Career Advice

5 Questions You Should Ask Before Signing a New Job Contract

Congratulations, you landed the job! Before you sign that job contract however, be sure you’ve got some details secured to avoid unpleasant surprises. Here are 5 questions to ask before signing for a new job.

1. How long is the notice period?

Though you’ve barely started your new job, knowing how long your notice period is will be relevant by the time either you or your employer decides that it is time for a change. The usual length of a notice period is around two or three months. The choice is about stability and flexibility. Think about what is more important to you. In case the notice period in your contract does not reflect your preferences, you can negociate. A shorter notice period gives your employer and yourself the chance to part ways sooner, whereas a longer notice period ensures that you can—or must—stay in your current job for longer.

2. What are the restrictive covenants of the contract?

You should expect to find restrictive covenants in your contract. The question to consider here is whether they are too restrictive or not. This can be difficult to gauge, especially if you don’t bring a lot of working experience to the table. It’s hard to know what is considered harsh and what is considered lenient in your line of work. Restrictions on client transfers or being barred from working for a competitor are often present in job contracts. It’s a good idea to ask someone with experience in the field what the most common restriction clauses in contracts tend to be.

3. Is moonlighting allowed?

Your contract might prohibit you from taking on freelance projects outside of your regular employment hours. It’s a good idea to check whether this is the case. In today’s gig economy it’s more common for people to do freelance work next to their main form of employment. Naturally, this also makes prohibitions and restrictions on freelancing much more common in contracts nowadays. Keep in mind that even when you do work outside of your assigned working hours, you might be producing something that your employer can later claim as their (intellectual) property. Make sure that you check your contract beforehand if you’re planning on doing freelance work.

4. How many holiday days will I get?

This is an obvious question to ask. But the good thing is that you might be able to negotiate a couple of extra vacation days if you play your cards right. Inform yourself about the overall average number of vacation days in the UK (28), and the average number in your field of work. If your employer offers you fewer than the average number of vacation days, ask them why this is their policy. Also inform whether everyone in the company receives the same number of vacation days. If the number is varied across the company, go ahead and ask for more. It’s something that is easier to get than a pay raise for instance, but don’t underestimate how a couple of extra days off can make a difference for you.

5. Does my employer allow flexible working hours and home office?

This is quite commonly offered now by companies. HR teams and C-levels understand more and more that giving employees agency over their working hours can increase their productivity. Flexible working hours are not something that you can negotiate very easily if your company does not offer it. But inform what the rules are on this policy and ask yourself if the company fits your own personality. Keep in mind that if you’re faced with a long commute, flexible hours are quite often a must. It can save you from having to rush and stress if you are facing unexpected delays on your way to work. Similarly, it’s helpful to ask what your employer’s policies on home office are. At times, working a day from home can provide with you a break in routine that can boost your productivity. Changing your working environment can make you look at your tasks in a new way, allowing your creativity to start flowing again. And of course, every once in a while, a rainy day at home is simply more comfy than spending time at the office.

Though it may be daunting, you don’t lose anything by asking. Those 5 questions can make a real difference once you’ve started at your new job. Still looking? Check out our openings!

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