As the first few months of the new year past, many may be thinking about moving on to something new. While batteries recharged by the fresh start may spur the search for a new challenge, once you have landed that dream job, it’s important that you end up with an employment contract that works for you. We set out our list of key employment contract clauses and what you should be looking for.

Probation: Is there a probation period and, if so, how long is it? and can it be extended?

Pay and benefits: Is everything you have been told regarding remuneration set out clearly in the contract? Make sure everything is spelt out in black and white in order to avoid disputes further down the line. In particular, beware of any benefits that are described as ‘discretionary’, not least because the employer may be able to remove these whenever it wants. 

Termination: How much notice has to be given by either party to terminate the employment, and does it seem fair on both sides? Would this give you enough time to find another suitable job? Does the employer have the right to pay you in lieu and is there a power to put you on garden leave?

Holiday: How much holiday are you entitled to, and does this figure include or exclude bank/public holidays? Are there any restrictions on when you take leave or for how long?

Sick pay: Sick pay is often at the employer’s discretion, but you should clarify this and understand the company’s usual practice.

Place of work: The contract should state your normal place of work. If you are obliged to work in other locations as well, be sure to clarify who will cover travel and other expenses.

Employment status: With the rise of the gig economy it’s more important than ever to understand what your employment status means as regards the employment rights you will be entitled to.

Other documentation

It’s not just the employment contact which you need to understand but other ancillary documentation should be reviewed as well. For example, if you haven’t been given a detailed job description ask for one. If there are any inconsistencies between your understanding of the role, and the employer’s, now is the time to clear them up.

You should also ask to see the company’s employee handbook. At the very least, this should set out company policies on grievance, discipline and equality. Ideally, though, it will be more sophisticated than that. For example, it might detail whether  employees expected to dress or act a certain way? Are you allowed to talk publicly about the company? What is the company’s attitude to flexible working? All this will give a good indication of what type of employer you’re joining.


No two employment contracts are the same so, always review your new employment contract carefully before signing on the dotted line! Everyone will have their own priorities but, don’t sell yourself short, if your new employer really wants you they should be willing to negotiate on issues which are important to you. Don’t be shy about asking for clarification if something isn’t clear – better to get things cleared up at the outset and ask for changes, if you think these are appropriate in your case .


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Updates: For employers: Contracts and incentives | Staff handbooks |

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