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Employment contract

A new job means a new contract. The only thing that stands between you and your new job is your signature. But before you sign on the dotted line, it can't hurt to take a good look at what it contains.

When do you have a contract?

You have a contract or employment contract if you are personally obliged to perform work for your employer in return for payment. The employer is the “boss” in this relationship. The agreements you make with your employer are recorded on paper. These agreements may never be worse (or better!) than those stipulated by the law or the CAO (collective labour agreement).

  • the name and address of you and your employer;
  • the place(s) where you work;
  • your position or the nature of your work;
  • the date you entered employment;
  • in a temporary contract: the duration of your contract;
  • the hours you work (per day or per week);
  • the amount you will be paid and when you will be paid;
  • the number of holiday days you get and how those are calculated;
  • your notice period and that of your employer, or the way in which this is calculated;
  • whether you are going to participate in a pension scheme;
  • whether a CAO applies and if so, which one;
  • whether it is a temporary employment contract;
  • if you are posted abroad for more than one month: details of your employment conditions.​

Put the agreements on paper

An employment contract, with your signature and that of your employer, is not mandatory. Oral agreements are also valid. Your employer is obliged to put down on paper the agreements you have made. You should get a copy of that.

Can't get the agreements on paper? Write down everything you have agreed and sign it. Then ask your employer to do the same. If your employer does not want to provide this information in writing or if the information is incorrect, they are liable for any consequent damage.

Clauses in your contract

Your employment contract may contain clauses. There are different types of clauses. A clause is usually a special agreement or condition in your contract. Below are the most common clauses:

You may have agreed on a non-solicitation clause with your employer. This states that you are not allowed to work for one of your employer’s customers, even if you no longer work for that employer. A non-solicitation clause must always be in writing.

A non-solicitation clause usually states:

  • that you may not approach certain contacts (specified by name) of your employer for a certain period of time. Have your employer clearly define what a “contact” is. This helps avoid misunderstandings.
  • that you may not work in any way for contacts of your employer.

Non-solicitation clause in your contract

Permanent contracts are permitted to have a non-solicitation clause, but temporary contracts are not, if your employer has a so-called compelling business interest.

Breach of non-solicitation clause

Do you have a non-solicitation clause in your contract, but you still plan on working for one of your employer’s customers? If so, you may be in breach of the non-solicitation clause. This could result in you being fined. This must be agreed in advance, as must the amount of the fine.

Lots of permanent contracts contain a non-compete clause. This means that you are not allowed to simply do the same work as an independent entrepreneur or for another employer. This is regardless of whether your contract has ended, you resign, or you are fired. Usually the non-compete clause applies for a certain period of time and a certain region. This can make getting another job difficult.

A non-compete clause usually contains agreements on

  • the type of work;
  • the type of employer (for example, a direct competitor);
  • place (for example, the region in which the dispute applies);
  • time (for example: not within 1 year).

Other rules for a non-compete clause

  • It must always be in your employment agreement or contract.
  • You must be at least 18 years old to enter into a non-compete clause.
  • If you violate it, you will be fined.
  • A temporary contract cannot have a non-compete clause.

Don't just agree to a non-compete clause

Ask your employer to remove the clause from your contract. Not possible? Don't just agree right away. First check whether the content is reasonable. Which activities are covered? Is it too large a region or too high a fine? If this is the case, negotiate with your employer and see if you can agree to adjust the text.

Your employer may not just change the terms of employment in your contract. These terms include agreements regarding your pay and holidays, for example. However, there is an exception: if your employment contract contains a unilateral amendment clause. If this is the case, they do not need your permission change the terms of employment in your contract, but there are conditions for this.

Using a unilateral amendment clause

Your employer may only adjust your terms of employment if they have a “compelling interest” in doing so. An example of this would be if the company you work for is not doing very well. Only then can they use the unilateral amendment clause.

You can agree to a penalty clause with your employer. If this is the case, your employer may fine you in certain situations. Your contract should state when they can do that.

For example, you might be fined if you:

  • share confidential company information with someone else;
  • if you go on to work for one of your employer’s customers;
  • if you violate company rules such as safety regulations or break times.

What should be in the penalty clause

A penalty must clearly state under what circumstances your employer may fine you. It must also state how much such a fine may be and where this money would go. The fine is not permitted to benefit your boss or anyone else.

