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Five year contract?
September 5, 2012 2:12 AM   Subscribe

I applied for a job with a temporary agency and got a callback, which is good, but they mentioned a five-year contract with the employer.

I've never heard of such a long committment, nor has anyone I know, so I'm hoping someone on Metafilter has. There's no way I can do five years, but I need a job. Does anyone know what sort of reprucussions there are if I don't fulfill it? I haven't met with them yet, but I don't know if I want to waste their time if I can't commit to five years. From what the woman said on the phone, it sounds like the contract would be with the company itself, not the temp agency.
posted by amiableamy to Work & Money (10 answers total)
 
I've never heard of this outside things like sporting contracts where a team member has a transferable value. When you hire someone, the risk falls both ways - the risk to you that the job won't work and the risk to the employer that both you aren't what they need and that somehow they may not need the role as much as they think they do.

I'd be up front and ask the agency for a look at the contract. Regardless of the length of contract, there should be the ability in it for the company to let you go and for you to resign. If it's one way in their favor then avoid. In the unlikely event it reads like bondage then avoid or ask why those clauses aren't in there.

In honesty, it sounds like either a mistake or the "the five year" part of the contract is a commercial contract from one company to provide services to another for an extended duration, not an employment contract.
posted by MuffinMan at 2:36 AM on September 5, 2012


I would be very careful. Can they send you the contract text before you go further? If the money is worth pursuing further, I'd have an employment lawyer look at the contract to see if it's valid in terms of at-will employment laws and also IRS regulations of contractors. Further on the money front, I'd find out (if you don't know already) if this is an I-9 or a W-2 situation because that makes the money you want very different. They should be able to answer this question immediately.

I agree with MuffinMan that maybe you misunderstood, and the temp agency was talking about their contract to provide a service to the company (maybe told to you to assure you that the position is funded for 5 years, but not meant to be interpreted as a requirement on your part to be there for the 5 years).

If you feel weird about asking them these questions -- like maybe just asking takes you out of the running -- don't. It's completely ok to ask questions about the terms, especially when they've started this conversation. It's just business, and nobody should look sideways at your questions. If they do, you do not want to do business with them.
posted by Houstonian at 3:12 AM on September 5, 2012 [2 favorites]


Read the contract. I'm sure it'll specify a notice period for both the employer and yourself. Every fixed-term contract I've worked has. Indentured servitude is quite rare these days.
posted by pompomtom at 4:36 AM on September 5, 2012


Without further information I would interpret it as meaning that the position is tied to a project that has a 5-year lifespan, and that you should not interpret it as a "forever and aye" permanent position. This is pretty common with employers who are themselves government contractors, for example. I myself spent 5 years working under a series of 1-year contracts (in a position that had a clearly defined 5-year expiration date), but there was language in those contracts that would have allowed me to leave the position prior to the end of the contract.
posted by drlith at 4:37 AM on September 5, 2012 [5 favorites]


It's too early to worry about whether you can commit to five years. They haven't told you this, you don't know exactly what the proposed contract would say, and you don't know whether it's up for negotiation.
posted by J. Wilson at 5:42 AM on September 5, 2012


I suspect it's that the temp agency has a five-year contract with the employer. That is, the temp agency is the exclusive supplier of temps to this company for five years. She may have mentioned it to make her agency look awesome and like you'll have less competition for the job.
posted by juniperesque at 6:08 AM on September 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


I came in to say what drlith said. I suspect that funding for the position is for 5 years. If that's the case, then I'd take the job.

For sure, go to the interview and find out what the deal is, and then evaluate the offer (if there is one).

Don't eliminate yourself before getting this understood and cleared up.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 6:52 AM on September 5, 2012


The whole "contract is with the temp agency" thing could be true, but I'm wondering why she would ask me if that was okay. Very odd.

Regardless, I'll still go in for the interview and ask directly. Thanks for the answers, everybody!
posted by amiableamy at 7:19 AM on September 5, 2012


Usually when employment agencies talk about contracts they actually mean the length of time the company has contracted them to provide an employee. You can generally still get fired or quit at any time, and the contract is a theoretical maximum, not a minimum - but it's usually a good guide.

So if you get hired for a position they describe as "1 year contract work" and you do well at it, you'll probably be employed for 1 year. If you don't do well and get fired after 2 months then the employment agency finds someone else for the remaining 10 months.

5 years is unusually long, but that's a good thing, they expect to need someone in that position for about 5 years.

As others have said, do read the contract, but it's very unlikely you won't be able to resign if it's not a good fit or if something better comes along.
posted by NoAccount at 8:29 AM on September 5, 2012


I'll also add that the word "contract" over the phone or in a job description is not necessarily the same as the word "contract" when they ask you to sign something. I work as an IT "contractor" and several job postings that I have been assigned to have specified something like "a 2-year contract" in the job title, but I have never actually signed a paper contract where I agreed to that. It was really just an indication that the job is not permanent, it might not last forever, but they expect it to last about 2 years. In all cases I was either let go before that period was up or I was kept on for several years after that period.

Note that these examples are in a right-to-work state; there are places where employment is actually conducted via a written contract with commitments from both you and the employer and penalties if you don't fullfill those commitments. If that is the case in your interview, then make sure you read it carefully before signing.
posted by CathyG at 2:39 PM on September 5, 2012


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