Things to negotiate instead of salary…hmm. This may sound shocking to some people, but yes, there are things as important as salary that you should be negotiating.
When I got my letter of employment for my current job, I was ecstatic! The pay was way better than what I was earning at my previous job, so I was ready to pack my things and resume immediately.
I made the same mistake a lot of people make, and are still making, I was more interested in the salary. Was it big enough? How much would it be after deductions? Will it be enough for me to eat, buy clothing and other essentials and still have a little savings? All these questions were going through my mind at that time.
I’m not saying that salary is not important, of course it is. In fact, I talked about how to negotiate an increase in salary here. But outside of salary, there were other questions I should have been asking. Questions concerning health insurance, annual leave days, bonus, travel allowance, feeding allowance, housing allowance, flexible hours, promotion structure etc. These are perks that are as important as the salary.
Now that I’m older (and hopefully, wiser), I’ll not be so excited about the amount I’ll be paid as salary. Rather, I’ll be more interested in negotiating the following:
This is one of the most important things that should be of interest to an employee. You need to be at your best, both physically and mentally, in order to deliver your very best to your boss. Health insurance is so important that I think it be should be mandatory under the law for employers to have a health insurance policy for their employees.
I remember when I was offered an employment in one of the top manufacturing and distribution companies in Nigeria. This company is a huge company with so many subsidiaries in different sectors of the economy. As you would expect, the pay was huge (times 2 of what I was earning then at my current job). I was sorely tempted to go for it. But, they had no health insurance!!
How can such a big company not have health insurance for its employees? When I asked, the HR Manager said “it was in the pipeline“. What does that even mean?
Anyway, I didn’t take the job. And ask luck would have it, I needed to undergo a major surgery a couple of months later, and this was totally covered by my insurance (at my current job).
So, please make sure that there is some sort of health insurance for you before you sign that contract.
This is a conversation I wish I had before signing that letter of employment. To be fair though, I don’t think most employers in Nigeria will give junior staff this option of flexible time. But I think it is a conversation that needs to be had.
Most employers forget that with the advancement in technology, you don’t need to be physically present at the office to respond to clients. You can do this in the comfort of your home, in transit, or even at a party. I was at a birthday party recently, and the celebrant had to excuse herself to take an important call from a prospective client.
The need for flexible hours is even necessary now with the horrendous traffic. In Lagos, people leave their homes as early as 4 a.m just to get to work on time, and they end up getting home as late as past 12 midnight. It is a vicious cycle that never ends until the person breaks down.
In my opinion, if I’m told that I need to put in 8 hours of work everyday, I can best tailor my schedule for each day. I may decide to come in at 10 a.m and work till 6 p.m, or even 11 a.m and work till 7 p.m. Most employment letters will tell you resumption time is 8 a.m and closing time is 6 p.m, but your employer has the right to ask you to put in extra time. Which brings me to my next point – overtime.
In Nigeria generally, overtime hours and payment is not specified under the Labour Act. This is totally up to contracting parties. This is not the case in other jurisdictions such as United States of America or the UK. Most law firms in Nigeria bill their clients (mostly foreign clients) hourly but pay their employees a fixed fee. They also retain the right to ask you to work extra hours without pay.
I remember working on some transaction a couple of years ago, and had to work overnight in the office. This happened a couple of times, and frankly, I was always upset that I had to do it. A partner in my firm, who had to also do the overnight, saw my facial expression and laughed. He started regaling me with stories of how he put in the time when he was still a junior associate. He clearly didn’t see why it was a big deal for me.
Would it be a big deal for me if I was going to be paid for the extra hours? Nope! I guess my annoyance was as a result of the whole you-don’t-have-any-choice mentality. It was either you do it, or you start dusting your CV.
This issue has been the subject of debate in various companies, mine inclusive. More often than not, your leave days are not negotiable and will often times be stated in the Employee Handbook.
In some companies, your annual leave days could be up to 20 – 30 working days, while in others, it could be 15 working days (or less). In my office, it is 15 working days, and I keep wondering when management will increase it. I’ve been wondering for over 4 years now and I’m still wondering.
A friend of mine told me that when she complained to her boss (she was getting 10 working days), they were told to be grateful. After all, the Labour Act prescribes 6 working days.
Well, I guess the joke is on him because the Labour Act refers to “workers“. Lawyers are not covered under the definition of “workers“. As such, their leave days are subject to contract, which they can fully negotiate.
I don’t have a severance package but I wish I negotiated this. It is important to ask for a severance pay clause to be inserted in your contract of employment. That way, if the company goes under or you are laid off, your severance pay will act as some form of comfort.
It is very important for you to know from onset what the bonus structure entails. Is it performance based or time based? How will it be calculated? It is better to have that information now than to wait indefinitely until your employer decides to pay bonus. In fact, this is one of the key things you should negotiate instead of salary.
I attended a conference where the speaker explained that it is better for employees to have a stake in the company. This ensures that they work towards the development of the company, and creates in them a communal or part-of-the-family mindset.
So stock options is another perk you can negotiate into your employment contract. One benefit is that such options are usually given to the employees at a discounted rate.
You can be so good at your job that other competitors may decide to poach you from your current employer. Or you may been offered an employment at various companies.
Ask for a signing bonus, that one-time payment that companies use to beat out competition. Many companies will not hesitate to pull out all the stops, especially if they think there’s a chance you might reject the offer.
I used to be one of those people who believed that there was nothing in a title if it could not be backed up with pay/perks. What’s in being called an “executive assistant” without a change in your “secretary” salary.
However, I was forced to have a rethink when a colleague in another law firm asked for the title of a “Senior Associate” albeit with the same pay as that of an associate. A family friend, instead of being called a “secretary” or “personal assistant” was called a “corporate executive assistant” with a nameplate and a complimentary card.
What did all these title changes do? It boosted their CVs. When applying for another position at another law firm, the new employer will bear it in mind that my friend is a Senior Associate.
It is important to note the organisational structure of your company. How often are employees promoted? What is the criteria for deciding that someone is up for a promotion? You need to ask these questions or else you’ll be stuck in one position for ages.
Phew! This was a long one. I hope you had the patience to read till the end. What other perks do you think an employee should negotiate instead of salary?