Skip to main content

You got the job! – Now understanding the contract

Written by: Charlotte Rogers
Published on: 24 Mar 2021

Understanding Contract Hero Image

After the long job seeking process, you’re probably very excited to be starting a new job, so the only thing on your mind is signing that contract! You probably already know that you should read it word for word, but do you understand it? There are a lot of things that we tend to skip over and just ‘learn on the job’. But understanding the ins and outs of your specific role and what you are entitled to from your employer is very important. So, take the time to read, learn and think about all of the things we have mentioned in this article, things that are often overlooked.

Your job title and responsibilities

It’s safe to say that you probably knew the job title when you applied for the role and most of the responsibilities would have been in the job spec that made you send in an application in the first place. However, it doesn’t hurt to look. There may be extra bits of your job description written in your contract that you either didn’t know about or haven’t discussed during the interview stages of the application. Just make sure that you know 100% about what you will be doing day to day and understand all of the responsibilities. Because once you sign, you’ll be expected to do everything you have signed on for. It’s not often that employers will hide details, but better to be safe than sorry.

Salary, benefits, and bonuses

I would highly recommend discussing salary during the interview stage or when you accept the job. It’s better to have this conversation sooner than later, even though some people may find it awkward to talk about. If you have discussed it, make sure the salary on your contract is the one that you and the employer agreed on.

Your contract should also contain information on when you will be paid, your bonus scheme and other money details including your pension. If your new employer has a bonus scheme that is based on your performance, you can ask your new employer for a clear outline of your objectives in order to receive said bonus before you sign the contract. It just saves you any hassle later!

Holiday allowance and sick leave

This is just another one of those things that is always best to know about before your first day at work. No one really likes to discuss these things during interviews, maybe it makes them look like they want a holiday already? But what’s wrong with that! Your contract should also include details of whether you can or cannot take annual leave at certain points in the year, like Christmas and new year’s! It should also include details of when the holiday year runs, whether it is January to December or April to April.

Sick leave is just as important as holiday allowance. Different companies may have different sick pay policies. Make sure you understand the company policy on sick pay, whether it is Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) or an occupational scheme. Either way, everyone gets sick at some point, so make sure you understand the employer’s policy and your rights!

Working hours

Your contracted hours are a very important part of your contract. This should have been talked about or at least mentioned in your interview and most employers put this in the job description they advertise. However, it’s best to double check and make sure the hours stated are what you agreed on.

Look out for lines such as ' the person in question will be expected to work the necessary hours to complete the tasks assigned’. Terms like this may mean that you will work your agreed hours and as many as it takes to finish your work, without bonus pay for overtime. But, double check! And don’t be afraid to ask the employer questions about these things if you’re not 100% sure.

Your induction period

Most employers have an induction period, where they can let you go as an employee without redundancy pay or other benefits if they find that you are not fit for the job. This usually isn’t something you have to worry about, especially if you had an effective interviewing process. A trial period is useful for both the employer and new employee to decide if they are both the right fit for each other.

Also look out for the section about your period of employment. If you are on a fixed term contract, maternity cover contract or something similar, your contract should have your start date and a contract end date. Only sign once you have read and understood this section.

Company policies and your rights

When you work for a company, the work you do for them is then owned by them, not you. You need to make sure that you are reading the legal sections of your contract because it can come back and bite you when you leave, without you even fully realising it. These policies are often in place to ensure that the property of said company is kept intact and you don’t leave them in a damaged state when you leave for a new employer. For example, if you are working with clients at said company and find a new role, you may have to leave those clients behind! It’s always best to read and understand this part sooner rather than later, even though it won’t affect you yet.

Your notice

Your contract will also state the amount of notice you have to give when you decide to leave for another employer or retirement. They need to have time to find your replacement, so this can be anything from one week up to a month (or longer) depending on the status of your role at the company. Keep this in mind for the future.

If there is anything in your contract that you are not happy with or don’t completely understand, your employer should be happy to discuss this with you before you sign. So don’t feel like you shouldn’t ask, nothing is an inconvenience and signing a contract should not be taken lightly.