What should your contract of employment look like?
Your appointment conditions and written contracts of employment are some of the most important documents you will receive from an employer, as they formalise the understanding between you and your employer about your pay and working conditions.
When you receive an appointment letter or contract, it is important to check its content to ensure clarity around your employment status, conditions and responsibilities.
The first things to check are that it is addressed correctly to you and is dated and signed by your employer. You should then check that it clearly outlines:
- your commencement date
- the title of your position and its location
- the classification and commencing rate of pay
- the employment status and tenure of the position e.g. full-time, part-time, term-time, casual, fixed-term etc.
- details of the relevant industrial instruments that apply to the position
- details of relevant policies and procedures that apply to the employment
- arrangements for hours of duty
- details of leave provisions
- details regarding superannuation
- a position description or duty statement
- details of termination provisions; and
- details of any probationary period.
There may also be other provisions such as clauses around confidentiality, intellectual property, lifestyle or other site/sector specific arrangements. As an employee you contractually agree to these arrangements as part of your contract of employment.
Therefore you need to ensure that you fully understand and are comfortable with them.
Be mindful of the inappropriate use of fixed-term contracts. Fixed-term contracts should only be used where a short-term identifiable need exists. A fixed-term contract may also stipulate conditions such as early termination if it is to replace someone on family leave who opts to return before expected. You need to be satisfied with any such conditions.
Where your letter of appointment or written contract refers to an industrial instrument, ensure you seek a copy of the instrument named or referred to and check the details.
You will also need to know the policies and procedures you agree to as part of your employment – so it’s important that you ask for the details of all relevant documents.
Keep a copy of all documents that are issued to you about your appointment, and others such as codes of conduct or employment policies, just in case you need to refer to them.
It’s a good idea to check on any guidelines that exist around the employer’s recognition of qualifications and experience, or any previous service, as these may be beneficial to you.
It is important that you comply with any given timelines and submit all required documentation to obtain recognition.
Most of all, it is crucial that you fully understand the commitment you are making in accepting a position. This means understanding the full extent of the expectations and obligations under which you are being employed.
Ensuring your letter of appointment or written contract correctly outlines what you agree to as an employee ensures that your rights are protected. It is legally binding on both parties.
Our union can check these documents for members and ensure the details are correct and are consistent with the relevant industrial legislation and instruments.
Please contact our union for further advice.
A letter of appointment or written contract cannot provide wages or conditions of employment which are less beneficial to employee than those contained in the relevant enterprise agreement.
Always seek advice if you are unsure about what the provisions mean for you.