Only you know which issues are most important to you. Take time now to make a detailed list of the things that are important to you and then rigorously test these to make sure you are satisfied that they are covered.
In all cases, check for the following:
Basic salary will almost certainly be covered, but check:
- How often is pay to be reviewed?
- What is the bonus? Guaranteed minimum or discretionary?
- Whose discretion?
- When is it paid?
- How much?
- Are there any guidelines?
You may be too young to think it is important now, but check:
- What provision is made?
- Is it contributory or not?
- Some companies make contributions to pension schemes, but reserve the right to withhold these if you leave within the first two years of joining the company. It does happen, so check for this.
These are often overlooked and can make a very big difference to take-home pay.
- Company car: What type? How often can it be changed?
- Is there private health cover? Does it include family and dependants?
- Is there permanent health cover? Are you covered?
If you are sick, will you still be paid?
- Short term: employers do not have to pay full wages. Check your contract.
- Long term: Does your employer insure you? Check. If not, consider separate insurance.
Although the nature of any work will change over time, it is helpful to have a job description defined as tightly as possible. It enhances your legal position in the event of any changes being imposed on you.
6. Place of Work
- Is this fixed, e.g. 'London office'? or
- 'Anywhere in the UK' or
- 'Anywhere as may be necessary'
Employees should try and have this defined as tightly as possible. A wide definition could allow an employer to require an employee to move to an undesirable location, possibly with a view to prompting a resignation.
7. Restraint clauses
For senior positions you may be asked to sign an agreement not to work for competitors or for existing clients following your departure. Be very careful what you sign at the outset, as it could come back to haunt you at a later date. The wider-reaching the restraint clauses, the less likely they are to be upheld by a court.
These days it is vital to keep having regular training. Ensure the contract guarantees ongoing training and that the employer pays the cost. Some companies recover training costs if you leave within two years of undergoing the training. Check for this! The employer can only recover these costs if the employee has agreed to it.
9. Notice periods
The amount of notice an employer is required to give can be worryingly short, so check your contract.
- How much notice must the employer give?
- How much notice must the employee give?
- Can the employee be required to work at home?
- Will the employee be allowed to take or be paid for unused holiday during the notice period? This is often not allowed under the contract.
- Does the employer offer paternity leave or paternity pay?
- How much maternity leave is allowed?
- Does employer pay more than statutory minimum? If so, are there any qualifying conditions?
- Does extra maternity pay have to be repaid if employee leaves within a given period?
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