As an employee, it is common just to ‘sign what you’re given’ when employment contracts are issued, particularly at the commencement of the employment relationship. You have bigger things to worry about than those fancy words, and you don’t want to get your new employer off-hand.

Remember, an employment contract, like any other contract, imposes contractual obligations on both parties. Through its terms, it governs the working relationship between employer and employee, so it is important that it serves the interests of both parties and accurately reflects the deal struck.

Many reasons justify having an employment contract reviewed or drafted by an employment lawyer. It may contain unfair contract terms, such as an over-reaching restraint of trade clause, or unlawful payment clauses. As such, it may be wise to talk to an employment lawyer and, if necessary, seek amendment or clarification from your new employer.

Areas of concern for Employees

Some of the key areas of concern for you as an employee include:

  1. Granting the employer a right to change your role or location – this little contractual clause can have substantial ramifications for you down the track. If you have agreed to a particular position in a given location, the contract should state that.
  2. Not properly recording bonus or benefits arrangements – often, general promises or agreements made during pre-contractual negotiations are not incorporated into the contract at all or said to be ‘discretionary’. If you are entering into a contract on the basis of such assurances, the contract should reflect that.
  3. Not according with the Fair Work Act and national employment standards – the Fair Work Act is the primary legislative framework governing the relationship between employees and employers in Australia. The National Employment Standards are borne out of such legislation and are a legislative right of (almost) every employee in Australia. Your agreement should not contradict these important statutes.
  4. Imposing an onerous restraint – a restraint of trade clause, if found to be valid and enforceable by the courts, limits an employee’s options upon termination. It should aim to strike a balance between your needs and those of your employer. Understanding that clause and its implications is vital.
  5. Being unclear or ambiguous – sometimes, the terms of a contract are unclear or may be open to interpretation. Vague contract terms can exist in all forms of a contract. If there is a contractual provision you don’t understand, or you believe is unclear, it may be useful to talk to an employment lawyer about its validity and any necessary amendments to seek.

Conclusion

So before you agree to an ambiguous contract, which is something we’re all guilty of doing, take a moment to appreciate the legalities of what it is you are being asked to sign. If you have any questions or wish to speak to an employment lawyer about the terms of your contract, we can help.

Get in touch with LegalVision on 1300 544 755. Our employment legal team is ready to answer any of your questions.

Emma Jervis
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