Contracts should be signed by both parties before departure from the UK. The conditions of employment mentioned in the advertisement and at any interview should be incorporated into the contract before it is signed.
If an 'agent' is acting as an independent broker and not for a particular employer it should be possible to sue him in respect of any breach of duty or breach of contract. However, if he is acting as agent for a particular employer (including an overseas government or other organisation) in all probability that agent could not be sued in the event of a breach.
Moreover there would be considerable practical difficulties in commencing proceedings against a principal resident wholly outside the UK. Even if one could serve the necessary legal documents on the principal there would be the further difficulty of enforcing any judgement. Depending upon the country concerned it might be possible to take legal action in the country of residence of the principal but once again practical difficulties would arise.
Before any contract is signed it is advisable to ensure that the other party to the contract (ie the signatory on behalf of the employing authority) is empowered to bind the employing authority in the terms of the contract.
Please note that the BMA cannot provide legal advice on overseas contracts nor offer industrial relations advice on matters which occur abroad.
Points which should be covered in the contract
Term of the engagement
Description of duties
- To whom precisely will the MO be responsible?
- Whose responsibility is it to provide him with equipment?
- What control will the MO have over ancillary staff?
Salary and allowances
- How will the salary be paid, eg monthly in arrears, in local currency or sterling etc?
- What allowances are there eg cost-of-living allowance, travelling allowance, marriage allowance, children's educational allowance, or allowance for specially hard or difficult conditions?
- Are the allowances taxable?
- Are they taxable locally or subject to UK taxation?
Gratuity or pension
- Is there any retirement benefit?
- Is it taxable?
- If so, who pays the taxes - the individual or the employer?
- Is the employer responsible for providing accommodation?
- And basic furniture?
- At what rent, if any?
- What if accommodation is not available?
- Is an allowance paid in lieu?
For the MO, spouse and children, outward and return, plus leaves and children's visits if they remain in the UK.
Home leave, local leave, terminal leave, study leave, sick leave, compassionate leave. Can leave be accumulated from one year to another?
Is this permitted and if so, under what conditions?
Termination of contract by the employer
- How much notice or money in lieu? The employee should not be liable to refund any passage money and return passages should be provided by the employer.
- Is there an appeal mechanism similar to our Employment Tribunals?
Dismissal for misconduct or gross professional incompetence
This clause will empower the employer summarily to dismiss the employee for grave misconduct and to reclaim passage money from him. Is there a right of appeal against dismissal?
Resignation of the employee
Any employee may resign because of ill health, because of ill health of their spouse or child, because of dissatisfaction with the appointment, or for other reasons. In all cases, the employee should be required to give the same length of notice as is stipulated for the employer under 'termination of contract by the employer' above.
Refund of passage money by the employee should be required only in proportion to the unexpired period of the contract, eg if one half of the contract has been completed, no outward passage money should be reclaimed by the employer. If three-quarters of the contract has been completed, only one half of the return passage should be payable by the employee.
Provision should be included for the submission of any dispute about the interpretation of the contract to an arbitrator.
Maternity and paternity leave
Find out what provisions (if any) there are in the country and if there are any qualifying periods.
In which country is a dispute over the contract governed? I.e. the UK where the contract was made or in the country where the doctor is working?
Particular attention should be paid to any 'penalty' clauses providing for the payment of monies to the employer and the loss of allowances in the event of the employee not completing the full term of his contract. Such clauses may simply be a restatement of the type of refund provisions mentioned above, but care should be taken to distinguish this from 'penalty' clauses which, in truth, seek to extract the payment of damages for alleged or actual breaches of contract.
If you encounter difficulties whilst working abroad, try to seek assistance or legal advice before taking any important decisions.