Working life

Your graduate job offer and employment contract

22 Jun 2023, 13:24

Singing an employment contract

It is easy to get carried away in the excitement of accepting a graduate job offer. However, it is wise to make sure that you know what you are legally agreeing to and what your rights are as an employee.

First off, this article is only intended as a brief overview, if you have any specific concerns please consult Citizen’s Information and , which will have the most up to date information

In Ireland, employers engage people either under a contract of service where they are considered employees and are protected by employment legislation or a contract for services where they are considered to be self-employed and may not be protected by all employment legislation. Graduates who join graduate schemes are typically employees.

What happens when you are offered a job?

A job offer can be made verbally or in writing and can be conditional or unconditional. It is best practice for a verbal offer to be followed up in writing and for you to accept it in writing. The most common conditions for graduate job offers are:

  • Proof that you have achieved the minimum academic grades listed in the essential requirements of the job description
  • References
  • Proof of a valid driving license if it is essential for the job

The employer will also need to verify that you have the right to work in Ireland.

Can a job offer be withdrawn by the employer before you start work?

Employers can withdraw an offer before you start working. If this is done because you haven’t met the conditions of an offer, then the offer is invalid, and you cannot take legal action. If an unconditional offer is withdrawn, you may be entitled to compensation.

What is an employment contract?

An employment contract is a legal agreement between the employer and the employee. Your contract details the rights and responsibilities of you and your employer. It is not legally required that you receive the whole contract in writing. However, you must be given a ‘written statement of terms of employment’. Within five days of starting a job, your employer must give you the core terms of your employment. The remaining terms should be given to you within one month.

The core terms of employment include:

  • The full names of the employer and employee
  • The address of the employer
  • The place/s of work, or a statement stating that you are free to set your own place of work
  • Employment start date
  • Job title or the nature of the work (such as a job description)
  • The rate or method of calculating your pay, and the ‘pay reference period’
  • What the employer reasonably expects the normal length of the working day and week to be
  • The duration and conditions relating to the probation period (if there is one)
  • Any terms or conditions relating to hours of work, including overtime

The remaining terms include leave entitlements, pension schemes and details of the notice period.

An employment contract stretches wider than the written statement. For legal purposes, an employment contract includes a combination of express and implied terms. Express terms are agreed upon between you and your employer and generally include terms such as pay and work hours. Implied terms are not set out in the contract but are still legally binding. These come from sources such as legislation and caselaw and obvious consequences of what is stated in the contract.

The details of employment law can be difficult to wrap your head around. Make sure to check the following with care:

  • That your personal details are correct
  • That the length of contract matches what you have applied for
  • That you understand the details of the probationary period
  • The expected working hours
  • Your holiday entitlement (you are entitled to a minimum of 4 weeks paid annual leave and 9 public holidays a year. If you have to work on public holidays, you are entitled to an extra day’s holiday or an extra day’s pay)
  • The employer’s sick pay policy
  • What equipment the employer will provide for work outside the workplace, if relevant
  • If there are any ‘restrictive covenants’ such as ones preventing you from working for a competitor for a certain period after leaving the employer.

When you read through your contract, if something is not what you were led to expect from the job description or interview, you can query the matter politely. Ask if the recruiter could clarify the point for you to make sure that you understand exactly what is meant.

gradireland editorial advice

This describes editorially independent and impartial content, which has been written and edited by the gradireland content team. Any external contributors featuring in the article are in line with our non-advertorial policy, by which we mean that we do not promote one organisation over another.

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