What to look out for in your employment contract

What to look out for in your employment contract

Students often take part-time jobs which fit around their studies at CU. We encourage jobs and placements because of the way they can enhance your employment prospects and develop your skills. Alternatively, you may have been offered a graduate job and may be wondering what is hidden in the heavy stack of papers on your desk that they have handed over for you to sign.

For students, this can often be the first time you sign important legal documents. Most of us unfortunately never read the long lists of terms and conditions when we sign up for anything, but these are essential documents that can have some serious legal implications.

Zero hours contracts

These types of contracts are becoming more common in the British economy, particularly amongst students and part-time employees. You might encounter this type of contract if you apply for a job in a bar or a shop. These contracts generally mean that you do not have a minimum working hours and are not obliged to accept shifts that you are given.

Think about whether you are able to afford your living costs if your hours go down, or if you can still successfully balance it with your studies and extra-curricular activities if they go up.

You must also make sure that you are not being exploited. For example, you are still entitled to leave, rigorous health and safety provisions and the National Minimum Wage like any other worker.

Job title and description

You should check that the details of your job are the same as the ones you expected and negotiated with the employer. If a job description is too broad, it could give them room to expand your role into something that you weren’t expecting. Nonetheless, an impressive job title could help you when you look for graduate roles.


Check that the location of the job is the same as you thought it would be. A long commute can impact your health, happiness and studies, so factor it into your decision. You don’t want to have your job location switched to another part of the country if you can’t move.

However, because CU has multiple campuses across the country that students can move between each year, a job at a big chain of shops might let you transfer to another location! Remote working is definitely another option to consider, because it would let you work during term-time and your long holidays if you choose to travel elsewhere.

Salary, hours and holiday

These are crucial issues, so take a look at your employment contract to make sure it is what you expected. There may also be room to negotiate with the employer. CU’s unique model means that you have the opportunity to study in the morning or afternoon and fit a job around your life.

Check that your employer will be able to match this flexibility. How you can take holiday is also important, since you may want to match it up with the end of your block or your assignments so that you can get some rest. Luckily, because we don’t have end of year exams, you won’t need to take all your holiday in one go to cram for a big finish to your degree!

Notice and probation

When you start your job, you will probably have a probationary period while both you and the employer watch you settle into the new role. Check that this is fair, as an employer can often sever the contract more easily during this time. It also gives you a better chance to end the contract if it turns out not to be right for you.

When you come to the end of your job or studies, you should be prepared for the notice period in your contract. You should hand in your notice at the right time, otherwise you may be stuck if you are moving out of your student accommodation.

Competition clauses

Whilst these are less common in student employment contracts, they are still worth looking out for. Some employers include non-compete clauses that stop you working for their competitors when you finish. Other clauses can stop you poaching clients or employees from your former workplace.

Your contract could also stipulate that any intellectual property you create during your employment belongs to the company rather than yourself. These may not seem like the most serious issues now when you are just starting out. In the future, though, when you are further along in your career, these clauses might come back to haunt you!

Are you interested in the relationship between law and businesses? Study a course that integrates the two subjects with professional skills at CU Coventry, CU Scarborough and CU London.