I have had two drastically different experiences with the contracts that I have signed so far. In Sweden the contract was one page. There wasn't much detail beyond my salary and working hours. The promises of a phone plan, money for a gym membership etc. were said on Skype but not in writing. This puts you in a bit of a tricky position where you don't have a lot of power if your employer doesn't make good on their promises.
In Bahrain the contract is a novel. It outlines every detail you could think of! In addition I have loved the opportunity to work at a school that pays you for the extra work that teachers often do for free. I am paid to cover lessons, coach and run clubs, which has been a very pleasant and unexpected aspect of my job.
A few more thoughts I had to add based on my experience:
What do you do if your sister (or other important person) decides to get married mid school year?
By the time I finish my second year at my current school, two of my three sisters will have gotten married...both in October...smack dab in the middle of the semester. My boyfriend headed home for his sister's wedding from Sweden and had to take unpaid days off of work. I was fortunate to have three days of contingency leave to play with in Bahrain. Sounds great...but when the flight is 24hrs each way, and your weekend is Friday-Saturday in the Middle East things get a bit complicated. I opted to not take any unpaid days for the first sister's wedding, and honestly I regret it. I was only home for about 48hrs...most of which I was jet lagged beyond recognition. I also waited until my leave was approved before booking my flight, which with the lack of flexibility in my dates made the flight quite pricey. For sister's wedding round 2 I'm going home for a week and a half. My contingency leave is not yet approved but I'm optimistic. I also have a two day holiday in there as a bonus so I'm only taking 3 days unpaid leave (which is fabulous considering I'm getting home for so long!). It's essential for me to remember that the time is totally worth it, and the money I'm saving watching flight prices and booking so far in advance is almost $1000! If you even have folks on the verge of potential marriage that this might come up, it's important to ask what would happen and get a sense of how accommodating the school would be! The same is true for a death in the family. Some contracts have specific information regarding compassionate leave, which is best to know before you need to know!
What's your health coverage like is an ESSENTIAL question. Memoirs of a person who had her first surgery in the Middle East.
Don't worry y'all I'm back to 100% now. I recently underwent vein stripping to treat extremely painful varicose veins that have been effecting me for a while now. I was very fortunate to have exceptional medical coverage that paid fully for the surgery and for a private room in the hospital (which significantly decreased my anxiety about the whole thing). I also have a friend that had a bike accident and has had to undergo over ten surgeries during the recovery process. It makes a huge deal to not have to stress about bills in addition to an already very stressful situation. These questions might not feel essential right now, but ask about details of what exactly is covered!
Also....does your coverage include when you're travelling? One of the obvious perks of international teaching is travel, but are you going to need to buy travellers health insurance every time you jet off on a weekend away? What about when you come back to Canada for the summer?
Your OHIP can be extended for up to 5 years if you provide proof to service Canada that you are working full time internationally. This is a great option if your health coverage isn't great and you are working in a country that has a tax treaty with Canada. Not so great though if you are going to try to be deemed a non-resident when you go to file your taxes.
The joys and concerns of a tax-free salary
It is easy to get swept up in the numbers, and be simply overjoyed when that monthly salary isn't reduced by paying lots of taxes. In Sweden we paid 30% taxes. Quite the essential detail when you're told your monthly pay, because 30% certainly takes a big bite out of things. In the Middle East many enjoy a tax free salary, but yee be warned..the Canadian Government might try to take a big bite out of that one. The biggest nightmare has been trying to figure out what on Earth to do. I honestly think that no one really wants you to know what to do. I suggest everyone do their own research on this one, but the general info I have to share is that if you work in a country without a tax treaty with Canada you may want to consider filing as a non-resident. I have been told to AVOID filling in the Canadian Revenue Agency (CRA) form that claims to be for residency determination. It is my understanding that this form is not required but will be used against you to argue that you are in fact a resident. Non-residency should be a whole post in itself so I'll get right on that!
The moral of all of this is to read the fine print and ASK! Wouldn't hurt to have another trusted individual give the fine print a read with you, so that they can critically evaluate things. This might be a bit hard for you to do if you're feeling the joy of your dream job!
Never be afraid to ask questions and make sure you'll be well taken care of!
Happy signing :)
- Smart Board