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Know when you need a lawyer – tips for employees

1 October 2018 | Applicable law: England and Wales

You've just received the contract for your dream job working for the perfect company. You quickly flick through and it all looks as it should. You find and sign on the dotted line and there you have it, the job is yours.

Sound familiar?

Amongst all the excitement of getting a new job it is easy to overlook some of the details. Here are our tips to ensure that you're best prepared, before and during employment.

1. Before you sign

a. Read and negotiate your contract - a well advised employer will be protecting their interests. Protect yours. Pay particular attention to termination provisions – for example, seemingly onerous post-termination restrictions may be enforceable and prevent you from earning a living. It is much better to negotiate these upfront.

b. Understand how your salary and benefits are taxed – relief may be available on pension contributions or if you are working overseas.

2. During employment

a. Be aware of policies – in particular, regarding emailing documents to your personal email address. It is tempting to do this when there are documents in existence that appear to support the case you wish to make. However such actions are easy for your employer to detect and are likely to amount to misconduct or breach of contract (and, in some cases, a criminal offence), which will greatly weaken your position and could lead to termination of your employment.

b. Take care on social media – some employers are sensitive about apparent personal use and data can never be deleted. Check company policies and know what is expected of you.

c. Know your statutory rights and obligations - Your obligations can seem like a minefield but the first step is ensuring you understand them, particularly if you are a director subject to additional statutory duties; or have regulatory responsibilities or requirements.

3. If relationships turn sour

a. If you are treated poorly at work, document it to assist with any complaint – email notes to yourself (using your personal email address) to time stamp them. Remember that such emails might be disclosable to the tribunal or court in a dispute. Speak freely to your solicitor – such communications are privileged and not disclosable. They can help you formulate your aims and how to go about them.

b. If things aren't going well, be prepared to discuss how to resolve them. In certain circumstances, an 'off the record' without prejudice approach might be the best thing for both parties.

c. If you are planning to move to a competitor, take advice at an early stage – strategy is crucial. Don't just assume that seemingly onerous post-termination restrictions are unenforceable – you could be defending protracted and expensive High Court proceedings before you know it.

This document (and any information accessed through links in this document) is provided for information purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. Professional legal advice should be obtained before taking or refraining from any action as a result of the contents of this document.

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