Before you sign: Get professional eyes on your contract

Marianne Bom & Rie Jerichow, Publicér

A job contract is a lot more than just an agreement on salary. It is also about vacation time, parental leave, overtime, postgraduate courses, and a lot more.

When the job is yours, you just need to finalize one last thing. You need to get your job contract in order. Your future employer will make one, and it might be tempting just to sign and get to it.
But according to the engineer union IDA, it is a better idea to read the contract through thoroughly and get a set of experienced eyes to do the same, before you sign. This is especially the case when you get hired in a private company. Because there is only rarely a union agreement in place to regulate vacation days, pension, overtime, and pay during parental leave. As employed in the private sector, you have to make sure to negotiate these things, if you are not satisfied with what the company offers.
As a member, you can send the contract to IDA through the contact sheet on the union’s website. Then you will be called, and get a verbal walkthrough of the contract. This way, you get what you need to evaluate, negotiate, and suggest additions or changes to your employer. IDA checks an average of almost 500 contracts a month.

Check your contract

As an employee in the private sector with a contract, there is a lot of terms it will benefit you to take notice of before you sign,p. On IDA’s website, you can read more about salary statistics and job contracts. Here are some of the most important points in the contract:

  • Overtime – do you get time off, extra salary during overtime, or do you work without compensation?
  • Salary – is the salary equal to the marked salary, and is the salary including or excluding the employer’s contribution to your pension?
  • Retirement – how much do you and your employer pay to your pension?
  • Parental leave – do you have paid parental leave and child’s sick days?
  • Vacation – are you entitled to have more days off than the law states?
  • Working from home – can you work from home?
  • Post graduate courses – what are your chances to learn more in the future?
  • Travels – how much traveling is part of your job?
  • Clauses – does your employer want you to commit to not working with competitors or have business contact to clients for some time after your resignation? Do you want
    to limit these commitments – or will you ask for monetary compensation in return?

Source: IDA

What is a contract check?
“We walk through the contract over the phone and we tell you if the contract lives up to the law’s requirements and standard terms in the business. We will tell you if there is a term that is explained poorly, or if something lacks, and then we point out of there is a regular red flag,” says Bjarne Breinhøj Knudsen, who works in IDA’s Law and Working Conditions department.
“It is rare for us to come across really bad contracts, because most companies knows how to write a job contract. But we do come across unclear sentences. This might be that it is unclear whether the salary is including or excluding the company’s pensions contribution, which of course makes a difference for the collected salary’s size. And it may be that there is a bonus deal, where it is hard to understand when you get the bonus. If the unclear parts aren’t changed, you risk having to have uncomfortable discussions later,” says Bjarne Breinhøj Knudsen.

It isn’t always the salary that decides whether the whole package is good. Other factors, like extra vacation days, good parental leave conditions, and overtime conditions may be at play too.”
Bjarne Breinhøj Knudsen, head consultant, IDA.

Clauses – what do you do?
The red flags appear when the contract constrains competitor or client clauses, or both. There are clauses that extend past the employment in the company, where they can decide that you cannot work for competitors and previous clients up to a year after resignation.
“Competition and client clauses is unfortunately quite common for young employees. It is roughly every tenth privately employed engineer that has a clause, and if the clauses are part of the contract, it is often a question of take it or leave it, from the employer’s side,” says Bjarne Breinhøj Knudsen.
That means that the clause itself can be hard to negotiate away, but you can look into whether you can change what it covers or it’s time frame, for instance, and then get a larger amount of freedom after ­resignation.

Is the salary okay?
A contract check does of course also constrain a evaluation of whether the salary is on the same level as other engineers with the same education and seniority in the field.
“We can help by letting people know if their offered salary is good or bad compared to the marked salary. We have a lot of salary statistics to take into consideration, both in regards to concrete companies, fields, and educations. But it isn’t always the salary that decides whether the whole package is good. Other factors, like extra vacation days, good parental leave conditions, and overtime conditions may be at play too, and then we give our input as to how the contract can be improved,”says Bjarne Breinhøj Knudsen.
When your future employer has made an agreement with an employee union within your field of work, or is easier to get an overview of the terms of employment. That is how it is in the public sector, and then the discussion will often be limited to what salary additions you qualify for.