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Five points: There are 5 things you should check out before signing an employment contract. (Photo: Unsplash.com)

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Check out these 5 points before signing a contract

Dec. 17 2021

You should be aware of this point before signing an employment contract

Have you ever been offered a job, gotten the employment contract sent to you and been ready to sign it – but been unsure if you’ve actually understood everything? If so, you should be aware of the fact that all the negotiations about the content in this contract should happen before signing.

     – If you sign first and then try to negotiate, in all likelihood you’ll have weakened your bargaining position. This is because when you’ve already accepted the conditions listed in the contract, it’ll be difficult to get your employer to change anything, says Anam Khalid.

    She’s a legal advisor in Tekna’s legal department, helping individual members handle many aspects of employment rights. These include workplace conflicts, termination, questions about rights and responsibilities in an employment relationship and reviewing members’ employment contracts.

  – After an employee has signed their contract, only contractual terms that violate legislation can be brought up, says Khalid.

    In other words, you should bring up everything you’re wondering about and disagree about with your potential employer before signing anything. But which points in the employment contract should concern you especially?

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Five points you should check out

An employment contract is important for absolutely every employment relationship as it is an agreement between the employee and employer. An employee’s right to have a written contract is anchored in the Working Environment Act – regardless if their position is permanent or temporary.

    – An employment contract points out the rights and responsibilities you as an employee have. This can be everything from your work schedule and tasks to if you have the right to overtime pay and what your salary level will be. Along with legislation and maybe a collective bargaining agreement, the contract itself is the foundation of your employment relationship, explains Khalid.

    Regardless of the position you’re starting, there are certain points you should check carefully and think about seriously when receiving your employment contract – especially if you’re young and a recent graduate. Khalid highlights these five points:

  1. Work tasks

    How specific and detailed is the job description? What kind of tasks are listed? Watch out for any conditions that will allow the employer to singlehandedly change your work tasks.
  2. Workplace

    What is defined as your workplace? Does your employer expect you to travel for work/be stationed somewhere? Your workplace should be described as clearly and concisely as ever. It is also important to be clear about any conditions where your employer can change your workplace without your consent.
  3. Work schedule

    Are you going to have a fixed work schedule or a special independent/management position? If you have a fixed schedule, you are entitled to receive overtime pay; however, this doesn’t apply if you have a special independent or management position. In these cases, you accept a provision where you have to work as much as necessary in order to fulfill your work tasks. It’s especially important here that salary levels reflect the extra workload this requirement can entail.
  4. Salary

    Salary is always a negotiating point, so make sure to check out Tekna’s salary statistics, as you’ll get an idea of which salary level you should be at based on your education and experience. These statistics should of course be understood in context with the salary levels in the company where you’ve applied to work. You can get information about local salary levels from one of the company’s union representatives.
  5. Pension

    Information about the company’s pension plan is usually included in its personnel handbook and not in an employment contract. This is because 1) a pension plan is as a rule the same for every employee in the company, and 2) the employer wants the possibility of changing the plan if needed. It’s important that you familiarize yourself with the plan’s points that pertain to you as you can then decide whether you’ll need to save for your pension on your own, or if you’ll use this «bad pension plan» as one of your arguments in a future salary negotiation.

 

Imprecise wording can create confusion in the long run

One challenging aspect of employment contracts is that they might contain several legal terms, and it’s not necessarily easy to understand what these terms actually mean.

    – It can be difficult to understand the scope and consequences of the provisions that are included in the contract before a dispute between the employer and employee arises, says Khalid.

    Vague and imprecise wording often appear in employment contracts sent to Tekna. For example, one might state that you have to expect traveling – without knowing where you have to travel and how much travel time is expected of you.

    In order to avoid future unpleasant situations connected with misunderstandings, you can ask your employer beforehand to get a more detailed explanation of an unclear point.

     – It’s understandable that an employer wants a certain amount of flexibility, but at the same time you should get clarity about the degree to which your employer can change your position. It’s a smart idea to have any imprecise wording in your employment contract changed into wording that is more concrete, says Khalid.

  Read: Employment contract checklist

Ask for help

Once you’ve received an employment contract, Tekna strongly recommends that you first read through it on your own and then send it in to Tekna for review. You could also send it to someone you know who has legal training – whether it’s a family member, friend or acquaintance – to get their opinion.

     –  We encourage our members to send us their employment contracts for review so that we can check out whether there are things members should bring up with their employer before signing. We also answer any questions that members ask us, advises Khalid.

    For example, many young people and recent graduates are offered special independent positions without a fixed work schedule, which is something on which Tekna often comments and informs members about.

     – We inform members about the different work schedule plans they’re allowed to agree on. We find in several instances that members who are recent graduates and who’ve been offered a special independent position should instead have a fixed work schedule based on their skills and experience and the salary they’ve been offered.

    Given the fact that members have different ideas about what they consider important to have in their jobs, it’s up to each individual member to decide which points they want to bring up with their employer.

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