In this busy world, we’re all guilty of rushing ahead sometimes, signing documents we really haven’t read properly. Trusting your potential new employer is only reasonable if you want to build a healthy long-term relationship but a degree of early caution is sensible too. If there are nasty surprises hiding in your proposed employment contract, find them and chase them out before you sign.

Be confident. Remember, you’ll be a valuable asset to the company. Asking to change the terms of your proposed contract is increasingly common, particularly for senior positions. That said, don’t make yourself look like a problem employee by questioning every clause.

Your employment contract sets out your employment conditions, rights, responsibilities and duties. You might be surprised to learn, therefore, that some very important points, on which your job depends, do not have to be written into your employment contract. ‘Implied terms’ are, put bluntly, so obvious they do not need to be directly addressed. Implied terms might therefore include the fact you should not steal from your employer or that your employer should provide you with a safe working environment.

In fact, strictly speaking, nothing has to be written down. Employment contracts can be verbally agreed, although you should perhaps remember the film producer Samuel Goldwyn’s observation: “A verbal contract isn’t worth the paper it is written on.” However, if the contract lasts for a month or longer, your employer must give you a ‘written statement of employment particulars’.

As you review your contract, remember life does not always go to plan. Just because you feel fit and invincible right now, do you really want to agree to a clause stating you could one day be dismissed from your position on grounds of ill health? And although you might be planning to spend the rest of your career at your new company, don’t casually agree to excessively prohibitive terms that would stop you working for a competitor one day. Situations change. What if you needed to leave the job and relocate for unexpected personal reasons? Trying to alter the terms of your contract as you resigned would probably be very difficult indeed, if not impossible.

Understandably, you’re excited about your new job offer, and you want to look enthusiastic in front of your future boss, but take your time to act prudently. Signing an unread employment contract could be a costly mistake.

Whether you’re concerned about your contract or any other aspect of employment law, call us now at Deborah Wilkinson & Co. for access to outstanding advice.