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Checking TEFL Teaching Contracts

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Read the fine print!

Teaching Contracts vary considerably; there is a different contract for pretty well every different job so it is impossible to make valid generalisations for contracts.

However, when looking at a contract there are some general guidelines you should consider and things you should check.

  • The contract should state your duties: teaching contact hours (actually in the classroom in front of students) as well as preparation time, materials writing or whatever is required of you. You need to know exactly how many hours per day/week you’ll need to be in the school.
  • Check the hours stated in the contract; although they may seem small they could be broken up into several sessions throughout the day so that a five hour teaching day could mean remaining in the school for ten hours or more. Split shifts may be part of the contract; it’s best to avoid them but sometimes it is not possible to.
  • Details of the airfare (if applicable – not all schools will pay this and in some countries it is unheard of); if the school agrees to pay all or part of your airfare you should know when this will be paid and how much.
  • Holidays: paid and/or unpaid and details of dates, etc.
  • Don’t sign a contract which has a fine for leaving early. This is illegal in most countries and suggests problems at the school.
  • Contracts are usually for 1 year; if the school asks you to sign a contract for more than this then be wary.
  • If you require a visa to teach in the country, it may be tied to the job. Check this out.
  • Make sure the accommodation is clearly referenced in the contract; ideally the employer will organise finding furnished accommodation for you or at least organise temporary accommodation whilst you find your feet. It is sometimes hard to organise accommodation in a foreign country (especially if you do not know the language) so this is an important issue. The distance from the school to the accommodation should also be stated – you should not have to travel hours between home and work.
  • Find out about health cover in the contract. Most countries have reciprocal agreements for emergency cover. Your employer may well be liable to pay local health cover so check this out.
  • Details of sick pay should it be needed.

Note that if you are an ICAL student you can take advantage of our free WorkSmart program and we will check your contract over before you sign it.

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