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Safeguard your employment: Six simple checks when signing your contract


You've finally landed that new, high paying job of your dreams. You’re about to sign on the dotted line, but are you sure it's going to deliver all it promises? We spend more than a third of our lives at work, so when you accept your employment contract, it's important to know exactly what you are signing up for.

Shine LawyersEmployment Law expert Christie Toy highlights six key things to look for when signing your next employment contract:

1) Bonuses

If you have agreed to a bonus when taking the job, make sure this is properly documented in the contract. Check the wording of the clause in the contract to make sure it is binding, and forms part of your contract. If the clause uses wording such as 'at the ultimate discretion of' your employer, this is good indication the clause does not form part of your contract and you may need to raise this with your new employer.

2) Parental leave

Under the National Employment Standards, an employee with the care or responsibility of a child is entitled to up to one year off work on an unpaid basis if they have worked for 12 months. This also includes long term casuals. Your employer cannot make you serve a longer period before allowing you to have this time off, so it is important your contract reflects this.

3) Award coverage

If you are covered by a modern award but receive a salary under an employment contract, many employees wrongly believe the modern award no longer applies.

Don’t be fooled; if you receive a salary or believe you are entitled to other conditions in the award, you should check over the award to see if this is the case. An employer cannot undercut your award protections by placing you on a salary.

4) Being demoted

Check carefully for any clause in your contract that gives your employer the sole ability to change terms or conditions of your contract, such as your duties, pay, seniority, or location of work.

As a general rule, an employer cannot change the terms and conditions of your contract without your consent. If you have consented to changes, this precludes you from later arguing that you were unfairly demoted.

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5) Notice of termination

You should always check what period of notice you need to give if you resign, and how much notice your employer needs to give you if you are dismissed.

An employer cannot provide you less notice than what is required under the National Employment Standards. However, you can always bargain with your employer for more notice of termination as an extra protection.

6) Restraint of trade

Always look to see if the employer has put in a restraint of trade clause into your contract, as this may impact your ability to obtain later employment in the same industry.

Shine Lawyers - Employment Law specialists

Contracts of employment are not always easy to interpret, and can give rise to a multitude of issues if things don’t go to plan. If you have any questions about the clauses in your contract, seek legal advice from an employment law expert. It might save you some drama in the long run.

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Written by Shine Lawyers on August 21, 2017. Last modified: September 26, 2018.

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