conversely, an employee may quit at any time, for any reason (or for no reason), and is not required to give notice.
One example of employment terms in many countries is the duty to provide written particulars of employment with the essentialia negotii (Latin for “essential terms”) to an employee. This aims to allow the employee to know concretely what to expect and what is expected. It covers items including compensation, holiday and illness rights, notice in the event of dismissal and job description.
The contract is subject to various legal provisions. An employer may not legally offer a contract that pays the worker less than a minimum wage. An employee may not agree to a contract that allows an employer to dismiss them for illegal reasons.