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what should you insist on in a contract?

Posted

I realize that the contract I signed for my current assignment is very vague and has terms in it that I should not have agreed to. I might decide to take another contract in the future, but I don't want to get taken advantage of. What specific points would you insist a contract include in order for you to sign it? What are the red flags for an unfair contract?

I'd suggest reading the contract articles on PanTravelers. Personally, I want to see specific damage clauses not vague or open ended, and no at-will language. Overtime rates should be listed explicitly at should be (at a minimum) time and a half of the hourly and per diem combined, or at least $50 an hour.

Damage clauses that are not specific missed hour penalties based on real costs such as actual housing costs and per diems are a non-starter. Lost profits? I don't think so! Missed hour penalties are more than sufficient to provide incentives for travelers to finish contracts.

At-will language in a contract may appear to be fair, with both the employee and the employer able to walk away, but in practice the damage clauses still apply to the traveler if the contract is not completed for any reason. At-will language basically is a non-contract with no way to enforce contracted hours or weeks or things that may pop up not listed in the contract like different pay for orientation.

Overtime at $15 an hour on a $10 hour base? Just say no and walk away. That is actually a drop in total pay as they are not paying extra per diem or housing on those hours. The agency will be making windfall profits off your extra hours. Any good agency will provide incentives for you to work extra hours. After all, it is all extra money over and above their contracted expectations, pure profit. They can afford to share.

Completion bonuses seem like a great deal. They are, for the agency! They help keep travelers motivated to complete assignments and so are perhaps good in that regard for travelers too. But it is more about sales, $500 lump sum sounds like more money than the dollar an hour it actually represents. But I prefer that completion bonus rolled into my hourly. I don't want to take the risk of losing it if the assignment does not complete for any reason. It is my pay for hours worked, not the agency's if the hospital terms me for low census. I suggest above that OT rates should be negotiated, but certainly a completion bonus is part of your OT base rate and should be included.

Large pass-through bonuses from a hospital are another story. The hospital only pays the agency when the assignment is complete. Thus the agency would be taking a big risk to roll that into your pay as they may not get any part of it if the assignment fails to complete. That $5,000 or $10,000 is a lot of money in addition to fair pay so you have to evaluate carefully the risks and rewards. It doesn't hurt to try to get it rolled into your pay, the agency may do so on their own accord, or negotiate with the hospital to either roll it into the bill rate or prorate it. But do investigate the reliability of the agency and hospital and compare carefully the total payout with other offers using PanTravelers calculator. If the hourly and benefits are low, it might not be better than other offers and carries more risk to the traveler.

One other point about large completion bonuses, they are not as large as they look. Yes, a $5,000 bonus starts out at $5,000 at the hospital. But when the agency pays you, they are required to withhold taxes. If they don't take 10% off the top to pay for usually hidden-from-view employer side payroll taxes (FICA, workers comp, unemployment insurance), the agency will actually lose money passing it through. So that $5,000 is really $4,500 to compare with regular pay (unless the agency takes additional margin out which would be unfair), and then employee withholding tax kicks in normally on the $4,500 that is left. That is not usually spelled out in the contract, but it should be.

Thank you so much for taking the time to write all this; it's incredibly helpful. I also didn't know about the PanTraveler site; I will check out those articles.

The agency I am working with also gives you 24 hours to sign a contract once it's presented, and if you don't sign within that time, it's invalidated. Is that normal/standard?

No standard there but a day is good business for all the involved parties. Really, you shouldn't interview unless you are already 90% sure you will take it.

If you get $20/hour blended rate and per diem is $100/day, should your overtime be $38.33/hour NOT $30?

$50 minimum. That's my story and I'm sticking to it. On the other hand, if there is no OT available or desired, don't waste you negotiating good will.

Great advice Ned, thanks! My OT/holiday rates have been very low

Also OP I asked this time for a no float clause in my contract where I will not float after the shift has started. I heard some hospitals (in CA mostly) will float you every 4 hours if they can because you're a traveler so I put that I will not do that in my contract. Also any days off you want ahead of time in the contract as well.

It is Kaiser that can float every four hours. They are the predominant chain in California of course. Floating is big at other East Bay hospitals and at least one South Bay hospital in the Bay Area. If an agency puts no float in a traveler contract at those hospitals, do not expect it to be honored. Then you won't be disappointed!

