Any EFL teaching job you accept, whether it’s in Thailand, China, Korea, Mexico, Spain or Saudi Arabia should include a legal contract. It should be written in English, as well as the language of the country you are teaching in, and will be signed by both you and a representative from the school.
In my years teaching English in Thailand, I signed a contract with every job I had as I always worked legally and had a work permit. If you do the same, you should always be given a teaching contract to sign as one must be issued as part of your application for a work permit.
If you have never had an EFL teaching contract before, here are some of the things that should be on it. If they are not, you may want to ask the school why. Although, I must add here, in all the schools I’ve worked for, what was written in my contract and what was the actual reality of my job were two completely different things, and almost every teacher I know has said the very same thing.
That’s why, even if your teaching contract does include all the things it should, whether the school actually sticks to them is a different story indeed.
What an EFL teaching contract should include
Salary – The salary you and the school agreed upon should be clearly visible on the contract. When you get the contract, make sure the salary is exactly as was offered and, if it’s not, do not sign it. I am relatively lax about teaching contracts as, in my experience, even though the contract is different than the day to day reality of the job, it usually works out in my favor. With salaries, though, I always insist on having the salary I was offered written in the contract as it’s far too easy for a school owner to wriggle out of paying it otherwise.
Hours per week – Any EFL teaching contract you sign should also include when you must be at school (ie: Monday through Friday, from 7:30am to 4pm), as well as the maximum number of contact hours the school will ask you to teach. The number of contact hours have increased for me at two schools I worked at, but in both cases the school paid me a very nice hourly rate for the extra hours, so didn’t hear any complaints from me.
Vacation days and public holidays – The amount of vacation time you will get every year should be listed along with what is expected of you during public holidays. For me, vacation days and public holidays were more than double what I used to get when I worked in the US so, no, no complaints.
Sick days and personal days – Some schools give only sick days while others give both, or just a lump amount that you are allowed to use for either. If you do only get one lump amount, make sure you ask if they can only be taken for sick days or are personal or business days also allowed? In Thailand, I have always been given 10 sick days, which I rarely use, and 5-10 personal days.
Contract start and end date – You should see both dates on your EFL teaching contract ie: the first day you are expected at school and the last day, or when the contract expires. Make sure both days are listed, otherwise you could end up in a situation where you suddenly find your contract magically morphed into an ’11-month contract’ meaning you won’t get paid for your last month’s vacation even though you’ve earned it.
Extras – If the school has agreed to pay for your airfare, provide you with a free apartment, pay for your health insurance or any other ‘extra’ on top of your specific salary, this should be in your contract. After all, you don’t want to pay for an expensive airfare to Korea or Japan and then discover the school is no longer reimbursing you for it as there was no mention of it in your legal contract.
There will likely be other things included in any EFL teaching contract (mine have differed from job to job), just make sure the basic things both parties agreed to during the initial job offer are in writing as, in many schools around the world, you can all but guarantee if they’re not you simply won’t get them.