There’s nothing better than a positive, happy workplace that runs smoothly. But sometimes issues with your employer do happen, and so it’s smart to protect yourself. One way to do this is to ensure you have an employment contract in place.

An employment contract can protect your finances, reduce your stress, assist your working relationship with your employer and serve as a ‘living’ document that can change as your relationship with your employer changes.

With this in mind, here are five key elements to look for in an employment contract:

Probation Period:

A probation period can provide clear guidelines if, for the wide-ranging reasons in your employment contract, your agreement needs to end. This keeps everyone on the same page as to expectations.

Job Description:

What is it that you will do? You certainly don’t want to hear, “You’re not doing your job”. A clearly defined job description in an employment contract is a great start. Also, set out what is required to fulfil the job. For example, your employer has an expectation that you are to travel to the branch office, or to the hospital, as required. But you lose your drivers’ licence. Could you then be sacked, in that scenario?

Money, Money, Money

You have in your mind an agreed-upon figure – but the employer has another figure. Also, just because your employer is paying you a certain amount does not mean that an award may not apply. Your employment contract should be able to deal with awards, and be clear as to what payments you are entitled to. Specifically, your employment contract should state what was agreed on, in terms of:

 a. Salary. Is this amount inclusive of super?
 b. A bonus. Are bonuses being paid? When? On what basis? Is this measurable? Are bonuses discretionary? If they
are linked to your employer’s business’s performance, is the employer prepared to give you financial records?             cHoliday-leave loading. Does an award apply?


If your new job is not working out and it’s time to move on, how much notice do you need to give? Do the aforementioned awards apply? Can you be put on ‘gardening leave’, or be paid out? Ensure these conditions are spelled out clearly in your employment contract.


To protect yourself, ensure there’s no confusion when you leave as to what assets belong to the employer, and what you can and cannot do in your next job. Your employment contract should set out, clearly:

· What information is confidential (client details, for example);

· The restraints that you would be under, and for how long; and

· Clear parameters around any damages that you would suffer if the above is breached.


The above guidelines serve as a starting point as you seek employment and enter into working relationships with employers. Of course, the general lawyer disclaimer applies: always consult a lawyer for professional advice.

Guest contributor Andrew Gardiner is a Queensland-based solicitor with more than two decades of experience.


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