So, you have been offered a great new job and are keen to get started. You receive a letter from your new employer with your employment agreement asking you to sign and return it. You should read it thoroughly and take the time to understand its contents because there can be significant consequences. Obtain advice if you are unclear about any provisions because it is usually pointless to seek to negotiate once a job has started. Employees have several statutory protections and contracts are a chance for employers to protect their own interests.

Employees should ensure the contract reflects any verbal agreement and at least consider:
1. What is the nature of the employment – is it full time, part time or casual, permanent or fixed term/outer limit in nature? Is it a labour hire or agency agreement? Who is the actual employer?
2. Is there any industrial award or enterprise agreement which will interact with and overrule contract provisions?
3. When does the employment start?
4. Does the contract specify a particular job? Is there scope for the employer to change the job or duties without agreement and to what extent?
5. Does the contract specify a place or places of employment?
6. Does the contract contain a meaningful position description setting out the duties of the job with measurable key performance indicators?
7. Does the contract specify base salary, superannuation and any other agreed remuneration components/allowances (including benefits such as health insurance, gym memberships, purchasing additional leave, special days off) along with the timing of payment?
8. Does the contract contain provision for review of performance and remuneration at regular intervals and does it contain criteria for those reviews?
9. Bonus schemes are notoriously grey and difficult to enforce. How precise and how discretionary is any bonus scheme in the contract? The same goes for commission calculation.
10. Does the contract specify expected hours of work? Contracts commonly provide for 38 hours a week “plus reasonable additional hours”. Does the contract specify what these additional hours might be or how they are determined and any additional remuneration?
11. Does the contract make provision for flexibility of hours/days of work/working from home?
12. Does the contract contain any provisions about employer workplace surveillance?
13. Is there provision for an employer to obtain medical reports about your health and in what circumstances?
14. What is the scope of any confidentiality requirement? Most contracts state that all information is confidential unless it is in the public realm, even after the employment ends.
15. Does the contract have intellectual property requirements which mean that anything created or improved upon by the employee in the course of employment belongs to the employer?
16. Does the contract contain a post employment restraint clause? Does it restrict interactions with clients and if so, which ones, for how long and in what area? Does it contain a more general non compete clause?
17. What is the status of employer policies under the contract? It is normal for contracts to state that policies are directions only and do not form part of the contract.
18. Is there any provision for the resolution of workplace disputes by, for example, mediation?
19. What notice is the employer required to give on termination of employment – is it the statutory minimum or something more? Does the employee have the same requirement? What are the grounds for instant dismissal? Note that contractual termination clauses are still subject to the legal right to bring a statutory unfair dismissal claim (where possible) along with breach of general protections rights claims and other statutory remedies.
20. Has the employer provided a Fair Work Information Statement as required by law?

A number of these matters may be covered by employer policies (which can be changed). If so, it is wise to ask to see the policies before signing the employment agreement.  These are of course general comments only and not exhaustive. This is a complex area. Please contact us if you would like any further information or help.