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Friday 15th Apr, 2016

What's a Contract of Employment? Here's what you need to know!

We asked a Veterinary Employment Law expert to give us the lowdown on what to expect from your 1st Job contract

You got the job- congratulations!

Now comes the hard part- negotiating your contract of employment.

With any job, particularly a first job, it can be difficult to know what to expect- what should you ask for? What is reasonable?

The first thing to know is that employers are obliged to provide you with a contract within 8 weeks of commencing employment although most will give you a contract before you start. This is always advantageous as it ensures that any negotiation can take place before you start.

The statutory minimum

The minimum information that must be contained in a contract of employment is:

  • The name of the employer and employee
  • The date when the employment began and the date on which the employee’s period of continuous service began
  • Your salary
  • The intervals at which your salary is paid e.g. monthly
  • Any terms and conditions relating to hours of work (including any out of hours work required)
  • Entitlement of holidays, public holidays and accrued holiday pay on termination of employment
  • Conditions relating to incapacity for work due to sickness or injury including the provision of sick pay
  • Details on the pension scheme which applies to your employment
  • The length of notice the employer is obliged to provide and receive to terminate the contract of employment
  • The job title or brief description of the work for which the employee is employed
  • The place of work or, where the employee is required to work at different locations, the address of the employer and an indication of the locations at which he may be expected to work
  • Specifying any disciplinary and grievance rules applicable to the employee or referring the employee to the employee handbook for example if the rules are not contain in the contract
  • Any provision relating to the variation to terms and conditions

Where your employment is for a fixed term, there are any collective agreements which apply or you may be required to work outside the UK, there must also be details specified in the contract.

There may be other provisions contained in the contract which reflect the culture of the Practice you are going to work for. As mentioned above, it is also likely that there will be an employee handbook so make sure you take a look at that to familiarise yourself with the Practice rules such as absence reporting procedures.

Should you negotiate?

So now you know what needs to be in the contract, it is time to work out what your expectations are. Salary is the most common area of negotiation. However, other things worth considering are:

  • Holiday entitlement
  • Pension contributions
  • Payment of professional fees and CPD
  • Notice period

Unless asked what your expectations are, the best thing to do is to usually wait until you are given an offer of employment. It may be that you are happy with the offer and no negotiation is required-phew!

If you are disappointed with the offer, consider what is reasonable. That will depend upon the size of the Practice, its location and the type of work the Practice does.

Also think about how you are going to approach the issue- being polite seems obvious but remember how you may come across to your prospective new boss! Be able to justify what you are asking for- benchmarking yourself against your peers is helpful as long as they are being offered a similar role in a similar location to you.

As a general rule, the greater the expectations are on you (hours of work, on call, caseload etc), the greater the package you should expect.

Also remember that this is your first role. If your new employer is not willing to negotiate, it may still be worth taking the role- gaining experience is priceless.

Don’t forget the investment the Practice is going to make in you!

The most important part of any new role, particularly your first job is to make your mark. Show your employer your potential and that you are adding value to the Practice- as well as making you feel great these are great tools for negotiatinglater pay rises and improvements to your overall package!

Good luck- if you have been offered the job the Practice believes in you- now it’s time to believe in yourself!

Next Post: Applying for that first Vet Job

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