Before you pack all your bags and hop on a flight to China, it is very important to first check the contract before accepting any ESL teaching position. Teaching in China can be a very rewarding and life-changing experience. With this in mind, it may be tempting to sign off on the first ESL contract you come across, but we’re here to tell you to slow down a bit and go through your new contract with discretion and find a teaching job that keeps you in mind. There are thousands of ESL jobs available and waiting for you, so it’s in your best interest to find the job that offers the most benefits!
The ESL contract you’ll sign is a very important document that will determine how you will relate to your employer. If this document is signed by both parties, then you will have no choice but to abide by the terms of the contract. It is therefore very important to ensure that you read the contract in detail and agree to all terms. If there are things that you want to change, you should negotiate with the employer before signing the contract. Never succumb to the pressure that the employer will give you to accept the job before you fully understand and agree with the written contract. So the big question is, what should you be looking for in an ESL contract in China? Below is a detailed overview of important things you should look for before accepting a teaching job in China.
1. Working hours
Before signing your contract, it should clearly specify the number of classroom and non-classroom hours you’re required to meet in order to be paid your basic salary. Oftentimes, non-class hours are specified in the contract, which is when a school may ask you to be available for office hours or testing and evaluation services. These hours should be stated and obvious before signing the contract. If they aren’t, it’s your responsibility to confirm with the other party before agreeing to the contract.
Not sure what number of hours to be looking for?
Public schools and university hours should not exceed 15-20 classroom hours and up to 5 non-classroom hours. If they do ask for more hours in the contract, you should check that they are paying proportionately more than similar positions at other schools.
Training centers should not ask for more than 25 classroom hours and 5 non-classroom hours per week. Again, more hours that this threshold and you should be seeing higher pay for your time.
Only accept a teaching job that gives you a reasonable salary that can meet your personal needs. In addition to that, the salary offered should be competitively based on the current market demand. Consult a local expert to help you understand the current local market and the salaries that teachers like you are being paid. You can also visit credible job listing websites to know the salaries that similar professionals are being paid. Before you sign the contract, ensure that the employer gives you a decent salary that conforms to prevailing market conditions.
Salaries in top-tier cities such as Shanghai, Beijing, Shenzhen, and Guangzhou should offer more salary than smaller cities and villages, as they are more expensive to live in and are in greater demand. Based on the hours you should be looking for in public schools and private tutoring centers, salaries should range between 10,000 RMB and 20,000 RMB respectively. This is just a ballpark figure and does not take into account the amount of experience or training that you may be able to leverage for higher pay.
3. Contract duration
Your contract should clearly specify the beginning and ending dates of your duties. If you will be working in a public school, then you will work for 10 months. On the other hand, if you will be working in a private school then you will work for 12 months. When your contract ends, your housing and a resident permit will automatically end as well, making it your responsibility to decide if you will teach in China for another year or leave the country on or before the residence expiry date. If you are considering extending your contract, then you should negotiate with your employer to be granted an interim permit and housing coverage.
4. Medical insurance
The contract should clearly specify how medical expenses will be covered. Most public school jobs in China comes with some form of basic medical insurance where you are reimbursed for hospital fees. However, you should not expect the same if you take a job in a private school. Some employers will only offer a flat amount where you are paid a fixed amount of money each year to cover your medical expenses. When moving to a new country, medical insurance is a very important factor that should not be overlooked.
5. Airfare reimbursement
Airfare reimbursement is used to take care of your travel cost to and from China. Some employers offer some amount while others offer nothing at all. If you want airfare reimbursement to fund your travel costs back home, then you must ensure that the bonus and/or airfare reimbursement is enough for your needs.
6. Visas and permits
This is a very important section of the contract that you should read carefully. The school that you will be working for should provide a valid work and resident permit. These documents are required in order to work and live in China legally. If you don’t have these documents, then you will be living and working in China illegally and will likely be responsible for the “visa runs” out of the country to reset your tourist visa.
Public schools in China usually offer more holidays to their staff when compared to private schools (although employees are likely paid less). The contract should be very clear on whether you will be paid for your time off or not. Many Chinese holidays are also long, especially for teachers in public schools. Some employers will pay a lower rate during this long holiday season while others won’t pay at all. Again, be sure that the contract is clear about holidays and how you will be compensated during this time.
Applying for and accepting your first ESL job in China is a very exciting experience! Looking at and negotiating your contract should not be an intimidating process as long as you have done your due diligence and understand what to expect in the position.
What do you think? Are you thinking of teaching in China, or have you done so already? Did these suggestions help you? Do you have anything to add? Let us know in the comments below!