Signing documents at work

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Most likely there’ll be a few documents to sign when you start a new job or at other times when you’re working. Ever heard that saying ‘signing your life away’? It might not be quite that serious but when you sign your name to something it is a big deal because it’s put on the record and could be used in court.

Contracts

Contracts between you and your employer or training provider are legally binding, and usually outline your rights and responsibilities.

The types of contracts you might have to sign include:

Enterprise Agreement

Enterprise agreements are made with groups of employees. They outline pay and other conditions. Note, you typically do not need to sign enterprise agreements.
 

Individual Agreements

From 1 January 2010, you can no longer make individual agreements such as the old Australian Workplace Agreement (AWA).

Employment Contract

An employment contract, also known as a Common Law Contract, is a private agreement between you and your employer. An employment contract, by law, cannot offer you less in the way of rights and conditions than those contained in the National Employment Standards or any modern award/enterprise agreement you may work under.

Contract of Training

You’ll be asked to sign a Contract of Training if you start an apprenticeship or traineeship. It has to be registered with Apprenticeships Victoria and lists the legal obligations and training requirements that apply to both you and your employer.

Documents

Documents are legal statements you might be asked to sign at work. But unlike contracts, documents aren’t necessarily agreements between you and somebody else; they are statements that become official when you put your name to them.

Documents you might have to sign at work include:

  • Incident Report (if there’s an accident at your workplace)
  • Confidentiality Form (you agree that some of the information you will deal with in your job can't be shared with people outside the organisation)
  • Release Form (so you can be photographed or filmed and your image can be published or broadcast)

Tips for signing

Here are some things you should remember when signing your name to anything:

  • Read it all, even the small print - if need be, ask for more time to read it
  • If you don’t understand something, get it explained to you before you sign it.
  • Make sure any mistakes are corrected before you sign it
  • Make your own changes to the document, if necessary, before you sign it
  • Never sign a blank or incomplete contract (you might be asked to do this and your employer will say they will ‘fill in the details later’ - don’t let them do this!)
  • Get a copy of the signed document to keep for your own records

How to find out more

For more information on what should and shouldn’t be included in your contract (or on what you do and don’t have to sign!) contact:

Jobwatch Victoria
Statewide community legal centre specialising in issues for workers in Victoria, and offering free and confidential advice

Fair Work Ombudsman
Gives advice about Australia's national workplace system and helps people understand their workplace rights and responsibilities