So, you’ve got a new job lined up, the employer is keen for you to start and they’ve sent you a draft contract of employment asking you to sign it. Stop! Don’t rush, please read it carefully and check it suits your needs. If it doesn’t, now is the time to get it changed.
In the balance of power between employee and employer, the employer is nearly always in the stronger bargaining position – one of the few occasions where the balance is equal is the point prior to starting a new job – this is where you can best negotiate changes to terms and conditions. In addition to pay and benefits, look at the other proposed contractual terms and consider negotiating (to remove, trim or change). Key points may be:
• Is the place of work to be a set location or is there a mobility clause in your contract? A mobility clause details how ‘mobile’ you agree to be, for example working at different locations. If there is, try to get a limit set on what is considered to be ‘reasonable’ mobility under the clause, such as distance or travelling time (e.g. a maximum 3 hours per day). Otherwise, you don’t want to find yourself facing an additional 50 miles across heavy traffic to get to a different workplace.
• Are there any restrictions, known as restrictive covenants, in the contract that you will continue to be bound by after you leave and for how long will they apply – such as restrictions on contacting customers and ex-colleagues, confidentiality, agreeing to assist the ex-employer or working for competitors? You will one day leave the employer’s employment (maybe to work in the same town or city and within the same sector) – you need to clarify this now so as not to become limited in choice (having to work in a different city, sector etc.) after your employment ends.
• Is there a flexibility clause? Flexibility may be in relation to shift patterns, the duties you are expected to do or even levels of pay or entitlement to bonuses.
• Is there a training repayment clause requiring you to repay your employer any training costs (for courses you attend, qualifications you receive, etc) they incur, possibly on a full or scaled repayment basis?
The key is to make sure that you can live with the contractual terms, not only whilst you are in their employment but after your employment ends. Remember – once you’ve signed the contract and arrived for your first day of work, the pressure on the employer to change any terms will reduce (if they are keen for you to start soon, they are more likely to agree to changes) and they’ll become less willing to change it.
It may seem tricky to negotiate such things but it’s not unusual – also, many an employer is likely to be impressed by negotiations conducted sensibly and realistically.
We assist people with all shapes and sizes of problems at work – advice on contracts, disciplinary/grievance procedures, negotiation of severance packages, settlement agreements and mediation, as well representation in the employment tribunals and courts.