5 Signs of an Unfair Employment Contract


There you are, excited about a new job. You’ve had the interview, and it went well, and you are excited to start this new position with a great company. Then comes your formal employment contract. Do you turn to the last page and eagerly sign it?

By signing, what is stated on paper regarding the job is not the description and promises outlined in the interview. You must take the time to thoroughly go over every line in the contract to make sure you know what it means and that you are happy with it. Unfortunately, many clauses are written into contracts that are not to your advantage.

Here are five signs of an unfair employment contract.

Job Title

This is the first thing you should read. When you had your interview, the job would have needed to be discussed along with the position’s wage or salary and benefits and duties. If the contract states a different title than the one, you applied for, ask to correct it.

Different titles may come with different job duties and a different salary package. Ensure you see the same compensation package discussed in the interview and written clearly into the contract. Consider consulting employment lawyers to look over the contract if there is questionable ambiguity.

Probationary Period

Serving a probationary period is fairly common but not automatic for all jobs. You should question it if it wasn’t discussed in the interview but is in the contract.

By signing, you agree that the employer has the right to dismiss you within the audition period stated in the contract for any reason they deem that makes you unsuitable for the position. It is up to you to proceed with this clause in the contract or try to negotiate it out.

Having the ability to terminate your employment without notice is harsh but common practice. You should try to include a last chance agreement to have an opportunity to stay and improve in the position.

Contractual Changes

The contract should spell out your duties for the position, but sometimes a contractual changes clause is written in. This entitles the employer to change the position without discussing it with you. If a clause provides a change, you will have to live with it.

Ask to have that taken out unless it is stated what the change could be and is willing to adapt. You may enjoy the original position, but it could make you miserable with a drastic change.

Termination Clause

Most contracts will have a termination clause, which needs to be detailed. You must know the rights and responsibilities for the job being offered, and by signing the contract, you agree to them.

Whether quitting or being fired, the reasons for ending the contract must be written to avoid misunderstanding. Any changes to the position must give the employee fresh consideration. This means that a new contract must be written up and signed by both parties.

The notice period for ending the contract should be the same for termination as it is for quitting. You should have a fair warning or severance for termination, and there should also be no penalties attached to a termination of the contract.

Post Employment Restrictive Covenants

Non-disclosure agreements and non-compete clauses are pretty standard in employment contracts. These are restraint of trade clauses, and they protect the company. They are fair and just when written up with a realistic timeframe.

  • A non-disclosure agreement means you can’t disclose any information about your employment to a third party.
  • A non-compete clause restricts you from working for a competing company for a set period.

Both of these clauses are reasonable, but the NCC should have limits. Typically they have a six-month to 5 year period where you can’t work for a competitor or start your own competing business. Make sure it is equitable before you sign, and you could also negotiate in a release from this clause if you are moving a certain distance away to work in the same field but not in direct competition.

Other clauses to be wary of are:

  • Contract Auto-renewals Unless you are happy with it rolling over without changes
  • Mobility Clauses They may obligate you to relocate to another branch if an employer wants
  • Independent Contractor If the job was for a salaried employee, make sure it doesn’t say the contractor.
  • Pre Employment Promises Ensure that the contract states raises, holidays, bonuses, and stock options. Anything not written in you won’t get.

Accepting a job offer is exciting and leads you on a new career path. Make sure you are happy with your contract so you can have a successful, long-term relationship with your new employer.


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