Business owners often find it challenging to set up a contract for their employees. However, an often overlooked aspect is the difficulties that employees face when expected to decipher the legalities in the document that they are expected to sign. Through the creation of Comic Contracts®, Robert de Rooy, a South African lawyer based in Cape Town, has devised an innovative way to address these challenges and break down the communication barrier between lawyers and the less informed!
A picture tells a thousand words….
The purpose of a Comic Contract is to empower the parties to understand each other, to understand what they expect from each other, and what they are committing to. It is an idea based on the simple fact that pictures are easier to understand and easier to remember than text. A Comic Contract is a binding agreement that primarily uses pictures rather than words. The purpose is to enable clear communication and empower the parties involved, to understand what they expect from each other, and what they are committing to. The parties are represented by characters, and pictures are used to explain the terms of the contract.
Comic Contracts have been specially designed to address the needs of vulnerable employees, particularly those who either cannot read well or who have difficulties understanding the language in which the contract is written. Whilst the legal system requires that all employees have an employment contract, it assumes that everyone can read proficiently and understand the contractual terms presented to them. Since this is not always the case, Comic Contracts have the potential to be powerful tools for employees, empowering them to understand and question the terms that they are signing.
The fundamental purpose of a contract is to reach a mutual agreement that is understandable by both parties. Illustrated contracts have the added benefit that the directness of the pictures makes it harder to include terms in the agreement that is unfair or oppressive to the undersigning party.
The first ever Comic Contracts were recently used by Indigo Fruit (Pty) Ltd, a farming business that grows and supplies Clemengold, a popular seedless variety of mandarin. More than 200 fruit pickers were given Comic Contracts. By all accounts, the workers were very pleased that they were given a contract that clearly showed what is expected of them and what they can expect from their employer. It also reduced the induction time from four hours to 40 minutes.
Comic Contracts challenge the assumption that only text can capture the terms of a contract. Many people ask whether a contract based on pictures can be legally binding. The short answer is ‘yes’.
The Comic Contract is well within South Africa’s legal perimeters. Just like the traditionally written contract, Comic Contracts are intended to create a legal obligation parties understand and adhere to the agreement, in this case, illustrated in the contract. It promotes fair dealing and ensures that all parties involved are aware that the law will uphold the agreement and also enforce them.
For more information contact Robert de Rooy, who will happily share the detailed legal opinions he has obtained from independent legal authorities on this.
Robert de Rooy is an experienced practising attorney. He has 12 years of experience in commercial law and is an accredited commercial mediator. Business ventures, business contracts and commercial negotiations are his main area of expertise. He also holds a certificate in mediation, which he received from the Centre for Effective Dispute Resolution in the UK, as well as a certificate in arbitration from the Association of Arbitrators of Southern Africa.