Wednesday 17 April 2013

No Compete Policy in TEFL Contracts

Some contracts state that you can’t work in that city after you finish working for them. Here’s an example from Dave’s ESL Cafe: ''For a period of 2 years after successful completion or early termination of the Contract, the teacher must not be engaged in any teaching business within municipal borders of the cities of X and Y.'' (X and Y being the two cities the schools are based in.) Is this common or even legal?

Different Countries, Different Rules
Japan: Glenski says “Have seen that in a few contracts here in Japan. Totally unenforceable. You are not working as an high-ranking executive for a pharmaceutical or aeronautics firm where business secrets are at play.

Peru: Andrew Johnson says” I had a contract like that in Peru. It prohibited work in several cities in Peru and Costa Rica. Places his former partner had schools. A few people I knew openly broke it and the owner did nothing.”

Saudi Arabia: johnslat goes on to say “I'm sure it is in almost all locations - but NOT in Saudi Arabia.”

Turkey: Sashadroogie states that “I have seen . . . many times in Turkey. Totally meaningless, of course. I doubt it is legally binding in any legal system in the world. Ignore it.” 

Is This Legal?
Tudor wants to know “How can a clause be enforced in a contract that has already expired?”

Choudofu explains that “. . . the contract has not expired. The work portion has been completed, but the non-compete clause is still in force, and will be for another two years. If you sign it, it's legal. It's also enforceable, but in civil court only. Too much trouble and expense for the school owner, which is why we 'think' it's invalid or unenforceable.”

HLJHLJ disagrees with choudofu and says that “It depends on the laws of the country involved. Many countries have laws against unfair, unduly restrictive or illegal clauses in contracts. If such laws exist, and such a clause falls under it in that country, then signing it makes it neither legal nor enforceable.

There are also cases in which the legal contract, which is often in the local language, reads differently from the English version, which is technically unenforcable. Some employers have been known to add restrictive text in English which they know cannot legally appear in the 'real' contract.

I think that contractual clauses prohibiting you from teaching ex-students of the school fall under the same unenforceable category. My ex-colleague was in that situation, she agreed to do private classes with an employee of a company that the school had sent her to classes in. The school owner found out and tried to sue her but discovered that the clause was worthless as the student and teacher were completely free to enter into any contract that they wanted.”
So what does all this mean? 
It’s a case-by-case basis. In stricter countries such as Saudi Arabia, I don’t think I’d risk it. In other countries it might just be there to avoid competition and be completely meaningless. The best thing to do is to talk to other teachers and find out what actually happens.


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