“If the employment contract I was promised does not arrive, should I leave?”

Question: I signed an offer letter for a new job, and on that basis I have begun working. However, I was promised an employment contract, but I have not received it. Do I continue with this job, or do I leave?

Dubai, United Arab Emirates

Answer: Dear Afrah: Your question raises several other questions. Fortunately, the answers to those other questions will provide the answer to your question. Let me explain:

1. Have you asked more than once for the employment contract? You must not lose sight of the fact that sometimes things just “fall through the cracks,” get forgotten, or simply get mailed to the wrong address. Have you asked more than once for your contract, and addressed your request – preferably by email – to the right person? Don’t get frustrated or disillusioned without good reason.

2. Does your “offer letter” have all of the terms, provisions and conditions you expected to see in your “employment contract?” A contract is a piece of paper which expresses and evidences what two persons – in the employment relation, the employer and the employee – agreed to do for each other.

For the employer’s benefit, an employment contract sets forth what duties and responsibilities the employee will fulfill, where he or she will do that, and who he or she will report to. For the employee’s benefit, it says how much he or she will be paid, what benefits he or she will be provided and, sometimes, how long the employment relation will last, at a minimum.

If your offer letter sets forth the most important terms, provisions and conditions agreed to, it is just as valid and binding as an employment contract, even if it has a different “name.”      

3. Is your employer honoring the terms that were supposed to be in the promised employment agreement? So far, has your employer done all for you that it promised to do – other than, of course, provide the written contract? That is, are the duties your expected to fulfill the same as your present duties? Are the salary, benefits and “perks” what were promised?

If the answer is “yes,” that is a good sign, and you have an early indication that this might be a positive and long-lasting relation. On the other hand, if the answer is “No,” then the failure to provide you the written contract and the pay and benefits promised are all sure signs that you might not be wise to expect to remain in this employment relation very long.

4. “Length of the Employment Relation,” (or “Term”) represents job security, one thing that most employment contracts offer, is quite valuable. There is one thing that your employer may be trying to avoid giving you by not giving you an employment contract: job security. That is very valuable, and its value to you cannot be denied. If your Offer Letter does provide this, you are on firm footing; if not, it should be kept foremost in your mind as something to try to achieve in your efforts.

Job security comes in many different forms, including among others (a) a defined “Term” of the relation, (b) an automatic renewal of the relation at the conclusion of the “Term,” (c) a commitment not to terminate the relation unless the employee has engaged in bad conduct, and (d) a minimum amount of “notice,” for example, 60 days, before the employer can end the employment relation. All are valuable, although to different degrees.

The absence of a specified “Term” is not always negative: it also means you may leave whenever you want to do so for, perhaps, a better job offer, and even without any notice (or penalty) should that be necessary. You might say that without a definite Term of Employment you and your employer are not “married,” but merely “dating,” a much less “committed” relationship – for both “sides.”  

5. Have you considered taking the initiative to “write your own employment contract?” Whenever I say this so someone, they think I am a little crazy. The look on the person’s face says “I didn’t go to law school!” Well, it does not take a lawyer to write a contract, including an employment contract. As noted above, all the “piece of paper” has to do is to set down the basic terms agreed to, and have some kind of “evidence” that both sides agreed to it. That “evidence” could be a signature, or a video in which both sides say, “I agree,” or even an email in which both sides write to each other, “I agree with this.”

You can do this by yourself without any special knowledge, education or training; you really can. Many people do just that, successfully, without the need and expense of hiring an attorney. I encourage that strongly.

You might benefit from reading a newsletter I wrote and posted on this blog entitled “How to Give Yourself the Job Security and  Benefits of a Contract.” To do so, just [click here.] 

For a nominal fee, we also offer a Model Memo, entitled “Confirming Basic Terms of Job Offer (or How to Give Yourself a Contract.)” To obtain yours, just [click here.] Delivered by Email – Instantly. 

6. Do you have a better employment alternative at the moment? We need to keep things in perspective. Even if you are not being treated the way you were told you would be, and even if you don’t like the job, at least it is a job in the meantime. It is a means of support for you and your loved ones, and a better “platform” than being unemployed upon which to seek a new and better job. Bad feelings that arise when people are mistreated are a problem, but should not be permitted to result in making matters worse, by leaving abruptly, and thus hurting oneself.  

If you and your employer are not “committed” by means of a defined Term of Employment, you are free to seek a new and better job, but of course you should keep this job, if possible, until you locate that better job. 

Afra, thanks for writing in. I hope this has been helpful. Your question – and hopefully my answer – illustrate a few points of “negotiating and navigating at work” that we all need to learn how to do, and teach our children, as well.

If this has been helpful to you, please tell your friends and colleagues in the United Arab Emirates about our blogsite. My very best to you.

My Best,
Al Sklover

P.S.: If you’re going to be looking for a New Job, we offer a 152-Point Master Checklist of Employment Negotiation Items to help you. To obtain a copy, just [click here.] Delivered by Email – Instantly! 


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