What is An Employment Contract?

An employment contract is a formal agreement between an employer and an employee concerning the employee’s term of employment. It can be oral, implied, or written, involving a lengthy physical contract that the employee must sign. The conditions laid out in the contract are based on what was agreed upon when the employee formally confirmed that they would accept the job.

What are At-Will Employment Contracts?

The majority of U.S. employees work at will. This means that they can be terminated or quit for any reason, as long as the termination is legal and not based on discrimination or retaliation. Most states follow the at-will employment rule.

Advantages and disadvantages of employment Contracts

There are clear benefits and some drawbacks to having an employment contract.

Benefits of Employment Contracts

  • Clearly specified duties and benefits: An employment contract sets out the obligations for the job and the benefits that are included as a part of the employment. Employers can utilize it to set criteria for an employee’s performance, as well as reasons where termination would be justified.
  • Protects both employers and employees: The employment contract protects the rights of both sides. Employers can incorporate a non-compete or non-disclosure clause in the employment contract to prohibit employees from using confidential information for personal profit. It could also keep them from leaving their job and competing with you in a different company.
  • Stability: The employer and employee are aware of what they can expect from their relationship.
  • Legally binding: The employment contract is legally binding, and there can be consequences if an employee breaches the contract.
  • Attract employees: An employment contract can be used to attract applicants to join your company instead of competing with you because you can promise job security or other beneficial terms in the employment contract.

Drawback of Employment Contracts

The main drawback of an employment contract is that it restricts the flexibility of the employer. Both the employee and employer are legally bound by the conditions of the contract, and the contract cannot be modified without negotiating the terms. It can be problematic if the employer later decides they want to alter the terms. There is no guarantee that the employee will accept the new terms when renegotiating.

What is included in an Employment Contract?

An employment contract can include the following:

  • Salary or wages: The contract will list the salary, wage, or commission that the employer and employee agree upon.
  • General duties: An employment contract will outline the various duties and responsibilities that an employee must accomplish while employed.
  • Schedule: The contract might contain the hours and days that employees are expected to work.
  • Duration of employment: The agreement may specify the length of time that the employee agrees that they will work for the company. The agreement may be set for a specific time period or state that employment is ongoing.
  • Confidentiality: Employers may include a confidentiality clause in their employment contract, although many also require employees to sign a separate confidentiality agreement.
  • Benefits: The employment contract should outline all the benefits promised to the employee. This includes health insurance, paid time off, retirement plans, and various benefits.
  • Noncompete agreement: Employers might include a non-compete agreement or clause that prevents the employee from quitting their job or taking a position that would place the employee in direct competition with their current employer.

What is a Trial Period?

A trial period occurs when a new employee is employed on the basis that there are no commitments yet between the employer and employee. This period is sometimes called the probation or probationary period.

Full-Time vs. Part-Time

There are no federal laws that define what full-time employment is. But, an employee who works between 30 to 40 hours a week is considered a full-time worker. As a general standard, 40 hours is the maximum number of hours an employee can work for an employer without additional compensation unless they’re exempted from overtime pay.

Minimum Wage

Minimum wages are the lowest amount employers can legally pay their employees for an hour. Nonexempt employees are those who are not exempt from overtime compensation. They must be compensated at a rate that is one-and-a-half times their regular pay for hours that they work over 40 hours.

Different types of employment

There are several kinds of hiring arrangements:

  • Employees: This can be a full-time or part-time arrangement in which an employee is hired directly by a company.
  • Independent contractors: This is when an employer hires an independent freelancer or business to provide goods and services as per the contract’s terms.
  • Apprentices: Under this arrangement, the person works under the supervision of an experienced person who helps them master the necessary skills to acquire the required license to practice a profession.
  • Interns: This is an arrangement where a person works in a paid or unpaid position within a company for a brief period to learn skills for white-collar careers.

Employee vs. Independent Contractor

The main distinction between an employee and an independent contractor lies in how their taxes are handled. An employer is accountable for withholding the federal income tax, whereas an independent contractor is responsible for their own federal and state taxes.

Here is a more in-depth look at the most important differences:


  • Paid hourly or salary
  • Employer withholds tax payments 
  • Employer is the one responsible for obtaining unemployment insurance
  • Employee fills out IRS Form W-4
  • Employee works directly for the business of the employer.

Independent Contractor

  • Paid per project, task, or, in some cases, hourly 
  • Taxes are not withheld from the payments
  • Employer doesn’t obtain unemployment insurance for contractor
  • The Contractor fills out IRS Form W-9.
  • Works for their own business instead of the employer’s

How Employment Contracts Work?

There are many kinds of employment contracts based on the company and job:

Written Contracts

A written contract can be beneficial because it permits the employer to specify the duties, roles, and benefits to avoid any future confusion. Employees must adhere to the terms of the agreement, which includes complying with any limits regarding where they can work if they leave the company.

Implied Contracts

An implied contract is where employment is inferred from information communication and comments given during an interview or promotion. The implied contract can also be created as the result of a handbook or training manual.

Who requires An Employment Contract?

With new hires, recruits, and employees who have changed jobs, every company, human resource manager, or recruitment officer must use the employment agreement. Both parties are legally protected, and their obligations are laid out in the employment contract.

Employment contracts (and the terms that they have agreed to) are crucial in the following situations:

1. Senior positions where the employer’s attorney and an employee side counsel usually examine and negotiate contracts.

2. Employees who are represented by unions in the private and public sectors, like teachers’ unions and other unions (manufacturing, etc. ).

Does an Employment Contract always need to be written?

While an employment contract must generally be in writing, some variations exist. A written contract can provide structure and organization for employers in the hiring process and the workplace. A legally signed contract provides stability and security to employees.

Written contracts do have some disadvantages. It can restrict bargaining rights for either party and could imply fairness and honesty that may or may not exist.