First Job

Written by John Regan, former Director of Sales for equity research

Question: If I get a job with a big company, do I need an employment contract?

Answer: This situation can be a little awkward if an employment contract isn’t automatically offered to you by your new employer. It will serve as a good learning experience for your first job, and the dialogue between you and your boss is an important one. Contracts of employment can offer a number of advantages for you and your employer. The document will typically describe the terms of the job, what is expected of you, and certain legalities that are designed to protect both parties. It is a legally binding document that you will need to abide by.

There is no actual legal requirement for a company to provide an employment contract, but having one can provide mutual benefits. Your full job description will be laid out in the paper. It covers everything the boss expects you to do, and there may be other jobs in addition to these. There is a big difference between being a full-time employee and freelancer or temporary staff; this will affect your tax and insurance status. The employment contract will clearly define where you stand.

Your performance evaluation will also be mentioned, so that you can be prepared for the stages of your development within the company. It will also explain your salary terms and benefits packages and explain how raises, bonuses and benefits are achieved. This gives you clear goals to work towards without uncertainty.

The contract will also state your coverage for workplace accidents and detail any insurance the company has to provide for you in the event of an injury at work. Other inclusions in the contract will be vacation time, sick days and policies on time off. Planning ahead and knowing where you stand on things like unpaid leave or time off for family matters will be made clearer.

Termination terms and conditions are also explained in the contract. You will also have to give notice if you want to leave the company, and the duration will be mentioned. Any redundancy and severance policies should also be included so that it is clear where you both stand in the unfortunate situation of dismissal.

On the downside, an employment contract is usually very rigid with little room for flexibility. However, this will depend on your relationship with your boss. Disciplinary action can be taken if your manager is of the opinion that you are in breach of contract at any time, so be sure to read the fine print and abide by it. Employee write-up policies and procedures should also be made clear as should any warning and disciplinary processes.

There may be non-disclosure policies which prevent you discussing confidential company information or even making certain comments on social media. Any office internet restrictions and limitations of use may also be part of your contract. An employment contract is a bi-directional process; there are benefits for yourself and the company. You will get some extra security and be fully aware of what is expected of you, and your employer has a little more control over the staff.

An employee’s motivation is a direct result of the sum of interactions with his or her manager. – Bob Nelson