The Employment and Careers Development (ECD) Centre at Monash recently hosted a seminar on what to look for in employment contracts. The general requirements of an employment contract are well known: personal details, position, whether the position is full or part time, period of employment, salary and superannuation. For most students these are easy to navigate, and they will have already encountered them in part time jobs.
Employment contracts occasionally also feature special conditions of which students should be aware. For example, Monash University has an immigration clause in their employment contracts. Potential employees who do not have Australian citizenship must obtain and maintain an appropriate visa from the Australian Department of Immigration and Citizenship (DIAC). In order for the University to be able to verify visa details, a representative must be given consent to access records held in DIAC’s Visa Entitlement Verification On-line (VEVO) system.
Terms and conditions of employment contracts should always be carefully read over by potential employees, and ECD recommends that people should ask questions if they require clarification on any clauses – employees may be intimidated by employers when negotiating a contract, and it is important that they understand the contract as it can also be used to protect them should a dispute with an employer arise.
Types of contracts can be varied. It is suggested that employees should always request a written contract signed by both them and their employer. Whilst verbal contracts can be legally binding, they can be difficult to prove. Letters of engagement are also counted as contracts, as are secondments for a temporary transfer to a different job within the same organization.
Complexity is added by a growing trend of graduates being recruited as independent contractors or agents, rather than as employees. Independent contractors should be wary that their contractual responsibilities might be different to traditional employee ones, and more costly. Independent contractors may have to organize their own tax, and are not always compensated for holiday or sick leave. Superannuation is not guaranteed, and individuals should be careful to save money for retirement. Furthermore, work expenses such as phone bills and advertising may have to be self-funded.
If employees or independent contractors do have problems in their work place, it is recommended that they contact the relevant union, who can provide legal advice and further specialist services to members. Further help can be sought from the Australian Fair Work Ombudsman and JobWatch, a Victorian Community Legal Centre specialising in employment law.