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The contract you sign securing your teaching position in China will define the parameters of your existence in ways you never thought possible. However, as an expatriate - an alien - a foreigner your contract is not your enemy. It is your opportunity; your chance to define all that you can enjoy. It's the best way to eliminate misunderstanding and clearly set out what the year ahead will bring. Two sample contracts are included at the end of this article. After you've gotten a contract offer, nothing is more helpful than getting in touch with someone who is or who has recently finished teaching English in the school.

     Full time teaching is defined by having from 12-20 hours a week. 20 hours can exhaust. Try to keep it to no more than 16. Your teaching in China will also include a few hours outside of the traditional classroom setting, in such venues as the "English Corner", a free flowing discussion designed to allow a more relaxed opportunity for students to practice their English; its nationally popular and an expected part of the Foreign Teacher's curriculum. It can account for from 1 to 3 hours per week. All of these hours should be clearly marked in the contract as falling either within the salaried hour or as per hour work. 

     Most English teaching jobs in China pay monthly salaries. However, salaries should be clearly defined in both hours per month monthly and hourly terms: 

"8000RMB/month for 64 hours per month working not more than 16 hours every week. A normal hourly wage of 125RMB/hour. Any service requested beyond the 64 hours/week will be paid at _____ rmb/hour"

The going hourly rate for teaching English in China is currently hovering between 150 and 200 rmb/hhour. Be sure to define your rate of pay for any outside hours that you hear about from other teachers: maybe you teach 16 hours a week, but once a month you are required to take a class to McDonald's. If so, your hourly rate should be listed directly next to this activity. 

     Duration of pay: be clear about the number of months you'll receive your pay. If you'll be teaching for a a year, is that 12 months…or 101/2 ? What will your pay be during Chinese New Year and other holidays? When you put these in the contract, do not leave these as merely worded expressions of the salary. Put down a numerical figure, either handwritten next to the words or in an appendix.

     Convertibility: most schools place a limit on the amount of rmb you can convert to hard currency. This limit needs to be clearly stated. More in Banks

     As at home, benefits are often the deciding factor in making a job choice. One of the best things about teaching English in China is that you will be offered SO MANY benefits, and bonuses too. Relative to the rest of the population and the cost of living you will find yourself earning a high wage. The benefits make that wage even higher. These all need to be spelled out in your contract. What benefits are you likely to see? The primary one is free housing. Yes, FREE housing. Its really a good deal. Your teaching contract should clearly say the type of accommodation you'll get: a furnished one-bedroom apartment, a shared or private bathroom…and any amenities you have been promised: utilities up to any rmb figure per month, microwave oven, TV, air-conditioner, telephone, free local calls, free number of internet access minutes per day, etc.

     Airfare is usually offered when you agree to take a job teaching English in China, sometimes round trip, more often one way. They won't buy you the ticket in advance, only reimburse you for the cost. If they have agreed to pay for your travel both ways, include a line stating what it cost you in US$ to get to China. These payments won't be made until you finish your contract. 

     Contract Completion Bonuses are standard. They are often a sizeable percentage of your monthly salary, paid at the end of the year. Travel Bonuses are often offered, too, allowing you to do a bit of touring while you are teaching English in China. You can take the travel bonuses during the duration of your contract if you like, but it may complicate things if you have to cancel the contract: you would be morally obligated to pay them back, just at the time when you are making a transition to a new school. That could be strain your finances. Better to wait to collect them at the end of the year, then go on a BIG trip! J Again, these figures should appear on the contract numerically as well as in language.

     What if I HAVE to go home? If something beyond your control requires you to stop teaching in China and return home, most people are understanding of such problems and sympathetic. As in the example contracts below, you would probably lose you airfare. You should INCLUDE that you are allowed to stay in your apartment a week or so after you stop teaching to get your life organized and pack everything away. 

     Beyond the understandable, the contract should spell out the consequences of either you or the school failing to live up to everything that was promised: the school not coming up with… any of a number of things, co-teachers, transportation, health insurance; salary on time; you not teaching when and in the manner expected of you. Here you will encounter the Breach Penalty, a rmb figure charged to the one who has violated the terms of the contract. 

     There is a distiction that needs to be made: unlike canceling the contract for circumstances beyond your control as outlined previously, when one party feels the other has failed to live up to the terms of the contract, the aggrevied stops providing service: you stop teaching or, they stop letting you teach, and asks the other to pay a "Breach Penalty". One example - your apartment is below standard and you find your employer unwilling to improve the conditions. Or, they don't pay on time, etc. A written statement outlining the circumstances is provided, you collect the Breach Penalty and move on. Well, in theory.