No standard there but a day is good business for all the involved parties. Really, you shouldn't interview unless you are already 90% sure you will take it.

This makes sense. My problem was when I got the contract and read it, my gut feeling was that I shouldn't sign it as-is...but I did, because I only had 24 hours and the recruiter was not answering my email that I sent stating I had concerns about some of the terms in the contract.

speaking of, the recruiter is emailing and texting me again, trying to get me to agree to be submitted for another contract with them. I am willing to give this recruiter/agency one more chance, but I won't pursue anything with them until after this contract is over and I have received all of the pay that I earn on this job. I have heard of agencies withholding last paychecks as a penalty when a traveler ends a contract early (though i did follow the agency's requirements for giving notice), and I don't really trust recruiters, so I want to make sure all the money from this contract goes into my bank account before I agree to work with them again.

The recruiter is pushing me to let him submit me for something else ASAP; I'm not sure how to say "I'm waiting to make sure you don't do anything shady before I agree to work with you again" in a professional and polite manner.

Soliloquy, MSN, APRN, NP

Has 6 years experience.

Robot, based on your last post, it sounds like you need a new recruiter. If your recruiter makes you so uncomfortable, there are other companies and recruiters to choose from. I decided to do work with another company after losing confidence be of my recruiters. As a new traveler, I felt I needed someone who was more responsive to my calls,texts, emails than the first person who submitted me.

This makes sense. My problem was when I got the contract and read it, my gut feeling was that I shouldn't sign it as-is...but I did, because I only had 24 hours and the recruiter was not answering my email that I sent stating I had concerns about some of the terms in the contract.

The recruiter is pushing me to let him submit me for something else ASAP; I'm not sure how to say "I'm waiting to make sure you don't do anything shady before I agree to work with you again" in a professional and polite manner.

So your recruiter won't respond to your messages when you have concerns about a contract presented to you but the recruiter pushes you to make decisions about your next assignment? Sounds like a car salesperson to me. The recruiter didn't call you back or answer your questions - on purpose. If it were me I'd find a new recruiter. If you have doubts there's a reason why.

So your recruiter won't respond to your messages when you have concerns about a contract presented to you but the recruiter pushes you to make decisions about your next assignment? Sounds like a car salesperson to me. The recruiter didn't call you back or answer your questions - on purpose. If it were me I'd find a new recruiter. If you have doubts there's a reason why.

he's being even more sketchy now. I said I would prefer to wait until this assignment is completed before agreeing to another. He then called me and left a voicemail saying "got your email, let's chat! i have some things to explain to you, and after we chat you'll want to make sure you sign up for another assignment before this one ends." In a tone of voice implying consequences if i didn't agree to another contract asap.

New recruiter time if he/she has any condescending tone in their voice like that. Those are straight up hard sales tactics and that's the last thing you need in a recruiter. It should be a professional relationship, on both ends.

I'm still new to traveling and I'm sure there are disadvantages in not having another contract lined up after one ends but that's for each traveler to decide for themselves. People take time off between assignments all the time.

I've got 2 recruiters I work with and if you'd like their name/number PM me. They've both been a huge help to a new traveler and are extremely patient and have never pressured me. As opposed to a 3rd recruiter I WAS working with who has pulled some stunts that I refuse to put up with.

This thread inspired me to talk to my recruiter about my contract and they said something weird. That holiday pay legally can only be 1.5-2x your base hourly pay (which is obviously low since we live on stipends). Is it like this for everyone else or have you ever heard of that before? It makes me not want to work any holidays during my contract if I'll be making LESS than I was as a staff nurse per hour that day.

The consequences are that you will get off your butt and line up some better recruiters!

The consequences are that you will get off your butt and line up some better recruiters!

That was awesome!!! LOL!!!

MsConstrued: my base pay rate is $18/hr and my holiday rate is $27. Not sure what the "rules" are. Pluses and minuses to holidays. I actually prefer to work them bc it's usually slower, admin is gone, & I don't like to do "touristy" things on holidays. I'm not really worried what everyone else is getting paid, staff wise.

Thank you! I prefer to work them also, even the big ones. I'd rather have a few extra bucks on my check and celebrate the next day with my family instead.