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Red Flags To Look Out For When Signing A New Employment Contract

04 July 2019
Zara Woodcock
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When getting hired, there is a high probability that your employer or contractor asked you to sign an employment agreement or contract. However, before adding your signature or initials to anything, it is vital to read and understand the terms and conditions, the small print and every single detail of the contract. If you don’t, you may be agreeing to one-sided clauses that are restrictive and will be causing you problems in the future.

It will be tempting to sign the contract immediately but take your time and if you find a clause you find unreasonable, you may be able to negotiate more favourable terms as long as you discuss them with HR or the hiring manager before accepting an offer.

Non-competition and non-solicitation

The most classic red flags to look out for will include restrictive terms such as ‘non-solicitation’, ‘non-disclosure’ and ‘non-competition’ that lasts until after the end of your employment. These clauses will make it hard for you to get another job or start your business after you have left the company. Non-competition clauses will keep you from working for another firm in the same industry. A company may also try to restrict you from taking on side projects for a competitor. Specifically, it may stop you from working within 100 miles of the company or working for two years in the same industry.

Non-solicitation clauses limit the employee’s ability to do business with former colleagues or clients of their employer. It will also stop you from recruiting former teammates to a new company. You will be better off modifying and speaking to your potential employer before agreeing to the terms and conditions.

 

Payment And Timing Of Payment

You may have already agreed on an annual wage during the last stage of the interview but it’s always better to be safe than sorry. Always review this part first in the contract. Do this by searching for the symbol “£” throughout the whole document. This will be the easiest way to ensure the financial terms previously agreed upon is still the same. If the section is incorrect, there’s no point in going through the rest of the document until the issue is resolved.

Although this is less common, take note of the timings of the payments. Is it tied to specific dates? Is it under a condition? For example, will you be getting paid depending on the milestones being achieved (and who determines if the milestones are complete)? Still confused? Check out our article that helps you calculate how much you should be earning.

 

What About Holidays?

Most jobs in the United Kingdom won’t allow you to take random holidays whenever you want. You will be limited to the number of holidays you can take, and most places provide 28 -31 holiday days per year (including bank holidays). If you have agreed to a certain clause or time, make sure it is in the contract. You don’t want to agree to a contract and find out you only get 14 days of holiday per year. Here are a few things to look out for:

  • When the holiday year runs from. Is it between January and December or is it between April and April? This will help you organise how much holiday you have before starting your job
  • If you are not allowed to take holidays at certain times of the year e.g. busy periods like Christmas or New Year
  • Whether there is an entitlement to roll over any unused holiday into the following year

 

Hours Of Work And Location

Are the hours you are expected to work the usual ‘9 to 5’ or is it completely different than you thought it would be? Zero-hour contracts may specify that hours can change and sometimes you don’t get work at all. If your job means keeping to regular times, for instance, office hours, then your contract should specify this. It should also cover overtime, weekend working and any other times you may be expected to work occasionally.

The exact office address needs to be included in the contract. This is because some companies may have multiple locations and finding out you have been hired for the furthest location from your house isn’t great. If the work requires travelling, the scope of travel should also be outlined.

 

What Is The Notice Period?

This may not sound urgently important but if you ever decide to leave the job, it is best to know that the notice period isn’t ridiculously long or ridiculously short. Most employees require a one-three month notice period. This gives them (and you) time to find replacement employees/careers. A notice period that is too short will not give you enough financial, professional and personal stability.