     As a foreigner teaching English in China, your access to the kind of legal representation you will likely require to document and certify the transgressions you feel you've endured will be difficult if not impossible to secure. Not to mention the fact that you'd be unemployed. If you feel you're not getting what you have been promised, you should try to rectify the situation through directly dealing with the situation. Numerous books have been written on the cultural significance of Giving Face and Losing Face. Attack the problem while giving respect. Don't unfurl your copy of the Bill of Rights. Assure people that you know they have your best intentions at heart. You know they want to help. If you found yourself being forced to cancel the contract due to the employer not living up to the agreement and you wanted to collect the Breach Penalty, you'd wind up having to go to the authorities. 

     But, to be honest, regarding breaking contracts, getting the Breach settlement becomes the least of your problems. More significant is your continued viability as a teacher, which brings us to the "Letter of Release". 

      Leaving your school before your annual contract is completed means that you'd have to get your working documents transferred from the first school to your new school. If you leave before the year is out, no matter if you've left in anger or amicably, the case is the same: in the eyes of the government, you work for your old school. Your new school needs to register you. Without a Letter of Release, they won't be able to do it. 

     Obviously, this is even more reason not to get into an intractable argument with your school. Schools have been known to vindictively withhold the Letters. We suggest adding it to the contract. Put it in the sections dealing with reasons for canceling. 

"2 (two) days after the cancellation requirements have been met, party A will write a suitable Letter of Release for Party B, stating in both English and Chinese that he has met all his responsibilities and is no longer obligated to work at _________ school. The letter will bare the date and all the official stamps of the school. The letter will be left in a secure area of the school accessible by anyone in an administrative capacity. The letter is not to be sealed in any kind of envelope. The teacher is allowed to personally go to the school to collect the Letter of Release.
Both parties agree that under no circumstances may the original Release Letter be delivered by post. It can only be picked up by the teacher in person."

Does this mean that you'll get it? Probably not. But, it provides you with a contractual leg to stand on. 

     Holding back the Letter of Release seriously complicates your life. You won't be able to get another job teaching English in China until you have it. By statute you have to leave the country within 15 days if you don't get another teaching job. So, any delay on their part puts the cash-strapped, hand-to-mouthedness You in critical condition. 

     They can and probably will hold back the Letter if you're leaving on bad terms. Expect it. Then what would happen is you would have to skulk back and forth to their office begging for it, with them alternately not being their in plain sight or saying they have already sent it. Then you'd move to another province on their assurances, and start to teach, having to be SO grateful that your employer is being so understanding, and still begging for the letter. And then, finally, your old school will just blow you off permanently, forcing you to leave the country, lose the new job and securing you the enjoyable task of explaining to explain to the authorities all along the way why you were in another province.

     As you can see the Letter of Release can easily earn you a wrenching experience. This neat little clause allows you to contact that lawyer friend of yours and have him fire off the "Law Office Letterhead" letter. They have agreed to give you the letter. It says that they will give it to you within two days once the terms of canceling have been met. What's the most that you'll have to pay for breaching the contract? A month's salary? Not much at those wages. But, without the letter, you could lose a lot more. If they decide to withhold and delay the letter purely out of spite, their spite will melt in the face of your lawyer friend's simple pressure. Letters from lawyers are scary.

     Taxes: currently, foreigners do not pay taxes on earnings. Your salary and hourly figures are net: your total take home. There are moves in certain provinces to begin taxing income over 4000rmb/month. Return again to www.tealic.com for continued updates on this evolving issue regarding teaching English in China. 

     Private Teacher: the icing on the cake. You basic salary will be earning a handsome income by local standards teaching English in China. Well? The icing on the cake?? Your bosses can authorize you to teach privately! Unlike many other overseas teaching venues, China permits your employer to contractually allow you to teach other students. So get it in the contract. The following clause is taken from a government published contract for foreigners in China.

"Without Party A's consent, Party B shall not render service elsewhere or hold concurrently any post unrelated to the work agreed on with Party A."

Sadly, this means you have to ask, every time. It's too limiting. Have consent included in your contract. Not oral consent, but written consent. Something like"

"As long as Party A's work is deemed satisfactory, Party B allows Party A to undertake outside posts and opportunities for a total of 10 hours per week."

Or, more, or less, as you choose. The objective is to have it there on paper." 

