An employment contract offers you security and should be beneficial to you – particularly during bad times. That is why it pays off to study all aspects closely before signing. You should not let it confuse you if the contract does not address everything you had agreed on verbally with your future employer. Companies often use standard contracts which the HR department sends out automatically without any changes. In most cases, there is no bad intent involved, but simply bureaucratic obstacles. Consequently, you should ensure all your questions are answered and that everything you have been promised is recorded in writing.
As a personnel consultant, I would like to provide you with some further tips on what to watch out for in your employment contract:
- Work Equipment
Pay attention to the handling of work equipment in the contract (e. g. company cell phone, laptop). Is personal use permitted, or is it available to you for business purposes only? What are the liability regulations on work equipment?
- Working Hours
The working hours should be stated in the contract. After all, you should know whether your salary is based on 35 or 40 hours. In most cases, however, there is no regulation on the distribution of weekly working time. If, for example, you have negotiated an arrangement with your boss that you will be working from home on a certain day of the week, make sure this passage is included in your contract.
- Bonus Payments
If you have been offered a bonus payment in addition to your salary, this should be included in your contract as well. Your employer will thereby be obliged to pay your bonus. Bonuses are offered either based on personal target agreements and/or depending on the company’s success. Target agreements may be regulated in the contract, but this does not have to be the case. It is common to receive these regulations separately.
Before receiving the contract, your salary should of course already be known to you. The contract will indicate either the monthly or yearly sum. It should also state when you are to receive your salary. Benefits, such as Christmas bonuses, holiday bonuses or profit sharing and other bonuses like dividends should also be regulated clearly and without room for interpretation. If you have a collective bargaining agreement, it is essential that your classification be named.
- Pay Raises
Pay raises may be regulated in the contract, e. g. a raise after the trial period. In case you have reached an agreement of this type, pay attention that it is recorded in writing.
Regarding sickness, pay attention to the day your employer requires a medical certificate. It can be requested on the first day of your absence.
- Period of Notice
Take a closer look at the period of notice. This is an often-underrated aspect. Between one and three months by the end of the month are “the norm”. Particularly in higher positions though, other policies may be in place which can prove to be career stoppers in the long run. For example, when the regulation is six months by the end of the quarterly period. New employers usually cannot wait that long for their new employee.
- Secondary Employment
Pay attention to how your employer handles secondary employments. In principle, you should be fully committed to your main job. If you have a second job, you should ensure it does not have a negative impact on your main job.
- Willingness to Travel
Agreements on business travels should be very clear. You should therefore find out whether travel time is equal to working time or whether the payment differs. Depending on the job description, you should clarify to what extent travel readiness is expected.
- Job Description
Has your new employer described your future tasks precisely, and are you on board with them? If a management task is involved, this should be recorded in writing in the employment contract.
- Working Overtime
It is important that the aspect of overtime be regulated in the contract. The contract should clearly answer the question how overtime is handled in general, when you as an employee are required to work overtime, and how you are compensated. Contracts will often include the passage that overtime is already compensated through your monthly salary. If you see this passage, you should check whether the exact number of hours is listed and whether overtime can be compensated by free time.
Usually, employers will offer you between 25 and 30 holidays. You should make sure though that the exact number is recorded in writing. Tip: If holidays are very important to you, use this aspect during contract negotiations and, if necessary, reduce your salary expectations somewhat. A further note: If you fall ill on holiday, submit the sick note to your employer. The sick days will then not count as holidays.