Mutual trust is key to every fruitful relationship; whether you are part of an onboarding process, trying to close a deal, or finding a new collaborator.
Historically, we’ve used handshakes or hugs to demonstrate trustworthiness (by showing that we don’t hold any weapons) or trust (by acknowledging that we don’t fear contamination from the counterpart).
Another strategy, of course, is the Mexican stand-off where no participant is able win by showing hostility to the other. (Imagine the final scene in The Good, the Bad and the Ugly if Clint Eastwood hadn’t been such a badass). In such cases, you are sort of forced to trust.
In the modern legal system, contracts have substituted both hugs and pointed guns. They are vehicles of mutual understanding and they make sure no one is able to abandon an agreement without dire consequences. They create a bond.
So let’s agree: creating and negotiating an employment contract that both parties are satisfied with is an important part of a successful onboarding — and in the end, a trustful employment relationship.
If this is not convincing enough for you to make sure you have sufficient employment agreements in place with your employees, Danish Law actually makes a pretty good argument. Ansættelsesbevisloven states that an employer MUST have a written agreement in place with employees that have been working for more than 8 hours per week in a month. If you choose to forget (or actually forget), your employee is entitled to a heavy compensation of around 10.000 DKK.
When writing a good contract, you must write in a clear and plain language that all parties understand. Remember, a contract communicates your agreement:
- Use short and active sentences.
- Ensure that the subject is explicitly mentioned.
- Each paragraph should only contain one agreement.
- Exceptions should follow immediately after a rule or clause, either in a separate and subordinate sentence, or as a half-sentence.
- Transparency is crucial, so set it up in a manageable lay-out with headlines and short paragraphs.
- Don’t use footnotes.
- Never ever may you hide important terms with smaller fonts or other lay-out gimmicks. If the counterpart notices, you end up looking like a complete idiot, and even if you succeed in making someone sign such an agreement, it could turn out to be invalid.
Making a good contract can be difficult, since it is also a question of balance. You should not necessarily describe all details and yet, elements that are likely to happen (like the employee leaving the company at some point) or could be costly if realised (like copyright issues) should always be described. We have therefore written this free ebook Den gode kontrakt with proper advice. We’ve also collaborated with some accomplished employment lawyers to make this easy and free contract template you can use to create your next employment contract.
As an employer, you are obliged to inform the employee about certain affairs. First of all, you should be identifiable; name, company address, and company name must be included. Then follow the basic description of the job you want the employee to do for you. That includes their rank, job title, and tasks. Furthermore, you should inform the employee when the employment starts, its potential duration, and the weekly working hours.
Some of the most basic things to have in place are the rules concerning termination of the agreement. These usually follow a fixed scheme described in “Funktionærloven” but nothing prevents you from handing out more rights if you are the generous type.
The employee must be compensated with the agreed salary (including pension, after consideration and benefits). If the employee is subject to a collective agreement through their union or if they are hired as a “funktionær”, you should be aware that there are further requirements to meet than what is described in “Ansættelsesbevisloven”.
The above mentioned is more or less what you must include in the written agreement. The below mentioned is what you should at least consider and probably also choose to state.
If you are not making non-disclosure agreements with all your employees, you should at least write a paragraph about confidentiality in the employment contract to protect exposure of business secrets. It could be basic know-how, internal price-lists, knowledge about patents or even the secret ingredient in that sauce espagnole (family recipe, inherited through 17.5 generations) which is crucial to your restaurant’s survival. All of this is worth keeping inside the company.
Such a paragraph could be extended with a competition- or customer clause, but beware that you would have to compensate the employee if you choose to enforce it.
Other important subjects are copyright issues. Normally you have rights to what is produced during working hours, but you can never be too clear in those cases as it could be make-or-break for your business. Imagine if your employee figured out some special sauce recipe himself and ended up with the rights to it?
With that and other potential catastrophes in mind, you should also specify all agreements on how and where a potential dispute should be settled.
Finally, there are the rules of vacation, parental leave and sick leave. Danish law and the specific union agreements often specify these matters. But describing them in the contract is a great way to build trust. Nobody should have to ask about their rights to such matters. So, making it clear and writing it down formally from the beginning is crucial to get a start on your mutually trustful relationship.
Lastly, just to avoid any misunderstandings: Contracts do not exclude hugs and handshakes. In the appropriate dosage, hugs might even produce certain health benefits such as reducing blood pressure. Who knew?