When I posted my recent blog post on handling sexual harassment in the workplace, I got a lot of responses! I was shocked by the number of emails and direct messages I received. I am well aware of how rampant sexual harassment is in the workplace. I've experienced it more than once myself. Yet, I'm always shocked because there's always a story that seems to be more horrendous and traumatic than the next. I truly feel for all you who have been victims---both women and men---who wrote me, and the countless others who didn't.
However, I also started to get questions about other common workplace issues. I tried to respond to as many as I could, unfortunately, many of you didn't provide enough details for me to comfortably provide counsel or advice. But, there were some trends, so I want to occasionally address them here on the blog because there might be others who are wondering the same things you are.
One of those issues was how you should evaluate a job offer. As many of you articulated, workplace harassment, discrimination, unequal pay and some other issues make you cautious about your next opportunity. But, determining how to evaluate a firm from the outside can be tricky. Many of the emails I received were from those of you in the UK. Obviously, I don't live there, but I still wanted to answer your questions. Thankfully, I was able to partner with someone who had had the UK information I needed. I'm well-versed enough in HR and organizational culture to answer the more surface questions. But, I wanted some more specific information on regulations that affect United Kingdom residents to ensure I was providing you the best information I could, and thankfully, we were able to work that out for you.
So, read on...
When was the last time you read a contract all the way through, including the fine print? Don’t worry, you’re not alone. Most people never read a contract all the way through before signing it but that can be risky. When you’re taking a new job, it’s vital that you actually know what you’re signing up to because once you’ve put your signature on that dotted line, you won’t be able to negotiate those terms. These are the particular things that you need to watch out for before you sign a contract for a new job.
The HR department is among other things, your protection at work. If you’ve been treated unfairly by your employer or a co-worker, or you feel as though you’ve been sexually harassed, you need to know what the process is. If they don’t have measures in place to help protect you from those things, that isn’t the kind of place that you want to be working. If the language is a bit vague, ask your new employer exactly what their HR processes are before you agree to sign anything.
Everybody is entitled to some form of statutory sick pay from the government if they have to be off work for any kind of health condition. You can find out what those basic entitlements are by reading this SSP guide. As well as the basic allowances, employers will often give you more sick pay entitlements on top. The amount you get for statutory sick pay is going to be a lot less than your weekly wage and if you’re off for a long period, you might find yourself in financial trouble. That’s why you should always check to see whether your employer is offering a higher rate of sick pay than they are legally obliged to.
Before you agree to take on a job, you need to understand exactly what that job is. It sounds like an odd thing to say but if you aren’t exactly sure what your responsibilities are, it’s easy for your employer to add a lot of extra work on top that you aren’t getting paid for. If you know exactly what your job entails from the start, you can nip that in the bud right away and make sure that you’re only doing the work that you’re actually getting paid for. If they do want you to take on more responsibilities, you can refer to your contract to negotiate a higher salary for the extra work.
This is perhaps the most important thing because it’s easy for your employer to take advantage if you aren’t sure what hours you’re contractually obliged to work. You need to know exactly what the top limit of your hours is, as well as what the minimum is. This stops your employer from either making you work more hours or drastically cutting them without notice.
If you don’t look over your contract properly before you sign it, you might end up agreeing to things you don't want to without realizing it.
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