Receiving a new job offer is always exciting, but depending on the employer, the industry, and what your role will be, that offer might require you to sign an employment contract.
An employment contract is a legally binding agreement, and once you sign it, you’re bound to the terms of that agreement. If you sign one that unfairly benefits the employer, you could find yourself in big trouble down the road.
No matter how excited you may be to sign an employment agreement and settle into your new role, never sign it on the spot. Instead, take the time to look it over and make sure the terms are fair to both you and the employer.
From the key things to look for to identifying items that might be missing, here are seven simple tips for spotting unfair terms in job contracts that every new hire needs to know.
- Double Check the Job Title
While most people don’t get too hung up on what their actual title will be, you should always make sure that the job title listed in your contract matches the job you interviewed for.
Job titles are tied to job responsibilities as well as salary, so make sure your contract includes the title of the job you think you’ve been hired for. If it doesn’t, you could be signing on to do a different job at a lower pay rate or a higher-paying job that comes with responsibilities you don’t want to take on.
- Look for Specifics Regarding Location and Schedule
Every employment contract should specify the location from which you’ll work and the schedule you’ll need to adhere to. If it doesn’t, you’re giving your employer the option to change your workdays, alter your shift, or even relocate you when they see fit.
If you were told in the interview that you could work remotely from home, be sure that the contract says so. Otherwise, you might be obligated to commute to the office every day.
- Beware of Restrictive Covenants
Pay special attention to restrictive covenants, as they sometimes put limitations on where you can work when your contract ends.
One of the most common restrictive covenants is the non-compete clause, which usually states that you are not allowed to work for a competing employer within a radius of X miles for a period of X months. This can be extremely limiting and have a significant impact on your future employment opportunities.
Depending on the geographical limitations, an unfair non-compete clause could even cause you to have to move or work in a different role for a set period of time.
- Pay Attention to Termination Clauses
Every contract should include a termination clause that states the conditions under which either you or the employer can end the contract early. If you see the words “without cause” it means that the employer can fire you or end your contract at any time, even if you haven’t done anything to warrant termination.
Termination clauses sometimes also include language that says if you get fired or let go you may have to pay back certain benefits to the employer, such as relocation costs or signing bonuses.
- Understand the Compensation Model
While many industries pay employees a straight salary or an hourly rate, there are several other types of compensation models. For example, salespeople are often paid a straight salary plus commission for every sale they make. Physicians are often paid on a productivity basis where their salary depends on how many patients they see in a given week.
Be sure that you understand the compensation model thoroughly, otherwise you might earn a far lower salary than you’re expecting to earn.
- Be Mindful of Terms That Might Be Missing
While the terms in the contract deserve scrutiny, you also need to keep an eye out for items that might be missing.
From your compensation to your schedule to your eligibility for unpaid family leave, all of the key factors regarding your duties, salary, and benefits should be included in the contract. That includes any one-time concessions that you negotiated, such as relocation costs or signing bonuses.
- Hire a Contract Review Lawyer
Unless you’re a contract lawyer yourself, recognizing that something is missing from your contract can be a rather difficult thing to do. That’s why it’s always best to hire a contract review lawyer before signing an agreement with a new employer.
No matter how many employment contracts you’ve read or signed in the past, hiring a lawyer to review a new contract offers two key benefits:
- Contract review lawyers ensure that your contract is fair and lawful
- Contract review lawyers can help you negotiate better terms
To learn more about employment contract review, check out this article from Physicians Thrive.
The best way to protect yourself against an unfair job contract is to hire a contract review lawyer to look it over for you before you sign. No matter how fair it may seem to you, only an experienced contracts lawyer will know if it is or isn’t.
Will hiring a contract review lawyer cost you?
But because it’s the best way to ensure that your employment agreement is fair, it’s well worth the price.