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The employment contract

July 14, 2005

I wrote about employment contracts in a recent edition of my monthly newsletter. It's not easy to strike a balance between an over-legalistic document and something too vague to be useful. But I think it's important to remember that it's a protection for both the employer and the teacher.

Of course, the laws on employment vary from country to country, so make sure you explain what is required to the teachers. Some countries stipulate that the contract must be written in the home language. If this is the case, your teachers will need a clear and accurate translation into English. Some countries require the contract to contain full details of the teacher’s visa and employment permits. There may be restrictions on the number of hours a teacher can work and on the number of hours overtime permitted.

Even if your country does not require a written contract at all, it is worth thinking about the kinds of problems that could arise if you do not have a clearly drafted understanding of all aspects of the job: the rights and responsibilities of the teacher and the rights and responsibilities of the employer.

Basically the contract should cover the number of class contact hours, number of admin hours and number of preparation hours. If you have a basic 38 hour week and you expect teachers to spend 25 hours in the classroom, two on admin and the remaining 9 on preparation, don’t think of the preparation time as a free pool from which you can ask teachers to do extra teaching. If you need teachers to do extra contact hours to cover for an absent colleague or a sudden influx of students, build the terms of the required flexibility into the contract. For example you may say that could be expected to do up to two extra teaching hours per week to cover emergencies. If further hours are required, offer to pay them as overtime. List any additional duties, such invigilating exams, designing teaching materials or socializing with students.

Be as precise as possible in every area. If you offer accommodation, make it quite clear how this it to be provided and describe it accurately. State whether teachers will be expected to travel to other branches or to companies and explain how such travel arrangements will be made. Make sure you are clear about sickness insurance and medical treatment: what would happen if a teacher had to be repatriated because of an accident, for example, or suffered long-term illness?

Specify holiday entitlement, grievance and disciplinary procedures, and notice terms. Above all, try to make the contract a reader-friendly document rather than one that is full of dense legal terminology. Before you issue a contract, it might be a good idea check with a lawyer to ensure that it is comprehensive enough to satisfy your local legal requirements.

Let me know how you deal with contracts.

Bye for now.

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