Once you have been offered a teaching position, and decide to proceed, the next step will be to sign a contract. It’s important to remember that the contract is signed directly with the school, between just yourself and the school, so you will need to carefully consider all clauses before signing anything.
Most schools require teachers to sign a 1 year contract. Besides your pay and hours the contract should set out everything from details about how many teaching/ office hours your will work, public holiday and annual holiday leave, any overtime payment, your apartment (if provided), to your duties as a teacher, how and when you’ll be paid, who is responsible for visa costs, to the punishment for breaking the contract.
Ensure that everything you talked about and agreed with the school during the interview process is in writing in the contract. This includes overtime, airfare reimbursement, details of your apartment (including how it’s furnished), and anything else you agreed upon. If you agreed on something verbally or via email, but it is not included in your contract, unfortunately you cannot expect it to be fulfilled. Therefore, take time and care to really think about the terms of your contract before signing it.
In terms of working hours, keep in mind when reading the contract that some schools will say 25 hours a week and some will say 25 classes/ periods a week, for example. Ensure you know how long each class is because it is possible for a class length to range from 40 minutes to 90 minutes which makes a huge difference.
Some schools will note lots of little penalty clauses within their contract. For example, some may deduct a percentage of a teacher’s monthly pay as a deposit which they will keep if you break the contract in any way, or take a deposit for the apartment. Some will have large penalties for taking sick days. Ensure that you are OK with any such clauses before you agree to them.
Also be wary if your contract states that you are responsible for conducting unpaid promotional or recruitment activities for a school; this can be anything from simply handing out flyers to putting on a show in public. Again, only agree to this part of the job if you know what it will involve.
Some Chinese contracts can look scary on first review, as it may be quite different from the contract format you may be used to at home; and the English version is likely to have been written by a Chinese-speaker. You’ll find that contracts in China appear to be very much in favour of the employer, as opposed to the employee; many may be government issued or approved, particularly if working for a public school. Try not to be put off by this – the contract should set out expectations from the beginning, but should still be fair.
If in doubt, ask questions! Direct any questions to your HR point of contact at the school, or ask your Coordinator to liaise on your behalf.
If there is anything that sounds unreasonable in the contract you can negotiate for it to be removed. Please remember to negotiate in a polite and respectful way. If a school thinks you are a good teacher and will be an asset to them, they will agree to any reasonable requests. The same applies if you do not understand anything written in the contract – you should ask for further clarification.
The following information does not constitute legal advice, it is merely brief guidance and points to consider before you sign a contract with a school.