Most business nowadays have a contract of employment. New employees need to sign this before they can start work. The trouble is that many of us don’t take too close a look at the wording.
That can be a mistake, especially if the document contains certain caveats that put you at a disadvantage.
The first thing you need to check on the contract is how your job description is defined. Does it reflect the position you interviewed for or have some things been mysteriously added? A job description that seems a little broad, for example, could well give your new employer scope to throw more responsibility on you or change the areas you work in without warning and without extra pay.
Some of us work in one office, other jobs involve having to move from site to site. If you’re working from home a lot, you want to be sure that the contract reflects this and what rights you have. Make sure there are no caveats concerning how and where you are going to perform your job.
Whatever was agreed in the interview, the contract of employment is the document that determines what you actually get. You might have negotiated things like an enhanced pension or share options, for example, which weren’t in the original job description and benefits. It may be an oversight that they’re not included in the contract but make sure you raise the issue and don’t sign until they’ve been added in.
Other benefits include holidays but you can’t always stipulate when you take these. The contract should, however, say what any restrictions are. For example, it could be that you are expected to work over Christmas or there are certain periods when you aren’t able to take a break because of the nature of the business.
Working hours can vary in a lot of different businesses and this is worth checking on the employment contract. If you have taken on the role with the express agreement that you have flexibility (perhaps because you have a family to take care of) or expect to work certain times, this again needs to be worded appropriately in the contract.
These aren’t on all contracts but if you work in certain sectors they are becoming increasingly common. They set the parameters for what you agree to when you decide to leave. This could include, for example, a restriction that you aren’t allowed to leave and go and work for a competitor for a certain period of time. It’s well checking for these clauses as they can cause issues if you finally want to move on.
The other thing you need to check is how much notice time you are supposed to give should you decide to leave. For most jobs this varies between one and three months. Ideally you want a period that gives you time to find a new job but doesn’t leave you hanging on for too long.
While a contract of employment can look like a standard document, you need to take the time to read it. Signing without doing so may well leave you at a disadvantage later in your career. And you’ll only have yourself to blame.