Dear Working Wise:
I just turned down a job offer as a salesperson, because they wanted me to sign an agreement saying that I would not work for one of their competitors for six months after leaving the company. This is the first time I’ve been asked to agree to these kinds of terms. Is this something new? What else should I be on the lookout for when negotiating job offers? Signed, Cautious
Restrictive covenants like non-solicitation and non-competition are not new, but they are becoming more common as employers try to protect their business interests.
For example, most employers would not want a salesperson taking all their customer contacts with them if they took a job with the competition.
Before you sign any such agreement, you may want to consult with a lawyer to ensure the employer is not trying to restrict your future career options too much.
When considering a job offer, you should also ensure you understand the offer and consider all the terms of employment such as hours, salary and benefits.
Get the offer in writing or take detailed notes of the verbal offer and then e-mail or fax your notes back to the employer for confirmation. Ask the employer to explain anything you don’t understand.
Find out when you will be working and for how long? Will there be any shift work, overtime, or travel? Is the overtime paid or unpaid? Some professions are exempt from overtime rules. Will you be required to use your personal vehicle? If so, will you be compensated for mileage and insurance costs?
Compensation – What is the salary or wage? Are you eligible for any performance bonuses or commissions? Are tips involved? If so, will you be expected to share your tips with anyone else? Are there scheduled salary increases and cost-of-living raises or do you have to negotiate each one?
Other benefits - What about health and dental coverage, pensions or retirement savings programs, vacation, sick days, personal days, severance pay, employee wellness programs, vehicle allowance, daily living allowance (if travel is required), and parking?
If you are unsatisfied with the financial compensation being offered, but are still interested in the job, you might want to counter the employer’s offer. Try suggesting benefits that have little or no cost, like an extra week of paid vacation, free parking, a better job title, or ask if you can work some hours at home.
Most employers expect you to think about the offer before you decide. Let the employer know that you are very interested in the job, and that you will make a decision within a specific period of time, e.g. one or two days.
Evaluate the offer - If you are not sure how good the offer is, you can check it against industry standard salaries, benefits and working conditions by:
· Reviewing the Alberta Occupational Profiles available on the Alberta Learning Information Service (ALIS) web site at www.alis.alberta.ca;
· Looking at the Alberta Wage and Salary Survey on the ALIS web site;
· Talking to people you know who work in similar jobs; or
· Checking with your professional association or union.
Careful, once you have accepted the job, it will be tough to negotiate changes to the offer. If you decide to accept the offer, let the employer know that you‘re looking forward to getting started.
If you are making a counter-offer, be prepared to explain why you are worth the extra pay or vacation time.
Do you have a work-related question? Send your questions to Working Wise, at email@example.com. Charles Strachey is a regional manager with Alberta Human Services. This column is provided for general information.