Penalty clause in your CAO

Your CAO may contain standard rules for a penalty clause. Check your CAO to see if this is the case for you. 

You are not permitted to simply pass on information from your employer to someone else. To ensure that you do not do this, your employer might include a confidentiality clause in your contract. This states that you are prohibited from sharing any confidential or competitively sensitive information regarding the company. This applies when you work there, but also when you no longer work there.

Fine or dismissal for violation

If you do not adhere to the confidentiality clause, your employer can impose a fine on you. This is also known as a penalty clause. This may also be a sackable offence, but this has to go through the cantonal court.

Post employment

Have you already left the company and passed on confidential information, to your new employer for example? If so, you may still end up having to pay compensation or a fine to your former employer.

Contract without confidentiality clause

Even without a confidentiality clause, you must keep some information from the company to yourself. If you know that sharing a trade secret is detrimental to your employer, you should not do so. If you do so, you are at fault and your employer may seek compensation.

Your employer pays the costs of your degree or a course/training programme. If you leave the company soon afterwards, your employer might want some or all of the study costs back. This is because they invested money in you and can no longer use your knowledge. Agreements on this can be found in a study costs clause. A study costs clause is also called a study costs scheme or study costs agreement. 

Content of a study costs clause

  • It states when you have to pay the money back, for example if you stop your studies or if you start working for another company immediately after your studies.
  • It states how long after your studies you have to repay money.
  • It states how much you have to pay.

Your employer must put these agreements in writing, and they must be signed by you.

Study costs in your CAO

Your CAO may contain standard rules for a study costs clause. Check your CAO to see if this is the case for you.

Have you been working longer hours than stated in your contract?

If so, you can ask your employer to adjust the number of hours. If you do not do this, you may miss out on wages if you become ill and you will accrue fewer hours of leave.

Have you worked more hours than stated in your contract in the past 13 weeks? This creates a legal presumption that your working hours (the number of hours in your contract) should actually be the average number of hours of the past 13 weeks. Your employer must then adjust the hours in your contract to that average number of hours.

Your employer may refute your hours claim. One reason for this might be if it is clearly stated in advance that the additional hours you have worked are only for a certain limited period, for example, maternity cover.

What do you have to do to claim those hours? Send your employer a letter or e-mail stating that you have worked more in the past period than the number of hours in your employment contract and ask if they want to adjust your contract to the average number of hours.

You can do this by completing and sending our sample letter.

Download sample letter (NL)

Download sample letter (EN)

Frequently asked questions

You may sign your employment contract yourself from the age of 16. If you are younger, you need permission from your parents or guardian. They must therefore put their signature on your contract.

If they have not already done this and you work for 4 weeks or longer, your boss can assume that they have tacitly given permission.

Your parents decide what activities you are allowed to perform until you are 16. That should be in your contract.

You may do other paid work in addition to your job if you have permission from your employer. However, they may forbid you from doing so.

Your boss can include a ban like this on ancillary activities (a so-called ancillary activities clause) in your employment contract. A ban on ancillary activities may be included in any employment contract, but it may not be unreasonably demanding. This means that it must not solely benefit the employer.

A common reason for your employer to ban you from doing other work on the side is that they do not want you to show up to work exhausted.

If you do not comply with the ban, you may be fined. Or in the worst case scenario, you could be fired.

No, we do not recommend agreeing to a resolutive condition in your employment contract. This means that you agree with your employer that your contract will automatically end if a certain condition arises, for example, if you do not pass a certain training. Then your employment contract will be terminated. 

We advise against it, because much is unclear about the validity of a resolutive condition, and it creates uncertainty for the employee.

A resolutive condition must meet the following requirements:

  • It must not conflict with the dismissal law.
  • It should not depend on the personal judgment of you or your boss.
  • What it means should be clear to everyone. 

If your employer does not comply with the rules of the resolutive condition, they cannot terminate your employment contract. This means that you can claim wages and work from your boss, including for the period after the invalid termination.

Yes, in the event of death, the employment contract ends automatically. This applies to both temporary and permanent contracts. Your surviving dependents are entitled to a death benefit. This is your full monthly salary. Your CAO states whether your surviving dependents are entitled to a longer benefit.

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