Top Five Things to Look for in a Thai Teaching Contract
Take a Deep Breath
I know that you are excited about starting your new adventure and teaching in Thailand. However, let's take a deep breath and make sure that your contract is in order before you put pen to paper. Let's move on to the top five things to watch for!
This one sounds easy enough, right? The basic salary should be fairly straightforward but you're going to want to take a deeper look. How many months of the contract term are you paid that salary? Is there any probation period that could affect payment? In Thai contracts, you may or may not be paid for breaks in between semesters. Or, the payment for the break could be contingent on your renewal of the contract for another teaching year.
So, we've got a good grip on salary. Let's take a look at benefits. One major benefit that is in many contracts is accommodation. Accommodation may be provided by the school entirely or a teacher might receive a monthly stipend towards housing costs. Does the apartment have hot water and air conditioning? Does it have laundry machines or any facilities for cooking? Also, make a note on who will be responsible for paying the utilities. Other benefits to consider are bonuses and airfare reimbursement. Many contracts in Thailand will include a bonus payment equivalent to a month's salary upon contract completion—usually subject to a performance review. Other contracts will reimburse you for airline tickets to or from Thailand—usually not both—up to a certain limit. If your contract doesn't include at least two of the aforementioned benefits and it's not paying an unusually high salary, you might want to consider employment elsewhere.
3. Visa and Work Permit
It's also important to know who will be responsible for the costs of the visa(s) and work permit. These costs can add up and if you don't come to Thailand on a Non-Immigrant B visa, you'll have to do a visa run out of the country—Penang and Vientiane are popular places. You'll need a Non-Immigrant B visa to apply for the Work permit. Never begin working without the permit. Some schools may be eager for you to do so as the process is time consuming but the fine a Thai employer is subject to pales in comparison to the fine for a foreign teacher. The school may be fined 10,000 THB while the foreign teacher faces up to 400,000 THB in penalties.
4. Work Schedule and Location
Work schedules can also vary greatly in Thailand so you'll want to be sure you have all the details sorted out before signing the contract. How many contact or teaching hours will you have in a week? How many office hours are required? There may be other hours for special activities or morning gate-duty where you'll be greeting everyone as they arrive. All the details of what will be expected of you might not be explained well in the contract so don't be afraid to ask questions.
Work locations also may vary and you don't want to be dealing with taxis trying to travel to multiple locations in one work day. Make sure there is thought and consideration put into your work schedule and that you are compensated accordingly. This applies especially to private language schools.
5. Breach of Contract Clause
Of course, most of us wouldn't enter into a contract with the expectation of breaching it. Let's be realistic though. We're far away from our families, friends, and homes. Unexpected things do come up and you don't want to be caught in a bind if you need to get out of the contract before it expires. So, make sure the breach of contract terms are reasonable and in line with what the school or company has invested in employing you. If you paid for your airline ticket, visa and work permit but they want two months of your salary should you break the contract, that's a blatant money-grab.
Keeping all of these aspects in mind should help you face a contract negotiation with peace of mind. Always do your own due diligence as well. Read reviews and ask for current or past teacher references. Visit the school ahead of time if at all possible and get a feel for the environment, culture, conditions, students, and staff. Knowledge is power as they say and the better prepared you are, the more you'll be able to focus on enjoying your experience. Happy teaching!
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