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August 08, 2006

Workplace Issues- Get It Down in Writing!

Hello Readers,

As September nears, it's time for teachers to sign new contracts- and for others to end theirs. It's got me thinking, how closely do you actually need to examine a contract before signing? Well, if I've learned one thing in China, it's that...

... not every city is like small town Minnesota! Surprise, suprise, I know. But seriously, people will try to take advantage of you. That's a fact. So don't be complacent- check your contracts carefully!

Here are some things to look out for:

1. Teaching hours- how many are you expected to teach each week? Make sure that the maximum number of teaching hours sounds reasonable to you. Also, look carefully to find out if you are expected to fulfill any other duties- like office hours, English Corners, field trips, assessment, interviews, meetings, trainings, etc.

2. Holidays- how many public holidays will you get, if any? Are they paid or unpaid holidays? How about personal holidays? When will you receive pay? If you leave your contract early, will you still be entitled to some, all or none of the holidays?

3. Sick leave- how many days of sick leave are you entitled to? Do you need a doctor's note in order to receive your pay?

4. Medical Insurance- are you a candidate for medical insurance? How does it work? What conditions will your insurance cover? Are pre-existing conditions covered immediately or after a set number of months? Are there specific hospitals that you must go to in order to get reimbursed? What documents do you need from the hospital in order to make a claim? Look into this thoroughly now- you won't want to be worrying about this when you are ill.

5. Notice- how much notice are you expected to give to your boss if you need to leave your contract early? Living in another country can be difficult- and unpredictable, so it's wise to know what your options are so that if you need to leave, you don't need to burn bridges with your boss. Likewise, what happens if the school shuts down or lays you off? Are you entitled to any compensation?

6. Visas- who is responsible for dealing with your visa? Is your company responsible for paying for it as well?

7. Airfare- are you entitled to a one-way or round-trip ticket? When will you be reimbursed for your ticket? What documents do you need in order to get reimbursed?

8. Salary- is the total your gross salary or net salary? Don't just assume!

9. Housing- are you being given a housing allowance? If so, is that in addition to your salary or a part of your salary? If you are being given an apartment to live in, what additional fees are you expected to pay (gas, electricity, cable, etc.)? If you would rather find your own apartment, are they willing to give you some compensation for not living in their apartments/dorms?

10. Language lessons- are you entitled to receive free language lessons from the school? If your school doesn't offer free language lessons, you might want to negotiate for this, as this will not only make you happier in your new country, but it will make it easier for your boss, coworkers, and students to talk with you, which means that it's a win-win situation!

There are many stories about English teachers who have been taken advantage of overseas. I wonder how many of those stories are true or just a result of the English teachers not knowing their rights. Take control, don't be afraid to ask, and never sign anything unless you feel comfortable with the conditions.

Good luck!

Carol Rueckert
Writer, ESL Lesson Plan
E-mail: crueckert@eslemployment.com
Blog: www.esl-lesson-plan.com

*Looking for more articles that focus on workplace issues specific to ESL? Click HERE!

About the author of this entry:
Carol, a native English-speaker who hails from the small town of St. Joseph in Minnesota, USA, has lived and worked in China since 1998. During that time, she has worked with students that range in age from three to more than sixty years old. She’s worked in universities, private language schools, grade schools, international schools, as well as private tutoring. Besides teaching, she’s also worked as a head teacher, an education manager, and a material development manager. In addition to working on this newsletter, she currently writes a monthly column for Time Out Beijing as well as working as an ESL instructor for the Australian International School of Beijing. Carol is also enrolled in Oxford Brookes' MA TESL program in Oxford, England. Look for her posts on the ESL-Jobs-Forum discussion boards!

Posted by crueckert at August 8, 2006 12:24 AM

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As I see job posting requiring EU passports I am dismayed at this obvious unfair practice that excludes both Canada and the USA, (and of course other countries that arent part of the EU.) Would someone be kind enough to explain why this is the way it is ? I have more than ten years years teaching experience both in the USA and Asia and would just like to simply know why this apparent block exists Thank you Professor Frank Rand USA.

Posted by: Frank Rand at August 10, 2006 12:51 AM

Hi Professor Rand,

While it is frustrating to hear that many jobs in the EU require an EU passport, you might find it refreshing to know that it's not an act of discrimination. It's actually about the work permit. As far as I understand, in order for non-EU citizens to get a job in the EU, they have to prove that they are more qualified than all other EU citizens. Then they have to get their employer to go through the hassle of supplying a work visa/permit (?) for them. It is possible to still work there- in many countries, it is possible to work part-time while studying, for example.

If anyone else has information about this, please feel free to comment. It'd be great to hear from any non-EU citizens who have found work in the EU.


Carol Rueckert
Writer, ESL Lesson Plan

Posted by: Carol Rueckert at August 10, 2006 03:48 AM

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