There are so many things to consider before signing an Employment Contract for a new job that we’ve decided to include a second part to our original post, “4 Things to Consider Before Signing an Employment Contract”.

In the first post, we discussed how, before signing your employee agreement, it’s wise to:

  • Review your job title and duties to ensure they match the position you interviewed for
  • Double check the salary listed is the one you agreed upon
  • Ensure you understand how overtime and time off benefits work
  • Familiarize yourself with any additional or restrictive clauses in the employment agreement (e.g. non-compete, non-solicitation, and confidentiality clauses)

In this second part, we’ll discuss considering travel requirements, clarifying work hours, reviewing employee benefits, and evaluating company culture before signing on the dotted line.

Consider the Travel Requirements in Your Employment Contract

Travel is something many people often overlook when they’re considering taking a job, but it’s important to keep in mind that traveling to and from work, in some cases, can be a large part of your day.

If you’re fielding multiple job offers where all other factors (like pay, benefits, workload, etc.) are equal, the commute could possibly be your deal breaker. Having a 30- or 45-minute trip doesn’t necessarily sound too horrible until you consider that both ways (to and from work) can mean up to an hour-and-a-half in your car or on public transit.

It’s also important to consider how commute times can alter (sometimes drastically) at different times of day (e.g. morning and evening rush hour, lunch time, etc.) and different times of year.

For example, in Maine or even upstate New York, a typical 30-minute commute can very easily become an hour or an hour-and-a-half in the winter.

One last thing to keep in mind is business travel. Some jobs expect no travel at all, while others expect the majority of your work time to be spent out of the office. This can mean traveling to various job sites or other cities, states, or countries for meetings and conferences. Before you sign your Employment Contract, you should ask about the travel requirements and you should clarify whether or not you’ll be compensated for travel time, meals, flights, gas, etc., and what that compensation will be.

Clarify the Working Hours for Your New Position

Sometimes there can be a difference between the hours you are expected to work on paper and an unspoken expectation of the hours you’re really meant to work.

This doesn’t mean that an employer might expect you to underreport your hours or leave off any overtime (although this does happen), it just means you might have to consider how your work life might intermingle with your personal life.

Many people work a standard 9 to 5, Monday to Friday job (or some such variation), and when everyone punches out, the day is done. But there are certain employers that expect their employees to check their work emails after hours and on weekends or to be on call at all times in case of work emergencies.

Before you sign your contract, you should ask about what’s expected of you in terms of being on call. Are you meant to put in your 40 hours in the office and keep an eye out for phone calls or emails from your boss on Saturdays?

Some employers expect you to work your 40 hours and nothing more, while others expect you to be at their beck and call. It’s best to clarify this before you accept the position so you know exactly what you’re getting into on day one.

Review and Understand the Benefits Plans

In today’s economy, employee benefits are an important factor when workers are contemplating employment opportunities.

The U.S. Department of Labor released a report in 2017 that detailed the percentage of employers (across the civilian, private, and local and state government sectors) that offer some form of benefits (retirement, medical care, and life insurance) to their employees. The results found an average of 72% of employees had access to these types of benefits and an average of 65% of employees used the benefits.

Typically, employers who offer benefits plans include some form of the following:

  • Retirement plan
  • Health insurance
  • Vision and dental coverage
  • Life insurance
  • Short- or long-term disability

With the majority of employers offering benefits, applicants and job hunters have the chance to compare benefits packages so they can make judgments about which job offer they might take. It’s a good idea to review the employer’s benefits plans, make sure you understand them, and see how they measure up to other plans from your current job or another position you might be contemplating.

Evaluate the Company Culture

One final thing you should reflect on is what the working environment is like. People struggle and thrive in very different environments, so it’s important to consider how you’ll fare in a specific environment before you sign up.

Determining a company’s culture can be a hard concept to navigate, so here are some questions you can ask yourself to get started:

  • What kind of people will you be working with?
  • Do you think you’ll get along with your co-workers?
  • Do the people look content to be at work? Or are they all visibly stressed and discontent?
  • Will you fit in?

One last question you might also ask yourself is “Do I care about the company culture?” because it’s not something that matters to everyone. Many people can put up with working in an environment where they aren’t always content if other factors (like pay or benefits or the company’s mission) outweigh their needs for contentment. Hopefully, you’ll never have to choose between your personal happiness and a paycheck, but it’s a choice that some people have to consider.

Taking the Next Steps in Your Career

Receiving a job offer is a thrilling experience, but it can come with many uncertainties that you’ll want to clarify. Don’t be afraid to evaluate the implications of accepting the offer before you sign the contract. There’s no harm in being a little cautious and ensuring you understand everything you’re getting into before taking a new job.

What are some other things you consider before accepting a job offer?

Posted by Spencer Knight

Spencer Knight is a writer in Edmonton, Alberta. His nonfiction has appeared in Spinal Columns, The Bolo Tie Collective Anthology: Volume I, and filling Station. When he's not writing, he's sleeping.

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