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Feb 3rd, 2020 by David O Connor

Ready to sign a teaching contract in China? 8 common red flags you need to know about!

Ready to sign a teaching contract in China? 8 common red flags you need to know about!

Trying not to get totally scammed by an unscrupulous employer is one of the many steps of Finding a Great Teaching Job in China and, in many ways, it is perhaps the most important one. After all the hard work you’ve gone through to ensure you’re eligible for the right working visa and meet all the teaching requirements, it’s all too easy to get carried away by an impressive-sounding job offer. Yet it’s at this critical point that you need to be more astute than ever – the last thing you’ll want is to be stuck in a job or location you don’t like, simply because you didn’t do your due diligence.

1. Details on the contract don’t match what was promised on your video interview

Teaching contracts are usually sent after you’ve held a detailed Skype/video interview with your prospective employer. Hopefully, you will have asked a bunch of questions during your interview and will have a clear idea of what to expect, how many hours you will have to work and what you will be paid, among a host of other important details. Then comes the teaching contract and, lo and behold, the details don’t match what was discussed and agreed over the phone.

So what do you do now?

Contract discrepancies aren’t always a sign of an outright scam. Sometimes, they are there to teach you a very valuable lesson in the teaching-in-China game. The school may not be unscrupulous, as such, but may simply be trying to determine if they can deliver a little less without you even noticing. This is one red flag you definitely will not want to ignore. 

Whilst you need not walk away immediately, you should let the school know you have noticed discrepancies and would like the contract amended. Give them a chance to do right by you and see how they react.

2. The school refuses, for whatever reason, to amend the contract

We’ve heard of schools coming up with a bunch of very creative excuses as to why a contract cannot be amended and if you happen to feel any resistance to changes in writing, take this as the brightest red flag of all. There should be no reason for a school to refuse your insistence to add or amend clauses, especially when they have to do with working hours, remuneration, living assistance, vacation time, flight reimbursement and so forth.

Just remember that if it isn’t on the contract, you won’t be getting it so although genuine oversights can happen, be ready to walk away if they are not fixed pronto.

3. The school can’t help you secure a Z Visa and tries to convince you to get another visa

Gaining certification to be able to offer Z Visas to prospective foreign teachers is expensive for schools and teaching institutions, which means that the dodgy and desperate ones will advertise their ability to secure a Z Visa for you but, in the end, will attempt to talk you into applying for another visa type, like a student or even tourist visa. Given you should know by now that a Z Visa is the only legal way to teach in China, this request should also be throwing all sorts of red flags your way.

Learn all there is to know about Getting a Visa for China

4. The exact school location is suspiciously missing from your teaching contract

In China, teaching institutions and schools often open various branches, not only within the same city but throughout various provinces. At times, teaching contracts will be purposely vague because it gives employers an out – without location details, employers feel justified to move you around as needed, something you may not necessarily like. Schools have also been known to advertise teaching positions in their most desirable locations, with the intention to recruit teachers for less-desirable branches.

Be aware of this little trick and make sure the school’s full name and address are included in your contract.

Find out more about the best Teaching Destinations in China

5. The teaching contract is too broad and wishy-washy

You may not be used to having every minute job detail included in a teaching contract but if there’s one thing you’ll want to avoid, is leaving yourself open to ambiguity. Ambiguity is usually there on purpose so protect yourself by scrutinising that contract before signing it.

What should be included, you ask? All details relating to your working schedule, living arrangements, remuneration, holiday time (and if it is paid or nor), the amount of tax you’ll be expected to pay and, as stated above, location of where you are expected to teach. Leave no stone unturned, do your due diligence and look out for what may seem to be minor additions, such as those relating to transfers (to other branches) and airfare reimbursement conditions.

6. The school won’t provide contact details of past and present teachers

Real-life reviews should always be taken with a grain of salt – after all, no school can please all teachers, all the time. Having said that, reviews can also give you a great general overview of how the school treats its teachers and one of the biggest red flags is if the school refuses to share details of past and present teachers with you. This is especially crucial if you can’t seem to locate reviews (or teachers) independently, online.

You can be forthright in asking to communicate with teachers and most schools will have no problems obliging. If they do…watch out!

7. The contract states that you’ll face huge penalties for resigning

Your teaching contract should detail your obligations but also your rights, particularly when it comes to quitting. Resigning from your teaching job in China may be a little more hassle than in your home country but it certainly shouldn’t be forbidden or attract heavy financial penalties. In China, it is illegal to stop you from quitting given reasonable notice (usually one month) and, in some cases, payment of a small (and reasonable) fee.

Know all those details before you even start and keep a clear line of communication with your employer through your teaching tenure. You may want or need to resign for a number of reasons that have nothing to do with the school and no reputable employer should threaten you to stay.

It all starts with the contract, so make sure you know your rights before you sign.

Teaching in China – what it will cost to settle in

8. The school is rushing you to sign the contract

“We are interviewing 25 teachers for one position so you’d better sign the contract quickly” is an obvious trick you really shouldn’t be falling for. If at any time you’re made to feel rushed or conned, take this as a big, fat, red flag. Reputable schools and teaching institutions understand what a big deal this is for foreign teachers so unless you’re feeling valued and your requests respected, don’t get involved. If they’re like this now, when they’re trying to woo you, imagine how dodgy they’ll be once you’re locked into a teaching contract with them?!

Ready to sign that contract? Here’s how your should be Preparing to Teach in China

We certainly don’t mean to be all doom and gloom here at China by Teaching but we do know how daunting the prospect of teaching in China can be and endeavour to help candidates find reputable and trustworthy employers. So whilst it’s true that scams exist, there’s also an abundance of happy teaching stories; of foreign teachers who are enjoying the experience of a lifetime in China, right now.

Knowing about the kind of red flags you ought to be looking for before you sign your teaching contract, will help ensure your teaching in China story will be memorable for all the right reasons.

Want some help navigating your way to a great teaching position in China? Submit your CV with us today and let us help get you there.

Want to know more about teaching in China? Head to our Frequently Asked Questions page

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David O Connor

David O Connor

David is China by Teaching’s chief contributor. When not offering sage advice about teaching in China, David is a headmaster of a Bilingual kindergarten in Beijing. David is a lover of craft beers, book clubs and super long road trips.

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