5 Things to Consider Before Signing Your New Contract

5 min

You’ve just landed a new job role and are ready to step into this fresh exciting opportunity. Before making that next step in your career journey, you first have to deal with the nitty-gritty of signing your new contract. They say don’t sweat the small stuff, but in the case of a legally binding document like an employment contract, reading the small print may just save you some headaches in the future.

There may be a strong temptation to immediately ‘sign on the dotted line’ once a new job contract lands in your inbox – particularly if it’s a progression in your career from a job that you are ready to move on from – but should you sign straight away?

It is worth considering before signing that a job contract is a legal document that requires careful consideration to make sure the role you are moving into is right for you. Whilst throughout your career you may have signed various different employment contracts, no two are the same, particularly if your new role is with leadership responsibility. Here are 5 key things to consider before signing your new contract:

1. Have You Defined Your New Role and Responsibilities?

This is often overlooked when signing a new employment contract, and is possibly one of the most important. For example, you interviewed for a management position, but this isn’t reflected within your contract, it says ‘lead’ not ‘manage’? It is crucial when reviewing a new job contract that there are clearly defined roles and responsibilities, as well as the correct job title. This will prevent the goal posts from being moved once you’re in the position.

If the business is an umbrella company and has several separate units that make up the structure, be sure that you are signing a contract with the correct employer. This might seem obvious but can be an easy mistake to make. You don’t want to be in a position in the future where another business that you have no control over goes into liquidation, along with your employment contract.

If there are arbitrary terms within the contract, this is the time to iron out these details and make sure to raise any concerns with the HR contact or hiring manager before you sign anything. Examples of contract terms to look out for are:

  • Verbally agreed - Whilst oral agreements do have the same legal authority as written agreements, it is much harder to prove what was agreed. If you have concerns, you could ask for any oral agreements to be also given in writing.
  • In the employee handbook or on a company notice board - In most cases, the policies the employees are expected to follow are written in an employee handbook or company notice board. It is worth checking if these policies are contractual. If this is the case and you have any concerns, you could ask for the details of the policies before signing your contract.
  • Collective agreements - These are negotiated agreements between employers and trade unions or staff associations. Ask for more details on these agreements and if possible, how you can become involved in the unions or associations who form these decisions, if you so wish.

2. What is the Salary and Other Benefits?

Once you have negotiated your new salary and have received confirmation of this in your offer letter. It is important to make sure you understand how this salary will be paid, and what the terms are for further benefits. It’s essential to understand what the company’s payment structure is, as this can differ in terms of timing (monthly, bi-weekly, weekly) and even payment method (bank transfer/cheque) from company to company.

It’s also worth checking out how further financial incentives may be achieved within the role for example, is the commission or bonus structure performance-based and if so, how would this be measured and by whom? These details may seem quite far in the future but understanding them early on makes for fewer surprises when the time comes to review them.

If other taxable benefits have been mentioned or negotiated, such as a company car, flexible working or a pay review after passing a probation period then it is vital that you read through the terms and conditions within the contract.

Leasing a car? Due to company car tax, depending on which car you’re offered, it may be considerably more expensive to lease through the business than it would personally. So, it’s important to check the conditions as it isn’t always a viable option as it will more than likely impact the amount of tax that you pay.

3. Do You Know Your Holiday Entitlement?

Although you may not have a holiday on the horizon or even thinking about one at the time of starting a new job, understanding your entitlement should still be on your radar at the time of reviewing a contract. Again, even if this information was outlined in your offer letter, it’s still wise to double-check this is detailed within the contract, after all, taking well-earned breaks is key to a refreshed and happy workforce. It would also be worth checking if you get an increase in holiday for years served at the company.

If, for example, taking time off over Christmas is important to you, you need to define with the hiring manager if you will be prevented from taking time off over busy periods and make sure this is outlined within the signed document.

4. Have the Hours and Location of Work Been Discussed and Agreed?

It may seem insignificant to review the hours and location of the job, after all it may be your dream job, but it could affect your work-life balance if you do not read the fine print before agreeing to the terms and conditions. Careful consideration should be taken when reviewing your new working hours, particularly in a more senior role when the term ‘work all necessary hours’ crops up – this is where it is equally important to review your new responsibilities against the hours to determine if there is an equilibrium.

Additionally, you should review the terms of where you perform your duties and if this is likely to change in the future. If you discussed remote or flexible working in your interview but see no mention of this in the contract, this should be flagged up before you sign. If flexible working is necessary for you to perform your duties well, whilst juggling your family commitments, it could be a deal breaker if this benefit was quashed or overlooked. Your contract should clearly determine when and where you can carry out your job role.

5. What Is Your Notice Period and Are There Any Restrictive Covenants?

Even if you see your new job developing into a long-term career within the company, things can change and it’s well worth reviewing the terms listed under your notice period and any restrictions after you leave.

For example, if there’s an unnecessarily long notice period or undue terms with regards how long after termination of employment that you can work for a competitor, then it’s wise to negotiate or at least discuss these terms with the hiring manager before you commit to something that later down the line you may come to regret. If entering negotiations with employers regarding your contact, here are a few tips to help you:

  • Be open and honest with the employer regarding your concerns about the length or terms of the notice period - for very short notice periods, explain that a longer notice period would give you peace of mind when it comes to job and financial security if you ever decided to move on. You could also mention that it is a potential advantage to the employer as it gives them more time to look for a replacement. If you feel the notice period is unnecessarily long, explain that whilst it is the ideal role and career for you, if in future you did decide to move on, you feel it could potentially hinder your career journey.
  • Find a middle ground with the employer - after your conversations with the employer regarding your concerns, discuss changes to the notice period which meet the needs of both yourself and the employer.
  • Believe in your worth to the employer. You’ve completed your interviews and the employer was so impressed they offered you a contact. They believe you will be greatly beneficial and see your future with them. Use this to your advantage when discussing your contract. Employers expect negotiations over contacts to come up from time to time, and most will be open to negotiation.

Beginning a New Chapter

While starting a new job can feel like an exciting new chapter is about to unfold, it is key to consider the above factors within your contract before you sign. It’s crucial to take the time to review your employment contract and list any elements that are either missed out or not quite right and ask the hiring manager for clarification before making the final decision to sign your new contract.

CSG’s expert consultants are committed to ensuring that you as a candidate receive the highest quality service. We strive to understand your complete career requirements, desires and personal preferences to ensure that the role is the right fit for you.

Our consultants are available to offer expert advice and industry knowledge to assist you with the interview process. If you are looking for a new career or a change in job, our global talent experts are here to advise and consult. Meet our recruitment consultants to find the right expert to assist you in your next step in your career journey.