7 things to consider before signing a graduate job contract
Been offered a graduate job? Awesome! Don’t rush straight into signing on the dotted line though. Sometimes it feels a bit awkward taking the time to read all the fine print, but if your employer is even halfway decent then they will completely understand. This is important legal stuff, so it’s well worth the extra brain power it takes to decipher the jargon littered throughout. Read it slowly and digest it all. BrighterBox support their candidates and help them understand key contract points - if you're working with us, great! If not (and WHY NOT?) then you should consider seeking legal advice.
Note that even if you dont have an employment contract, you will likely have statutory employment rights.
Here are some major points that you should look for:
1. Job description
Knowing exactly what will be expected of you is vital. You don’t want to walk into a highly analytical role when you thought you were going to be a content writer. Be certain about any extra responsibilities detailed that are outside of your specified role – use your intuition about whether these seem acceptable or exceed what you would be comfortable doing. At startups there is usually a culture of everyone sometimes pitching in to different areas, so take this into account.
If anything is unclear or unexpected about your contracted job description then now is the time to raise it with your employer, not after you have started working.
Double check the number. If it’s what you negotiated, then that’s all good. Double check the bonuses. Do they make sense? Don’t be afraid of asking for clarification about what conditions bonuses are offered on – are they based on performance? If so, what targets need to be met? Cross check everything against your offer letter and don’t forget about any extras that have been promised (for example a computer, car, or health cover) it is up to you to push for anything that you have negotiated up until this point. Be assertive!
3. Working hours
It pays to know when you will be expected to work so that you don’t end up agreeing to something you won’t be happy with. Check what the exact hours will be and if that includes a lunch break or any other breaks. Are weekends involved? Is overtime paid or added in-lieu? Will you often be expected to work outside of your normal hours, or only occasionally? You want to be certain that there aren’t any unpleasant surprises.
4. Holidays and sick leave
How many days are you allowed off and does this include bank holidays or do those come as extra? Are there any restrictions on your holiday? For example, there might be black-out periods during the year at busy times that prevent you from taking days off. Check whether you can allow holiday to roll over into the next year or whether it all needs to be taken up – for this you will also need to be sure about when the holiday year falls for your company, whether it’s between 1st January and 31st December, or perhaps April and March, or any other 12-month period that works for them.
For sick leave, you will want to be aware of what covenants are involved and how you go about securing sick pay – for example, how soon you need to let your employer know that you are ill and whether they have their own procedures in place for employee sickness.
5. Probation period and notice
Knowing the length of your probation period is important because it is usually a period wherein you might have a shorter notice. A typical probation period will be around 3 months, but it could be longer or shorter depending on the company – generally anything longer than 6 months is a red flag, as it limits your rights as an employee during that time.
In terms of your normal notice period, ensure it is a typical length of time rather than unusually long or short. While you might not be thinking about moving onto another job right now, bear in mind that a notice period that is longer than the average month or so may hinder your application for a new job. On the other hand, a notice period that is too short will make your position feel unstable.
6. Restrictive covenants
Many contracts contain clauses that will prevent you from competing with your employer after you have left. Often this means you won’t be able to work for a similar business within a certain time-frame post-employment, as well as restricting you from taking any clients that you might have made with you. Restrictive covenants are your new employer’s way of protecting their company interests and keeping anyone from running to their competitors with all their top-secret business information.
7. Place of work
Where you will be working should be specified in your contract. Most the time this will list a single office as your main place of work. However, for companies that have multiple offices you might find that you will be expected to work in a few different locations, depending on your role. In this case, you should be careful about how far away these different locations are and whether you would be happy to permanently move there. If your employer decides that they would prefer you in another location for a prolonged period or even permanently, you won’t have much of a leg to stand on if you try to refuse after signing your contract.
If you have discussed the possibility of working from home occasionally, then this should also be included in this section, so ensure this doesn’t get forgotten about.
When everything has been double checked and your name is spelt right on the top, then go ahead and sign away! Make sure you keep a copy for your own records and don’t be afraid to refer to it if ever you need to.
BrighterBox has the best jobs for graduates at startups in London. Have a look at the jobs page to find out who's hiring.