HONEST: An example of Comic Contracts used in farming.

CAPE TOWN lawyer Robert de Rooy has developed the world's first contract using pictures to help people better understand what they are signing.

Comic Contracts uses visualisation, where the parties are represented by characters, and illustrations to explain the terms of the contract.

De Rooy said the three-year project came from a realisation that many contracts do not support a good relationship between the parties involved.

“I looked at how these agreements could be made simpler to understand and realised it was through using pictures.”

De Rooy found text contracts were still a big problem for low-skilled workers in areas such as agriculture, mining, manufacturing and domestic workers.

“Giving an employee pages of text they do not understand is institutional oppression.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.”

For Indigo Fruit Growers, part of ANB investments, it was important to address the contractual imbalance of the employer and employee.

ANB Investments chairperson Abs van Rooyen said: “It creates a more equitable situation which can only be the start of a more ‘honest’ relationship with our employees. I believe that workers can only commit fully to the content of a contract if they understand what they are signing.”

Indigo recently initiated the implementation of the Comic Contracts to 50 seasonal employees. The contract was presented the next day to a further 163 fruit pickers. Farming manager Faan Kruger said the feedback was positive.

Comic Contracts was well received at the International Contract Simplification Conference in Switzerland in March. De Rooy has been invited to present the concept at the International Association for Contract and Commercial Management in San Diego, US, in October.