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I met someone at a networking event. The other day he called me up and offered me a job. I accepted it. Prior to this we had a brief in person meeting regarding the job. To my understanding, he works as a contractor and his client approved hiring me to help with his tasks. He said he wanted to hire me as a fixed term employee (with possibility of renewal) instead of a sub/contractor.

My gut feeling is I trust this person. However I still would like a simple written agreement. I might be jumping the gun in that he may have paper work for me to fill out the first day, but I'm asking this question preemptively in case he never brings up any sort of contracts. How would I even bring up the subject? Given COVID19 we will meet once in person but after that the work will be remote.

Things I would like in writing are pay rate, work hours and employment duration (all of these things have already been agreed to verbally). I would also like in writing who will be paying me and how often.

How do I get my employment terms in writing without coming across as distrusting? I get the sense he wants to keep the arrangement informal (without lots of paperwork), which is something I usually like. But there needs to be something in writing, especially if this is working from home.

PS I know there is https://interpersonal.stackexchange.com but given what I've seen I'm not comfortable asking there.

Update: we are now drafting a contract. Thanks for all the great answers!

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    Is it unusual in your area to have written contracts? – nvoigt May 9 at 8:47
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    @nvoigt in this industry no it's not. A bit of an aside point, I guess usually when pay is much higher than minimum wage and if there's IP involved, then contracts are more common. For example I've never heard of someone working at a restaurant needing a contract. – Zucchetto May 10 at 19:51
  • Out of curiosity why are close votes happening (especially after it has an accepted answer)? This is one of the reasons I didn't ask on Interpersonal Skills, in a sense any question of this nature is opinion based. – Zucchetto May 12 at 23:33
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A written contract for an employee is just normal. You don’t have to be afraid about asking. Don’t even make an issue from it.

Don’t ask IF there will be a contract as that might really trigger some "don’t you trust me" reaction in your business partner.

Better ask: WHEN he will give you the contract for you to sign, as it is the most natural thing to have one...

Say / write something in the line of:

Hey Tom, I really look forward starting working for you. Can you tell me, when you will send me the contract with the details we discussed for me to sign?

Best regards

If he takes that question to ask something like "don’t you trust me" then you should indeed start to think about working with that person, as -in my opinion- only people who have something to hide ask that question in that situation.

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    A written contract for an employee is just normal. — that is not universally true. When working for a Swedish university, neither my boss nor me had an explicit written contract. – gerrit May 11 at 15:27
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    @gerrit, I think that your situation wasn't normal, :D – Chococroc May 12 at 5:34
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    @gerrit unless your (and your bosses) employment were less than three weeks, that would currently not be legal in Sweden. "Senast en månad efter det att arbetstagaren har börjat arbeta skall arbetsgivaren lämna skriftlig information till arbetstagaren om alla villkor som är av väsentlig betydelse för anställningsavtalet eller anställningsförhållandet." riksdagen.se/sv/dokument-lagar/dokument/… – FerventHippo May 12 at 8:48
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    @FerventHippo I had such a document (anställningsbevis), but I never had to sign anything. We were told that by taking up the work and being paid, we were agreeing to the conditions referred to in the anställningsbevis including kollektivavtal and such. This was at a public university, so I expect they weren't skirting the law. – gerrit May 12 at 12:07
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    @gerrit For another example, that's how it works in France too. If you are a public servant (including maitres de conférence and university professors), you don't have a contract, you're appointed by the state. Legally, it's a very different concept, you don't have a contract, even a verbal one (formally, it's a unilateral act, it doesn't require your consent to be legally valid). The only thing that's mandatory across the EU is pay slips (and their contents is regulated too). – Relaxed May 12 at 12:34
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Disputes about verbal contracts is a common question for this site.

While in some locations the employer/employee relationship is covered by a large detailed contract, almost everywhere has at least an offer letter that specifies the basics. That offer letter is sent by the employer and signed and returned by the employee.

In your case those basic questions about pay rate, hours, and employment duration need to be addressed. The alternative is that a few weeks after you start you might not get paid in the way you expect or in the amount you assumed. Because this is only for a specific term you need to know exact dates, and how the end of the term will be addressed.

The exact working relationship can also impact benefits, and as can also determine who is responsible for what taxes. Knowing this before you start is important because $x and hour with all benefits and taxes handled in the expected way is far different than $x per hour with no benefits and you responsible for self employment taxes.

You need to ask for an offer letter/contract before starting work. This is true even when everybody is working from home. It isn't being distrustful. It is trying to avoid misunderstandings.

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How do I get my employment terms in writing without coming across as distrusting?

