Your First Job: Employment Contract 101
You've been offered your first job!
You have gotten a job offer and the contract is on the table ready for you to sign, what are you waiting for? Sign it you fool, sign it immediately, without reading before someone else is offered your job. That is exactly what your brain will be screaming internally… Fortunately for you, I’ve got your back. Most people will be so happy to be offered their first job they will simply sign the contract without any idea of what they are signing. With just a few simple questions you can make a fully informed decision.
The big question you might ask is what kind of employment have you been offered? Employers engage persons on either a contract of service or a contract for services. In order to be an employee and therefore protected by the employment legislation, you must be engaged under a contract of services. Typical contracts on offer may be a permanent contract of employment (full time or part-time), casual worker, the dreaded zero-hour (which will be rarer than unicorns soon), a low-hour contract or a fixed term contract. Sometimes it is quite clear but there are a surprising number of cases brought to the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) where the type of contract is being disputed. Knowing the contract type can make it clear what protections if any, you have.
The next question you might ask is what your everyday responsibilities look like? A contract of employment does not have to be in writing nor does it have to be signed, however, your employer must give you a written copy of your terms and conditions within two months of your employment. Starting your job is deemed to be proof that you have agreed to the terms and conditions. The Terms of Employment (Information) Acts 1994-2014 set out exactly what should be on the written terms and conditions you must receive. You might want to take the opportunity to ask about your working hours, annual leave and your break entitlements prior to starting your employment. The changing of any terms or conditions requires permission from your employer and you, the employee.
You should not be afraid to ask what your hourly rate of pay is. The current national minimum wage (NMW) for an experienced adult worker is €9.55. If this is your first time being employed and you are 18 years or older, the minimum wage for your first year of employment is €7.64 (80% of the NMW), your second year will be €8.60 (90% of the NMW). If you are under 18 you should expect a minimum wage of €6.69 (70% of the NMW). If your payment offered is less than this, you can bring a claim to the WRC seeking the minimum wage for your situation. Unless the contract on offer is an internship or a trainee contract, which if you follow step one, you will already know by now.
It is worth mentioning when you start your first job, you should contract Revenue as soon as possible unless you enjoy losing most of your wage to emergency tax. This, of course, will be refunded back to you but may take several weeks of eating nothing but noodles while crying.
If you feel your employment rights are being breached or you feel you have been discriminated against by your employer, your first point of call is to contact your manager. Alternatively, you may choose to contact the HR department directly to discuss the issues. If you cannot resolve your issues within the company procedure process you can contact the WRC where you can avail of mediation or have an adjudicator hear both sides before completing an investigation of the complaint(s) and issuing a decision. Before applying to have your complaint heard, you must notify your employer of your intention to contact the WRC. It is always best to try and remedy the situation internally before applying to the WRC. If the company procedures are not exhausted the adjudication officer may decide to direct both parties to exhaust these remedies before going further.
Congratulations for being offered a job! Just remember once you are offered a contract of employment, for the first time in the interview process, you are the one in control. Take your time, ask the questions, and start your new job understanding exactly what you are getting into.