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HR868: How to negotiate your next work contract

For this generation, it seems permanent employment is a thing of the past. More and more employers in both the private and public sector are hiring on contract for all level of employees including management and executives.

Very often, contract employees do not receive Company health and pension benefits and do not enjoy the job security of a permanent employee since at the end of each contract term your employer has the discretion to not renew.

The good news is that contract employees are recognized as workers under the Industrial Relations Act and so can access the Industrial Relations Court should their rights be infringed. Additionally, employees who have enjoyed a prolonged period of continuous contract renewal attain an arguable level of security with respect to further renewal.

Photo: You might have more rights than you think.
Photo: You might have more rights than you think.

Most importantly, basic principles of good industrial relations practice such as giving employees an opportunity to be heard before taking disciplinary action and providing a safe place of work apply to employees on contract as well.

Yet still, job seekers ought to be cautious when asked to sign a contract of employment and ought to review its terms thoroughly. It’s always advisable to ask for an opportunity to negotiate any suspicious clauses.

Renewal Clause: Ask for a renewal clause which would ensure that once you receive a good performance appraisal, renewal for a further term is automatic. Still, make sure that you leave room for the negotiation of a better compensation package for your renewed period.

Contract Term: Try and negotiate a significant contract period between three and five years. This will give you some semblance of stability, make it easier to secure bank loans and give you time conquer the learning curve and assimilate into the new work environment so that you could wow your boss in time for those performance appraisals.

Option to buy Vacation Leave: Ask about the Company’s policy on unused vacation leave. At the end of your contract term you can request that the Company purchase your unused vacation leave instead of sending you on pre-end of contract leave. This can give your end of contract gratuity payment a little bump.

Pro-rated Gratuity: Employers often insist that gratuity be paid upon the successful completion of the contract term. But this is impractical if you have already worked well for the majority of your contract and wish to pursue other opportunities. Thus, you could ask for the gratuity clause to include the option to pay pro-rated gratuity or to pay gratuity at the end of every year as opposed to at the end of the entire contract.

This list is not exhaustive and every employer will have in place different rules and regulations governing their contracts of employment. It is important to know what these rules are and to negotiate the contract clauses in a manner that best suits your financial and career goals.

Contract employment is here to stay; it’s up to you to mould the contract to meet your specific needs.

About Gabrielle Gellineau

Gabrielle Gellineau
Gabrielle Gellineau is a Lawyer, Consultant and Writer who has spent the last decade working in labour and other development fields throughout the Caribbean and internationally. She has most recently practiced her craft in the Industrial Court, at CARICOM and at State Enterprises in the entertainment, energy and health sectors. She currently manages her own practice with offices in San Juan and Port of Spain.

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15 comments

  1. And just as it was 3 yrs ago, and it has always been, the only -THE ONLY- way to have any sort of guarantees in your terms of employment is through a union contract. 🙂

  2. Unfortunately, because there are more people seeking employment than there are vacant positions, it is not always easy to even attempt to negotiate. This is especially at the lower clerical, craft and technical, sales and hourly rated positions. There is a salary/ wage set for the positions on offer and it generally comes down to take it or leave it.Hardly any of these workers are offered more that a three month position. At the end of it, it may be renewed or extended. The wording of the contract being offered is clear and there is no room for negotiation.
    Negotiating pay, period of employment and terms only take place at senior technical levels, management and executive levels. That is because companies try to hire who they consider the best and may allow for a degree of leeway.
    In the current climate, I am sure that not more than 10% of the jobs being filled will be negotiable. Sad but true.

  3. Very informative. …but is gratuity payable to ALL contract employees? Even the ones whose contracts are renewed yearly and not broken?

  4. Lol, Lasana I think you enjoy being the first to like your own posts. Is that an engagement strategy?

  5. fabulous writeup!!!! I can use of of it

  6. I wish I knew this stuff before thanks for the info Gabby. I wonder how practical it would be to negotiate with a government agency when it seems more like a take it or leave it scenario.

  7. Very informative. Contract employees need to be assertive when bargaining for conditions for service. Too often, especially among the under 35s there is a reluctance to so do because of the fear of being passed over for the post. Come on….. all stand firm.

  8. Yeah I should of hired you Lasana Liburd before they cut my 2yr contract in min of sport to a year and 1 month without any explanation etc…smh

  9. very informative and applicable .young people need this education badly continue sharing please