Employment contract: what to watch out for when signing it

employment contract

The employment contract is a key document that legally dictates the obligations of employers and employees. When signing a contract at work, many people hesitate to read the details of the contract and study them. Many employers also explain to workers that contracts are written for the sake of order and that everything can actually be negotiated in person. However, in the event of a dispute, the employment contract is the key legal basis for resolving all disputes.


Unfortunately, it very often happens that the real working conditions differ significantly from those described in the job interview. This also happens at more reputable companies, and even when the working conditions are described in detail during a job interview. That is why it is necessary not to rely only on the personal agreement and morals of the employer, but to pay attention to the only document that legally defines the rights of workers.

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Employment contract and salary

Salary amounts are still a taboo topic in the labor market and many employers like to hide or avoid the topic until the contract is signed. Since the employment contract alone dictates the salary the worker will receive, it is necessary to insist that everything be clear in the employment contract. An employer can promise cash payments or raises in the future, but nothing legally binds them to follow through on their promises. It often turns out that too many workers believe the employer’s words and later become disappointed.


When it comes to salary amounts, you should especially pay attention to the difference between gross and net salary amounts. The employer thinks only about the amount of salary that he has to issue monthly, but the worker only thinks about the actual amount of salary that he will receive on his account.


Employers often promise the worker a gross amount presenting it as a net amount, or the workers themselves do not understand the difference between gross and net amounts. Before signing the contract, it is necessary to check the difference between the gross and net amounts, so that later workers are not disappointed with their actual income.


Also, attention should be paid to variable salary amounts. In some professions, workers are paid according to their performance, that is, they receive bonuses according to their efficiency. The worker must understand whether these goals are achievable or whether there are any hidden conditions for their achievement. It is recommended that the regulations on awarding bonuses be made available for inspection before signing the employment contract or, if possible, be included in the employment contract itself.


In conclusion, it should be pointed out that envelope wages are prohibited by law, although it is very tempting for employers because it enables them to avoid paying taxes, so their costs per employee are lower. However, if the employer changes his mind and decides not to pay the employee what he promised, the only thing the employee can do is quit his job and look for a fairer employer. Such arrangements are very risky for workers and should be avoided.


Contract on work and responsibility

Employees are often expected to do things that are not in their job description. People find themselves in a situation where they have to do other people’s work, stay longer at work or deal with things for which they are not experts. Because of such cases, it is necessary to insist that the employment contract clearly and explicitly states all the responsibilities of the worker.


One should be very careful if the employment contract in the description of responsibilities uses general phrases, ambiguous expressions, or constructions like: “and other things” because this opens up the possibility for the employer to later force the employee to deal with things that were not mentioned during the job interview. In such a case, you should request that the employment contract be corrected and that all expected responsibilities be accurately stated.


Employment contract and working hours

Working hours are defined by the employment contract and it is necessary to think about what it means. If, for example, the workplace is very far from the worker’s place of residence, then attention should be paid to it due to the commuting time to the workplace and the availability of public transport.


In some workplaces, such as those in stores or service facilities, workers are expected to arrive earlier and stay later after the facility’s working hours, so it is necessary to request that the time of early arrival and late departure be precisely defined.


Even today, it often happens that workers in such professions often have to stay for hours after their shift due to the arrangement of the workplace. That is why it is necessary to clearly define with the employer how much time the worker is expected to actually work every day.


Also, it should be taken into account that in the case of jobs with variable shifts or working days of the week, the duties of the workers should be clearly defined and how the work schedule should be decided. Otherwise, there is a possibility that the worker will be exposed to excessive demands from employers.

Other legal documents and laws

Although the employment contract is crucial, it can happen that it is not the only document that determines all the work obligations and rights of the worker. One of the possibilities is for the employer to define certain work obligations and rights of the worker in special internal regulations. In such cases, it is necessary to request internal documents for inspection before signing, so that the worker does not encounter unpleasant work surprises.


Another possibility is that the workers, and not even the employer, are informed about the mandatory contributions required by state regulations. The most recent example of this is contributions for working from home, which were introduced in Croatia a few years ago, and a good number of employers are still not aware that they have to pay them to workers. That is why it is good, if possible,  to check which contributions the worker is entitled to before signing the contract and to check with the employer if he plans to pay them.


Beginning of the employment relationship

One of the logistical problems when changing jobs is organizing leaving the old job and starting the new job. The employee usually has to serve the notice period with the old employer unless they agree otherwise, so it is necessary to make sure that the start of the new job is after the end of the old employment relationship.


Otherwise, workers may end up with overlapping employment relationships, which is illegal. Unfortunately, this happens more often than people think.



When signing an employment contract, it is necessary to pay attention to who is signing the contract. Employment contracts should only be signed by the head of the organization or another similarly authorized person. However, it may happen that someone who is not legally authorized to do so, such as an employee in human resources or administration, tries to sign the employment contract on behalf of the employer.


This can happen through ignorance in newer or smaller businesses, but it also opens up potential problems in the event of a dispute. Namely, an attempt can be made to declare the employment contract null and void or to shift the responsibility for possible conflicts to a third party. Care should be taken that the employment contract is signed only by an authorized person.


Conclusion on the employment contract

The best rule when signing the employment contract is not to trust the employer’s words or promises that everything can be agreed upon later, but to insist that things be defined in advance. Most good employers will have no problem with this and will readily explain the rights and obligations of workers. However, if the employer avoids taking the employment contract seriously, it can be a warning to the worker that he may be better off not accepting the job. A bad employment contract in the event of a dispute can only be rectified by terminating the existing employment relationship.


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