Are you considering a new job?
This time of year can be a time for reflection and a time to consider changes in the New Year. For some, this could mean a change of employment.
For any employee entering into new employment, they should be issued with a written contract of employment from their employers.
Once signed by both parties, the document is binding and sets out the terms of employment which the employee and employer will be governed by. It is therefore important to know what you are signing before you sign it.
Whilst there is no obligation on the employee to have the contract reviewed by a solicitor before they sign it, this is advised.
Below, we have listed 10 reasons why an employee should have a new contract reviewed before signing.
1. A solicitor can check that your contract accurately reflects the position at law.
A solicitor can review your contract to check that your contract complies with your statutory legal rights as an employee.
For example, you are entitled to a minimum of 28 days’ holiday per year (including bank holidays) if you are a full time employee working in the UK.
2. A solicitor can check to see whether your contract is fair.
Some contracts may contain clauses which would place you at an unfair disadvantage. If you have your contract reviewed a solicitor will be able to pick out these clauses to bring them to your attention so that this can be brought to your employer’s attention to ensure there is no discrimination.
3. You should have a full understanding of what you are signing before you sign it.
A new contract of employment can sometimes be a daunting document. It might be several pages long with numerous clauses and legal jargon.
A solicitor will be able to take you through your contract, clause by clause, to help you to understand the meaning of every clause so that you are fully aware of the implications of what you are signing.
4. A solicitor can ensure the contract is clear and free from ambiguity.
If there are any clauses in the contract which contain ambiguous or conflicting terms your solicitor will be able to point these out to you.
It is important that a contract is in clear terms and free from ambiguity before you sign the contract so that you and your employer are on the same page and clearly understand your obligations to each other. This will avoid any unnecessary confusion later on.
5. All critical clauses should be included in the contract.
A solicitor can ensure that all critical clauses and information are included in the contract.
Your rate of pay, hours worked per week and start date of employment should all be included in the contract along with other essential clauses. If anything essential is missing your solicitor will be able to advise you on this so that your employers can add this in before you sign it.
6. A solicitor can ensure the contract reflects your understanding of your agreement with your employer.
Sometimes there can be verbal discussions with your employer about your terms of employment before you start and you may presume this will be reflected in your written contract. However this is not always necessarily the case and this could lead to problems in the future if you try to rely on a verbal agreement made at the beginning which is superseded by your written contract. It is therefore important to ensure that your written contract reflects what was verbally agreed with your employer and a solicitor can help you with this.
7. You may want to suggest amendments to the contract.
If there is a contract term which does not accurately reflect what you have verbally agreed or places you at an unfair disadvantage, you may want to ask your employers to amend the contract to more accurately reflect your agreement. If that is the case a solicitor can draft these amendments for you which you may want to take to your employers directly or ask your solicitor to speak to your employers on your behalf. There is no guarantee your employers will agree to the amendments, but you should hopefully be able to come to some agreement.
8. You should be fully aware of your own responsibilities under the contract.
Before you sign a contract you should be fully aware of the obligations placed on you as a result of signing this binding agreement. A solicitor will be able to advise you on your responsibilities to your employer under the terms of the contract.
It is important to understand your obligations to your employer under your contract as a repudiatory breach of contract could result in your dismissal. You therefore need to be aware of your obligations and abide by them to ensure you are not in danger of breaching your employment contract.
9. You should be advised on any post termination restrictions placed on you.
Sometimes a contract of employment can contain a clause known as a restrictive covenant clause. This clause usually places certain restrictions on who you work for and where you work, for a specified period of time following your exit from the company.
It is important that where there is a restrictive covenant clause you are advised regarding its obligations on you and you are also advised on whether it appears to be placing too much restriction on you as there may be scope to negotiate the terms of this clause with your employers if it is too onerous.
10. You should be fully aware of your employer’s responsibilities towards you under the contract.
It is important that you are aware of your employer’s obligations towards you under the contract of employment. A solicitor can help you by advising you on these obligations.
It is important to be aware of these obligations so that you are aware of your rights as an employee so that you can be alive to any potential breach of contract claims if your employers do not abide by their responsibilities towards you.
How can we help?
We hope this article helps you to understand why it is advisable to have your contract of employment reviewed before signing it.
If you are working in Moray and have been provided with a new contract from your employer, we are here to help. We offer a full contract review service.
If you are an employer in the Moray area and would like help with drafting a new contract of employment for an employee, we can assist with this also.
Note: This article was first published on the Moray Employment Law website in December 2017.