If you have just managed to score that coveted dream job, the last thing you’re probably thinking about is the technical ins-and-outs of your employment contract. If you can bring yourself down from that elated high for just a minute though, it might be worth scrutinising your ‘employee welcome pack’ and ensuring everything is above board. If you have some experience in understanding employment contract law, it should be easy enough to sit back with a celebratory glass of wine while you peruse the small print. If it looks like gobbledygook though – or something seems amiss – it’s definitely in your best interests to sort it out before your first day at your new job.
The most logical step would be to sit down and go over the details with your employer; however, this can be quite an uncomfortable or intimidating situation that can be made worse if you’re unprepared or do not have a thorough understanding of contract jargon. A better solution would be to consult a professional, such as a lawyer who specialises in contract law. A lawyer reviewing your employment contract will not only look for any unfair terms, but will also explain to you any clauses that you may not understand, so that you’re able to ask for amendments or clarification from your employer.
It’s worth noting that an employment contract outlines benefits and obligations during the working relationship for both employee and employer, so it’s worth ensuring your contract is mutually beneficial and does not unfairly favour one role over another. This article concentrates on issues that affect employees. A few of the primary areas of concern are outlined below:
An employment contract must comply with the Fair Work Act, as well as national employment standards — in Australia, labour laws are governed by the legislative framework outlined in the Fair Work Act. Similarly, the National Employment Standards are derived from the Fair Work Act and this outlines your employee rights and responsibilities. Your employment agreement should comply with this legislation and it is illegal for it not to do so.
It must not impose ambiguous restraints — Restraint of trade or confidentiality clauses are designed to protect an employees interests upon termination of an employees role; however, these may impose onerous limits and/or confusing cascading clauses on your post-termination options. It’s vital to understand this clause and ensure it is mutually beneficial.
It must be clear and comprehensible — a contract should be easy to understand and not open to interpretation. If anything seems too ambiguous, it’s important to have it redrafted or amended to clarify key points. You do not want to find later that your contract or specific clauses in your contract are open to interpretation and require expensive court proceedings to interpret the clauses in the dispute.
It must clearly record any arrangements about benefits/bonuses — Many pre-contractual agreements are left out of the final contract or termed as ‘discretionary’. If you’ve accepted a role based on these agreements, it is absolutely in your best interest to ensure they’re included in your contract.
Be cautious if your contract specifies that an employer can change your role or work location — Your contract should not grant your employer a right to change your location or role if you’ve agreed to a specific role or location. Not ensuring this could result in significant inconvenience or unfairness for you in the future.
There are many more clauses that should be checked thoroughly before signing that dotted line. After all, an employment contract isn’t just a document that ensures your basic rights as an employee are protected. It’s also a contract that ensures you’re protected in the event of workplace discrimination, harassment, unfair dismissal or treatment and health and safety issues.
For a professional assessment of your employment contract, give the friendly team at Baker, Deane and Nutt Lawyers a call on (02) 6299 3999 (Canberra area) or (02) 6299 3999 (Queanbeyan area). Alternatively, visit our website and fill in our contact form and we’ll get back to you to arrange an appointment to discuss your Employment Law needs, conveyancing, personal injury and family law or any other point of law across the Queanbeyan and Canberra region.
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