Before you agree to sign employee documents, it's recommended that you do your due diligence. Getting into the wrong contract can compromise the quality of your employment and create conflicts later down the line.
Here are seven things you should consider before you make the final agreement:
1. Does Your Contract Meet Your Needs and Wants?
You need to know which questions to ask before signing a job contract. This really comes down to your needs and wants from the job. Will you need flexibility as a single parent? Is this employer going to be understanding if there is an emergency with your family that suddenly pulls you away from your job? Are you going to get the job title that you want? The job title will be in your resume, so you want to ensure that it's aligned with your career goals for future positions.
The main point is that you have to think about your personal needs as you review the employment documents. This will allow you to have the right discussions with your potential employer before signing off on the contract. If you find that the legal documents are too strict concerning your personal needs, you'll want to negotiate or ask if the employer can make exceptions.
2. Is Everything (That Should Be) Included in the Contract?
It's important to have a general idea of what's in a typical contract. Here are some of the most important things to look for:
- The job title and type of employment (contractor, part-time, full-time, etc.): You need the right job title for your resume and you always want a clear statement of what the employment relationships will be.
- What is expected of you as an employee: What will your duties be? How many hours a day and week are you obligated to work?
- Benefits: Many employers will have a separate list of benefits and an explanation of what employees can expect.
- That all of the key issues pertaining to your specific job are covered: For example, if you're a dental assistant, you'll want some kind of insurance to protect you from on-the-job injuries.
- Job termination procedure: On what grounds are you liable to be terminated? How can you get out of the contract? What steps need to be taken to terminate the relationship? See if this is an at-will employment contract. You want to avoid these because it allows the employer to fire you without any reason.
3. Your Compensation is More Complex Than Salary Alone
Earnings are one of the first things employees typically look at before signing any documents. However, compensation can often be more complicated than a fixed salary. Before you sign off, here are some things to look for:
- The base salary;
- The salary that comes from bonuses;
- The rate you will be paid for working overtime;
- Health insurance and general liability insurance coverage;
- The number of vacation days and sick days;
- Pension or retirement programs like 401 (k); and
- How incentive programs or equity works (if your company offers it).
4. How Are You Protected on the Job?
Every job is different, and each requires different protections for the employee. The first thing you want to look for is general liability insurance. From there, you want to look for things like worker's compensation insurance (if physical labor is involved), vehicle insurance (if you are required to drive), and malpractice insurance, just to name a few. Think about what kind of protection you'll need and see what the contract covers.
5. Consider Negotiating Your Salary
Salaries are not always set in stone. Depending on the level of experience and the skill sets you bring to the table, you can negotiate for a higher salary. You want to make sure you do your research first. Look for the same or similar positions at other companies. The best way to get this information is to look at recruitment ads or job postings. You may find that others are offering $5,000 or $10,000 more per year. Remember that companies want to pay the least amount possible for their employees and salary amounts aren't based solely on their budgets.
6. What is the Length of the Contract?
You'll want to know if there are any time limitations in your employment contract as they will have an impact on your career goals. Company culture is important here, as well. This is because you will want to know if you could enjoy working with the team for a long time. It is also important to consider whether or not the company has had a hard time keeping the position filled. Is there a potential for growth with the company? Do you plan to stay in this position for a long time? These are questions you need to ask as you look over the length of the contract.
7. Be Aware of Restrictive Clauses
Many companies will have restrictive clauses in their contracts. If you're looking for a job in a specific industry to gain experience for future business endeavors, look for non-compete clauses. Many companies will restrict employees from starting businesses that compete with them during or after the employment contract. Other restrictive clauses include confidentiality agreements, non-dealing clauses, and non-poaching clauses.
In summary, you need to know what to look for before signing employee documents. A bad contract can get you stuck in a job that doesn't meet your needs or value what you bring to the table. It's a good idea to hire a law firm that can work with you to make sure your contract is fair.