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Starting a New Role? Read our answers to common questions on Employment Contracts.

3 min read

13 Jan 2021

What Employees should know about Employment Contracts

When starting a new job there are many questions that employees have. Entering a new employment contract can bring up many issues that you may have not encountered before.
We provide answers to some of the common questions we receive regarding contracts of employment:

What is a contract of employment?

A contract can be verbal or written and is an agreement between the parties. Most employment contracts are written and should be signed by both the employer and employee. However, a contractual relationship may still arise where there is no written agreement in place.

An employment contract sets out the rights and obligations of an employer and employee regarding their employment. It can be simple or very exhaustive depending on the nature of the role and should include details of an employee’s classification, role, work site and salary. No employment contracts can provide fewer rights than an employee’s entitlements under the National Employment Standard (NES), relevant enterprise agreement (if any) or relevant award.

How can I ask for an employment contract?

It is best to request an employment contract prior to commencing work. Depending on what discussions have been had with your potential employer, be direct and polite when making your request. When transitioning across workplaces, sometimes you may want to sign your new employment contract before you offer your resignation from your current role.

  • “I am looking forward to starting with you. Will you be emailing me a copy of the employment agreement before I start work on x date?”
  • or
  • “I am looking forward to joining the team. Before I resign, I would like to have my employment agreement with you signed. When do you think we may be able to finalise the employment agreement?

Once signed, it is important to keep a copy of the fully executed contract for your own personal records.

Do I need legal advice on my employment Contract?

In many roles you won’t need to get legal advice. However, if you are entering a contract that has more defined restrictions or responsibilities it is important that you get advice. You will want to make sure that the contract reflects what you have agreed to and does not impose anything more onerous. You will also want to understand the extent of any restraints of trade, remuneration and territories. As some restrictions in your contract may extend after the end of your employment, it is important that you understand what those obligations are; how they will affect you and how long you will be bound by them.

Do I have to have a contract of employment?

There is no requirement that a person must have a contract to be employed however having no contract in place may cause difficulties should any problem arise. If you don’t have an employment agreement, or contract, then the National Employment Standards apply and as does the relevant Award Rates and Entitlements.

Do you have to sign an employment Contract?

No, you do not HAVE to sign a contract. Although, you may not be able to commence work without one at some organisations. If you do start work and have not signed your contract you will be deemed to have accepted the terms of employment in the contract. If you need to query and items in your contract then you should do this before you start work.

Can an employer make you sign a new contract?

An employer cannot force you to sign a new contract. It can be that a new contract is proposed after a review or a change to your employment. If this is the case the new contract will be to your benefit usually. You are still covered by National Employment Standards which offer a lot of protection even if not outlined in the employment contract.

Can an employer change contract without agreement?

Broadly speaking an employer cannot change a contract without your consent unless the contract allows them to make the change. You can enter into a new employment contract or amend a contract if both parties agree. If the contract refers to other agreements or policies and they change there may be an effective change to your employment.

For as many roles there are many different employment agreements and contracts. It is important as an employee to understand your rights and what is fair and reasonable.
To speak to an employment lawyer about your employment contract contact us on 1300 907 335 or complete an online form and we will be in contact promptly.

Contact one of our lawyers to get a price for an employment contract review cost today.

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