Rest assured that he has no such qualms when entering into business arrangements with other parties. Asking for the terms of your employment in a written contract isn't just smart, it's good business and it lets him know that you are a person who thinks of such things and will certainly make him less likely to try and "pull one over" on you.

On a personal note, I never enter a business arrangement without a contract. I ask for certain things. Sometimes I get them and sometimes I don't, but the other party knows that I'm a "serious" business person and not someone who will allow myself to be pushed around, dictated to, or taken advantage of.

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Verbal agreements that involve money are usually not worth the paper they are written on.

It's not clear from the OP who is actually the employer here - the subcontractor, or the company he/she is working for.

Either way, unless this is just an informal (and possibly illegal, it if is being done for tax avoidance reasons) "hey, you do some work for me at home and I'll give you some cash" arrangement, "employment" is a serious legal issue for both employer and employee. You will certainly need some paperwork to deal with the taxation issues, for example.

IMO this isn't necessarily a scam - it could be just "something that seemed like a good idea at the time" but nobody has properly thought through the implications of it. Whatever, the person who has most to lose without a written contract is you.

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It would be helpful if you’d indicated what jurisdiction you will be employed within.

I am presuming that you are in the USA, although you don’t say. I do not know the answers for the the USA, but here is some information about the UK – just in case someone might find that helpful.

In the UK it is a legal requirement that the employer provides the employee with a written contract of employment. If the employer does not do that then they are in breach of employment law (whether or not the employee has anything else to complain about).

Where the employer does not provide a contract of employment, courts/tribunals can still imply contracts that arise in the normal ways contracts are initiated in contract law (ie verbally, through the actions of the parties, etc). This is only relevant where there is a dispute to be resolved, it does not provide an excuse for a lack of contract provision by the employer. So, where there is a dispute, and no written contract, the employee can still make a claim to a court or tribunal.

In cases of dispute, courts will usually prefer written evidence.

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    "In the UK it is a legal requirement that the employer provides the employee with a written contract of employment." That's not true. Contract terms can be written, verbal or implied. A contract is the legal relationship between employer and employee - not simply a document signed by the parties. The written document that employers must provide is the "written statement of employment particulars". It is not a contract but it forms part of the contract. gov.uk/employment-contracts-and-conditions – Lag May 12 at 11:06
  • You must be going to different employment tribunals to me. I already wrote that a contract can arise in the normal way that any contract arises. You're tryng to create some kind of division between ‘particulars of employment’ and ‘contract of employment’. All I’m saying is that it’s the employers obligation to supply that. – typonaut May 13 at 2:26
  • There is a 'division' between ‘particulars of employment’ and ‘contract of employment’. From gov.uk: "An employer must give employees and workers a document stating the main conditions of employment when they start work. This is known as a ‘written statement of employment particulars’. It is not an employment contract." gov.uk/employment-contracts-and-conditions/… – Lag May 13 at 7:00
  • I could talk about Italy, that has a similar agreement. A verbal work contract is valid, but in case of disputed is considered permanent. The employer has on request of the employee to give the particulars of employments and if doesn't comply will get a fine. – Michele L'Intenditore May 15 at 14:02
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If you feel you need a written agreement, then get one.

“My gut feeling is I trust this person. However I still would like a simple written agreement.”

If you don’t truly know somebody — and they want to hire you to do something and you are thinking you need a written agreement — this is not a matter of “gut” feelings or anything related to trust:

You simply don’t know this person and they want you to make a commitment.

I have no idea what field you are in, but making people feel trust in a stranger is the key art of being a salesperson and negotiator.

And if you are afraid of insulting them, better they get “insulted” by you asking for someone very reasonable than you insulting yourself by getting trapped in a gig you don’t like or to be taken advantage of by someone you don’t really know.

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I'm not going to repeat Torsten's excellent advice.

But never let anyone dissuade you from writing a good contract.

The person you're negotiating could simply disappear overnight. It could be them getting promoted/pushed out/bought out. It could be them winning the lotto. Or it could be them getting hit by a bus. Whatever it is, it is not a sign of distrust to ask for a contract.

Not only that, but good contracts also help maintain good relationships.

For instance, in your list, you forgot a number of details.

Things I would like in writing are pay rate, work hours and employment duration (all of these things have already been agreed to verbally). I would also like in writing who will be paying me and how often.

What is the policy on sick days? Vacation time? Will you be required to travel? What will the policy be on travel reimbursements? Can the client hire you directly? What's the policy on intellectual property?

In other words, there are probably a thousand and one details that you haven't even thought about, that a good contract combined with a good employee handbook should try to address.

And addressing as many of those issues now in writing should help avoid conflicts and resentments in the future. Again, it's not just an issue of trust. It's more an issue of professionalism.

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