This checklist may help you evaluate the contents of any contract of employment (or contract for voluntary work) before committing yourself. You must also ensure that any agreements made between you and the prospective employer/recruiter are confirmed in writing.
- Never sign a contract until all the blank spaces have been completed.
- Never sign a contract that is in a foreign language that you do not understand.
- Never place any reliance on verbal promises. How would you be able to prove the commitment later?
- Always ask for copies of any documents referred to within the contract and ensure that you understand these before agreeing.
1. Pre-employment agreement
You may be asked to sign a document which covers the period between accepting the job offer in the UK and taking up employment in the host country. It may commit the employer or recruiter to providing a language or examination revision course, facilitating your application to take an examination, or even paying for you to fly abroad to take the examination. In addition, it usually includes details of any financial penalty you would incur if you withdrew your application.
Think carefully before you commit yourself, as it may be expensive to change your mind later. Be clear about the kind of post you would be willing to accept and the length of time you are willing to wait for a placement. Please ensure that all of this information is contained within the pre-employment agreement.
2. Job description
The job description should be detailed enough to give you a good idea of what the job involves.
Your nursing education and experience to date should have provided you with the necessary knowledge to undertake the role. If not, will this be covered in any orientation/induction programme?
3. Orientation/induction programme
This is a crucial part of any overseas post and should include information about the new workplace, the whole health care system and nursing practices within the country.
You should ask for written confirmation of the following:
- How long will the induction last?
- Does it include training in tasks which you may not have done before?
- Will you be on full pay during the programme and is the programme included in the time period of your contract
4. Probationary period
- Is there a probationary period?
- What support will you get?
- How do the termination of contract arrangements differ during this period?
- Does the employer have the right to terminate the contract without any reason and with immediate effect during this time? If so, would you still be entitled to benefits such as a paid flight home?
5. Premature termination of the contract
- If you terminate your contract early then you may face a penalty such as having to pay for your own flight home or having to reimburse the employer/recruiter for your outward airfare. Under these circumstances, would your employer give you a reference and would you be given a copy of the reference for your records?
- Does the contract state the nursing specialty and site you will be working in?
- Does the contract allow the employer to change this without your agreement? Could you be required to work for the employer in any part of the host country?
7. Salaries (if applicable)
- Will you be paid the same salary as a nurse originating from the host country?
- Is the salary you have been offered on a scale or is it a fixed salary?
- What will your net salary be?
- Where will the salary be paid - in the UK, host country or part in both? If you intend to send money back to the UK on a regular basis e.g. to meet mortgage repayments, remember that currency fluctuations could affect the amount of sterling you receive.
8. Hours of work and overtime
- The exact hours of work should be written into your contract. The working week is longer than 37.5 hours in many countries.
- Does the contract state that you may be asked to do overtime?
- What shift pattern will you work and does it include breaks?
9. Annual leave and time off
- Annual leave entitlement varies widely from country to country and may be much less than you have been used to. Public holidays may or may not be included
- Will you be allowed to take your annual leave when you want, or do you have to take it after a waiting period (common in Australia) or at the end of your contract? Are you entitled to emergency or compassionate leave?
10. Length of contract
- The commencement and termination date should be clearly stated on the contract. If you are signing a standard contract for permanent employment used by the host country employer, there may be no termination date. In this situation the termination date of your work permit would apply.
- Is there a possibility of renewing the contract if both sides wish to do this? Would this involve a change of work permit? Would an increase of salary be offered?
11. Health care and health insurance
- Does the employer/recruiter provide you with private health insurance as part of the employment package? If not, will you be required to arrange your own? How much does this cost?
- Is a UK passport holder entitled to use the public health service on the same terms as residents of the country?
- Does your health insurance cover the cost of repatriating you to the UK if necessary and who decides whether this is necessary?
- Consider taking out personal injury accident insurance subject to the conditions of cover being applicable to your working situation.
12. Professional indemnity
Members who undertake overseas work should ensure that they have adequate indemnity and insurance cover.
Please see our Indemnity scheme terms and conditions for more information.
The RCN scheme does cover the overseas work of volunteers in certain countries to the extent that a clinical negligence claim might be brought against them.
However, there are other considerations about how a volunteer is supported, particularly if working in a dangerous environment. Any member considering volunteering should give careful thought as to what will happen if they need support with their own health whilst overseas, for example. Volunteers can be given support from organisations that arrange volunteer activity.
If you are involved in an incident overseas that you think might lead to a patient or colleague making a claim against you, you must contact us as soon as possible. You must never admit responsibility for an incident or submit a written statement about it until we have agreed for you to do so.
13. Other contract considerations to research
- sickness policy and entitlement
- grievance/disciplinary procedures and trade union representation
- language training
- responsibility of costs of the return airfare from the UK to the host country
- laws of the host country
- overseas employment contracts are usually interpreted according to the laws of the host country
- cost of living in that country.