Entering into a contract is a bigger step than a simple signature on a dotted line might seem to indicate. However, despite the eye-watering language in which contracts are couched, they offer real benefits to both sides of the agreement.
In the context of employment, contracts are especially important, since they define the terms of an employee’s relationship with their employers. If you think that your employer has contravened the terms of a contract, a lawyer can help understand the fine print, so that you know where you stand and what you ought to do next.
The potential benefits of having a written agreement are many, and each of them underlines the importance of understanding the contents of a contract before you sign it. Here’s why your employment contract matters so much.
1. An Employment Contract Defines Your Responsibilities
Although clauses such as those defining hours of work might seem rather superfluous, it’s worth remembering that each of them is a commitment to fulfill your responsibilities towards your employer. Using our example, if you’re late for work, you are in breach of contract, and that’s not a matter to be taken lightly.
Admittedly, being five minutes late shouldn’t result in your dismissal, but if you’re consistently late for work, your employer has every right to take steps against you. So, the first thing to pay close attention to when reading a contract, is what your responsibilities under it would be.
2. Your Contract Defines Your Right To Expect Certain Things From Your Employer
A contract isn’t just about your responsibilities, it also specifies what rights you earn in exchange for fulfilling your responsibilities. The most obvious of these is remuneration, but you should pay careful attention to every clause that may affect your working life going forward.
For example, what are the terms under which your employer terminates your employment? If your employer breaches the terms of a contract, your contractual rights have been violated and you have grounds for legal action.
3. A Contract Offers You And Your Employer Protection
We’ve already touched on a couple of examples that demonstrate the type of protection a contract offers to employees and their employers. It’s a two-way street with both parties trading responsibilities in exchange for a set of rights. If either party defaults, there are penalties, and since both contracting parties should be aware of their rights under a contract, identifying instances in which those rights are breached should be a straightforward matter.
4. Your Contract Helps You To Decide Whether A Job Offer Is Right For You
Rapid staff turnover is bad for businesses. Contracts are a tool that they can use to make sure that you understand the terms under which you work before you start the job.
If you’re particularly good at what you do, they can also use favorable contract terms to make the job more attractive and to increase the likelihood of you staying with the company in the longer-term. Use your contract to decide whether the role you’re being offered will suit you or whether you should look for an alternative opportunity.
5. Written Contracts Limit Disputes
A verbal contract can be seen as binding. The only problem is that it can give rise to a debate as to what the agreement actually consisted of. With nothing to prove that you and your employer agreed on certain issues, proving breach of contract if there’s a dispute about the terms under which you were employed can be a difficult business. Both employers and employees benefit from a clear, written contract defining their relationship.
Always Look Before You Leap
Your prospective employer’s human resources department must give you time to study your contract before you are asked to sign it. No matter what type of contract you’re entering into, be sure that you have a clear understanding of its contents before you put pen to paper. No matter how excited you are about getting a job offer, the terms of your contract decide whether you’re willing to commit to an employment relationship.