When you’re reading over your job contract, you should make sure you understand everything from your job duties to your rights as an employee—you don’t want to run into any surprises after signing on the dotted line.

In this blog post, we’ll discuss some things you should consider before signing an Employment Agreement.

Job Title and Duties in Your Employment Contract

The first thing you should check in your Employment Contract is that your job title and responsibilities match the position you interviewed for. If the description doesn’t match your expectations, bring it up to your supervisor or the HR representative walking you through your orientation before you sign.

It’s possible that there was just a clerical error, but if that’s not the case and you suspect your new employer’s expectations are different than what you thought, you can take this opportunity to voice your concerns or leave before you’re bound to a written contract.

For instance, some employees find themselves in circumstances where they interview for a “Manager” position but find their job title changed to “Lead” on their contract.

While a small change in wording like this doesn’t seem like much, it can affect things like wage increases because a team leader is often below a manager within a company’s structure. Moreover, being a lead versus a manager might also affect your job responsibilities.

Reviewing Your Salary Before Signing Your Contract

Salary is something many people take for granted when looking over their employment contracts.

You’d think the salary you agreed on in your job offer would be the same as the one included in your contract, but mistakes can happen. It’s best to be safe and check before signing your job agreement.

If your salary is different than you expected, it’s important to determine if there is an explanation in the contract. For instance, part of your salary might be divided into commission or bonuses or other benefits granted by your employer.

It’s crucial that you understand exactly how you’re meant to be compensated for your work and if economic incentives based on job performance (like tips, commission, or bonuses) affect your salary or hourly wage.

You should also take time to familiarize yourself with how often you’re paid (e.g. weekly, bi-weekly, monthly, etc.) as the pay period can differ from company to company.

Some employers even offer advances, which might not be something you’re aware of before signing your contract and could come in handy later if you’re ever in a financial pinch.

Although many employers pay their employees through a direct deposit system, there are still those who use checks. Be sure to double check the manner in which you’re paid in case you have to plan cashing your check into your regular routine.

Overtime and Time Off Benefits at Work

Many employers offer overtime pay and time off allowances (like vacation and sick time), but they can differ from job to job. Some employers pay out overtime (usually an increased wage like time-and-a-half for each extra hour worked) and others will bank overtime which can either be used later in the form of time off or can be cashed in at your regular hourly wage.

When looking into overtime, you should consider:

  • When overtime kicks in: Does it kick in after you work more than 8 hours in a day? Does it only take effect if you work more than 40 hours per week?
  • How much your wage increases if the time isn’t banked: Is it time-and-a-half? Double-time? Does it increase as your overtime hours increase?
  • How to cash in banked overtime hours: Do you get time off? Do you cash it in as your hourly wage? Do you cash in an overtime (increased) wage? Can you do a mix of both time off and payout?

Be sure to look at your state laws on overtime as well, as there may be regulations on when and how overtime is calculated.

You should also ask about the time off procedure if you’re unsure. Is it divided up into sick time, personal time, and vacation, or is it just one lump of time that you can divvy up however you’d like?

Keep in mind, some employers require you to work a full year to build up vacation and sick time before you’re entitled to use it. Others simply require you complete your probation period (usually three to six months) before you start using your time off benefits.

Additional and Restrictive Clauses in Your Employment Agreement

There are some clauses that appear in many Employment Agreements that you should familiarize yourself with.

Non-compete: A non-compete clause prevents the employee from unfairly competing against the employer during employment and after it ends. For example, an employee cannot open a competing business while employed with the current company.

Non-solicitation: A non-solicitation clause is a stipulation that prevents an employee from recruiting any of the company’s employees or contractors after said employee has left the company. Although poaching is popular in many industries, a former employee who is bound by a non-solicitation clause cannot participate in this practice without the risk of getting sued.

Confidentiality: A confidentiality clause keeps employees from divulging the company’s confidential information to anyone outside of the company or who is not privileged to that knowledge. This gets many people in trouble especially if they leave one company for a competitor and pass on client, supplier, or employee information to the competitor.

It’s important to read through these clauses in your contract and keep them in mind should you ever leave your current employer. The last thing you need is a lawsuit against you for passing on the names of your former employer’s major clients because you didn’t know the potential consequences.

Beginning a New Chapter in Your Career

Starting a new job is an exciting experience that can present you with new challenges and opportunities. Though it may be difficult, try not to let your excitement get to your head while you’re reviewing your contract.

After you look over your Employment Contract, write down any questions you have so that you can go over them with your manager or the hiring manager. You may feel obligated to return your signed contract quickly, but you’re entitled to take time to review it carefully to make sure that you understand what you are signing.

What’s the first thing you look at in an Employment Contract? Let us know in the comments!

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.