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I have been a senior software engineer in an Indian based company and owners of the company are an Indian as well for the last two years. Recently all employees were given an agreement to sign. Below is an excerpt:

In reference to the ongoing business dynamics, we have incorporated a few amendments in the employee handbook and incidental rules and regulations of the establishment. Being a part of establishment, you are requested to kindly study the same in depth. Should you agree the amendments, kindly sign this copy in the duplicate and share as a token of acceptance.

I hereby agree and accept the above-referred changes, totally and unconditionally. I undertake and agree to work on the prevalent terms and conditions and be abided by the rules and regulations in force and which may be added / or amended from time to time. I have understood the same in the language known to me.

One of the points in the handbook is to prevent an employee from looking for a new job while the employee is still actively employed by the company. That means an employee must not appear on job sites such as Naukri or TimesJobs.

My concern is: why is the company now requiring this agreement, even though all employees were already following the rules and regulations properly?

Also, can I decline to accept any rule in the handbook? If yes, how can I politely refuse to sign the agreement?

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    Damn, that sounds evil and dodgy. The "agreement" that is. – user2818782 Aug 30 '18 at 11:51
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    If I was the person who wrote that, I would just fire whoever didn't agree to it. Clearly they want a form of control they don't currently have. I would hazard a guess they are willing to can people who don't abide. – SaggingRufus Aug 30 '18 at 11:52
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    I've added india on the basis that Naukri appears to be an Indian job site. From what I've learned on The Workplace about the Indian world of work, all bets are off... – AakashM Aug 30 '18 at 13:08
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    prevent an employee to not be looking for a new job until he/she is in the company Is that really what you meant to say? You have a double negative, which is confusing. And "until he/she is in the company" means they're prevented before they're in the company, but not prevented after they start working, which sounds backwards. – Barmar Aug 30 '18 at 16:01
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    I had the same problem with my previous employer. Fortunately, I had an offer letter on my hand ready at that movement. So I just got out of the company. but yes you can delay submitting a letter but meanwhile, find a new job for yourself. – Maharshi Sep 4 '18 at 12:05
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If yes, how can I deny to sign the letter politely?

My experience with issues like this is to ignore/forget/lose them as long as possible while I watch what the other staff do.

Sometimes there is wholesale rejection and it's withdrawn, sometimes someone gets terminated, sometimes it just goes away. But the longer you can hold out, the more chance you have of seeing what the consequences of not signing are.

This gives you both time and information, both of which may be very helpful.

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    This sounds very honest and hardcore answer/solution. Thanks for your help. – user3189926 Aug 30 '18 at 13:21
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    Agree with this approach, it's the best solution. Additionally, if your boss asks why you haven't signed it you can dismiss it saying "Oh, it said it was optional so I ignored it." If they keep pushing you to sign you can ask for an amended agreement which states the agreement is mandatory - this is generally subject to greater scrutiny than an agreement which all employees "voluntarily" accept. – Our_Benefactors Aug 30 '18 at 16:20
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    I've had a similar experience with just delaying when in doubt. Some organizations are hyper-litigious or paranoid, and they are willing to take aggressive legal protections as far as they can as long as no one pushes back. – Mark Rogers Aug 30 '18 at 17:11
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    I do think it's important to note that "sometimes someone gets terminated" may be an important factor here. Hopefully not a big one; but there is always a risk that someone will get terminated, and that the person could be you. – JMac Aug 30 '18 at 17:14
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    "signed under duress" :-) – Mawg says reinstate Monica Aug 31 '18 at 9:47
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No, you should not sign.

Send back a revised contract in which you mark your changes or ask them to change the contract as follows:

remove

"and which may be added / or amended from time to time"

and replace with

"at the time of signing this contract."

Should they insist that they want / need to amend their rules ask to include something along the lines of:

"Amendments or changes to the employee handbook and incidental rules and regulations of the establishment shall be attached to this contract as amendments after signed by both parties.

I recommend to seek legal advice if possible.

If the handbook and rules and regulations are not part of the contract (which they usually aren't) they are either a separate contractual document or automatically enforced by the company and anyone must abide by them, nonetheless.

Legality and common practice regarding this differs between countries and should be evaluated by legal counsel.

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    This is exactly what I did in a previous role. Company introduced a new contract with some nasty terms, most people grumbled about it privately but signed it. I sent an email to HR highlighting all the parts I was uncomfortable with (I have some legal training so I'm wary of just blindly signing anything that takes away my rights and offers nothing additional in return). HR had a chat with me and in the end nothing happened, I wasn't forced to sign the new contract. I admit it's a risky strategy though, I was in a position where they needed me more than I needed the job. – delinear Aug 31 '18 at 8:00
  • "... and replace with... " - I've replaced and removed text I don't agree with on several occasions. For me it is a matter of red-lining a copy (two can play that game). It works when the company sends a Word doc (PDFs are too hard to edit). The company never reads them after signing, and I was never discovered doing it. I think that is why it is recommended a company send paper correspondences and contracts on letterhead not available to employees or the pubic. – user25792 Oct 8 '18 at 23:49
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If the condition is to where they have too much control over your personal life, discuss it with some coworkers and see if they are agreeing to it without thinking again, or if they aren't too sure.

If a few people are simply not going to sign it, then so be it and see what happens. I think your best bet is to wait and see both the consequences of not signing it and the consequences for disobeying rules in the handbook.

Whether or not you are willing to sign it should depend on future consequences and not an immediate impulsive reaction of "yes" or "no."

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