Getting the executive employment contract right!

Business Insights

Executive search and recruitment can be a time-consuming and costly process, and by the time the perfect candidate has been found, businesses have often already expended a great deal of effort and energy into sourcing their senior hires.

Once a role has been initially accepted it can feel like the hard work is done, but the next stage of creating and agreeing the finer details of a contract is just as critical. It’s vital that companies take the time to review and amend their standard employment contracts for executive level roles. Paying careful attention to the terms of employment and clauses used to protect business assets upfront, mitigates any unwanted problems further down the line.

How to protect your business

Ensure that intellectual property, confidential information, and other protectable business interests such as customer and employee loyalty are fully protected by applying appropriate clauses in the contract. You can also go one step further by being specific about things like the use of company data on personal devices and social media platforms, and what the business requirements are on this when an employee leaves the company.

Be consistent

If you’ve taken the time to protect your business assets with specific clauses, then it also makes sense to reflect this in the day-to-day too. The way in which you operate your business, your employees’ contractual terms and the corporate policies you follow should all be consistent in identifying these assets as important and valuable.

Think about the end as well as the beginning!

It might seem odd to suggest thinking about somebody leaving a role, when they have only just accepted the job offer, but this is a key element to cover when drafting a contract. For example, the contract terms for very senior employees should ensure they can’t exploit the commercial advantages they’ve acquired with you by joining a direct competitor when they leave. Pay attention to other key points such as notice provision; garden leave clauses and payment in lieu of notice too.

Make it specific

Ensuring that the clauses in senior level contracts are made as specific as possible to the individual role and the business you’re recruiting for, makes it easier to pursue a legitimate legal claim for any breaches of contract further down the line. The more generic the contract, the more difficult this is which can leave your business exposed.

Keep it up to date

As the individual then moves through the organisation into different roles, their contractual terms should be kept under review and adapted to the changing circumstances. This can often be an oversight when internal promotions occur and it’s important to remember that the law and legislation changes too, so it’s prudent to stay up to date.

What if you’re the applicant?

The other side of this picture is of course the applicant and what they should be looking for in a new contract, especially when considering a senior role. Don’t be afraid to take time to fully review a contract and ask questions. You should not feel embarrassed to negotiate the key terms of your contract either, it demonstrates that you have attention to detail too.

Think longer term and ensure you fully understand any restrictions you may face finding a new role if you choose to leave the company in the future. Consider how secure you will be in the new role, how long the notice period is, sick pay provision, what you will be restricted from doing when you leave, and whether any additional support is being offered with health care schemes and insurance.

Don’t be put off by a high level of detail in an executive contract, this indicates that the employer has taken extra care in making it specific to the role, and that they value full transparency in how they operate as a business and treat their employees. We would consider this a good sign!

Contracts post Covid-19

Covid-19 has brought about many changes to working arrangements, most notably work-from-home and flexible working options. As many employees now return to the office, we’re also seeing new hybrid working patterns emerge that combine home and office time, all of which should be properly documented in contracts so that both parties know what is expected of them.

Our team are on hand to advise you on updating existing contracts or to help you to create brand new ones for your business. We can also offer a more complete outsourced HR solution if you don’t have your own team in-house.

For a free, no-obligation chat about how we could help contact Emma Neate on 07834 413249 or email

Written by Emma Neate, Employment Solicitor & Director, Neate & Pugh

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