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If you’re reading this, chances are you've landed the job of your dreams, and are about to sign an employment contract. Congratulations!
When a job offer has been formally accepted, you will usually receive an employment contract over email, in the form of a written contract. The common misconception is that employment contracts are purposefully confusing, filled with legal jargon and complicated processes - and this simply isn't true.
An employment contract is simply a signed agreement between an employer and an employee, which establishes the rights and responsibilities of both parties.
Before you sign on the dotted line, it’s important to understand what goes into an employment contract, and your rights and responsibilities as the employee. So here are 11 things to consider before you sign an employment contract.
At some point throughout the job application process, you and the employer will have agreed upon your start date, so check that it as you expected on your employment contract.
The contract may reflect ongoing employment, a FTC (fixed term contract), or sometimes a minimum duration, with the possibility of extending it. Read this carefully to check that everything in the agreement is as you thought.
Your job title and job description should be exactly the same as the role you applied for. Make sure that the key responsibilities are as you understood – you don’t want to realise in your first few weeks that the role is not as you originally expected.
The contract might also include the team you will be working in, and the line manager or employer who you will report to.
An employment contract should include the salary that you will receive for your work. The salary shouldn’t come as any surprise, and through your discussions with the employer you should already be aware of what you will be receiving.
It may also include additional incentives like bonuses (which could either be guaranteed – usually the case in sales graduate jobs or business development graduate jobs, or discretionary, where the terms of the bonus are not disclosed in advance). Make sure that everything on the employment agreement is as you thought.
Your employment contract will also include all the benefits of the role - such as health insurance, share options, and perks.
If the employer has told you about a particular benefit or perk throughout the job application process, and you can’t see on the contract, mention it to the employer – chances are it’s been missed off by accident.
Your employment contract will also include the hours and days you’ll be expected to work. If the role requires you to work unusual hours such as weekend shifts or particularly early starts, you will already have been informed about these at some point throughout the application process. In this case, the employment contract should include the time-in-lieu policy.
You might not have already been informed about the working hours if they are more typical (such as 9am - 5pm, 9.30am - 5.30pm or 9am - 6pm) – so read these carefully and contact the employer if you have any questions.
This may be something you don’t already know about the role, so it’s important to read clearly. When reviewing your employment contract, look to see how many days holiday you are entitled to, when the holiday year starts and ends, and whether you can carry holiday over to the next year.
Your holiday allowance may vary greatly on the role, company and sector – but for entry-level graduate jobs, usually sits around the 20-28 day mark.
The employment contract will usually also include information regarding sick pay. This isn’t a legal requirement, so if you can’t see anything about on the agreement it’s a good idea to contact the employer to ask for more information.
Sometimes a contract will include a statement about confidentially- and be aware that you will occasionally be asked to sign a non-disclosure agreement, too.
This might be the case in PR graduate jobs, marketing graduate jobs, and finance graduate jobs – so don’t be alarmed if this is a feature of your contract.
Sometimes, depending on the nature of the work, there will be restrictive clauses that prevent you from going to work for a competitor or poaching a company’s clients.
Though it’s nothing to be worried about, make sure you are aware of any restrictive clauses on the agreement that might impact you in the future.
A probation period is a trial period, usually around 3-6 months, which allows an employer to assess an employee’s suitability and performance.
There is no law relating to probationary periods, however you will usually find that most graduate employers will include them in employment contracts. Look out for the length of yours, and make sure you know your rights.
There are two types of notice period – a statutory notice period, and contractual notice period. Statutory notice period is the minimum notice than can legally be given, and a contractual notice period is the length of time that the employer has stated than an employer must give as notice of their departure – usually 1 month.
Employment contracts can appear difficult to understand – but if you've spent the time applying for graduate jobs, it’s important to read the employment agreement carefully, make sure you know what the job entails and understand your rights as an employee.
Tick off each of the 11 points to consider above – and make sure you understand your employment contract.