     These are the key points, from actual experience. If they are not in you contract, write an appendix and make them part of the contract. 

More later.

SAMPLE CONTRACT 1

1. From September 1 of _____ to July 31 of _____, ___________ (the Employer hereafter) will employ _________ (the Employee hereafter) as a foreign English teacher, who is to teach English classes to non-English-major graduate students and English-major undergraduates with an average working load of 12 to 16 lecture hours per week, in addition to no more than eight cultural talks.
2. The Employer will provide the Employee with a salary and other benefits consisting of two parts:
1) Direct Pay: _____ RMB/month, 70% of which can be paid in US dollars upon request.
The salary starts from the day when the Employee reports to the Employer and stops at the end of this contract and will be paid monthly.
2) Indirect Pay
a. Free housing in a furnished one-bedroom apartment.
b. Free medical care in University Hospital and, with its doctor's permission, in Beijing No. 3 Hospital, which has a medical contract with the university.
? No dental coverage.
? The Employee is to cover the medical expenses in hospitals other than the ones specified above.
c. Two hours of free Chinese lessons upon request.
d. A foreign expert advisor for the Employee's assistance.
3. The Employee will have all the paid holidays entitled to the Chinese teachers. The Employer will provide the Employee with an extra of 2200RMB in the period of the contract for traveling. And the Employee will be paid all the allowances in the same amount (about 1000 RMB a year) as the Chinese English teachers on major Chinese festivals and holidays.
4. The Employer will provide the Employee with an air ticket from Beijing to his/her home country or the cost of the amount paid for returning home on a round trip ticket if purchased previously, in addition to half a month's salary at the end of the contract on the condition that the contract is fulfilled.
5. The Employee must meet the following requirements during his/her stay in CAU:
a. Complying with the laws, decrees and rules of the Chinese government and with the working regulations of CAU.
b. Finishing the teaching tasks set by the Employer in an active and cooperative way.
c. Not taking any other jobs that are not related with CAU without the Employer's approval.
d. The Employee may take no leave of absence without the permission from the Employer. His/her leave of absence may not exceed two weeks in accumulation and one week in succession. The Employee must make up any classes missed during his/her leave of absence.
6. This contract cannot be terminated, suspended or changed by either side before the due date unless an agreement is reached by both sides. If the Employer intends to terminate the contract before the due date, it must inform the Employee with a proper explanation 30 days before the intended termination. If the Employee intends to terminate the contract before the due date, he/she must submit a written application with a proper explanation to the Employer 30 days before the intended termination. At the termination of the contract the Employer will stop all payments (Direct and Indirect) to the Employee. Both parties must carry out the contract until an agreement is reached by both sides on an earlier termination of the contract put forward by either party.
7. The Employer reserves the right to terminate the contract with a written statement to the Employee under the following conditions: 
a. The Employee breaks either Article 5 or 6 of this contract and does not make any improvement after the warning given by the Employer.
b. The Employee cannot restore to his/her normal working condition after a continuous sick leave of 30 days.
c. The Employee repeatedly cancels or dismisses his/her classes without the permission from the Employer.
8. The Employee has the right to terminate the contract with a written statement to the Employer under the following conditions:
a. The Employer has not provided the Employee with the necessary working and living conditions as stipulated in the contract.
b. The Employer has not paid the Employee as scheduled.
9. When either of the two parties fails to fulfill the contract obligations according to the terms stipulated, it must pay a breach penalty of 500-1,000 US dollars (or the equivalent in RMB) to the other party, depending on the terms of the breach.
? If the Employee asks to terminate the contract due to events beyond control, he/she should produce certifications by the department concerned, obtain the Employer's consent, and cover his/her own return expenses. If the Employee terminates the contract without good reasons, he/she should pay a breach penalty specified above to the Employer. 
? If the Employer asks to terminate the contract due to events beyond control, with the consent of the Employee, it should cover the Employee' s return expenses. If the Employer terminates the contract without good reasons, it should pay a breach penalty specified above to the Employee. 10. The two parties shall consult with each other and mediate any disputes that may arise about the contract. If all attempts fail, the two parties can appeal to the organization of arbitration for foreign experts' affairs in the State Bureau of Foreign Experts and ask for a final arbitration.
11. Both the Chinese and English texts of this contract are equally authentic.


SAMPLE CONTRACT 2

Contract

I. Party A ________________ wishes to engage the service of Party B _________ as ___________. The two parties, in a spirit of friendly cooperation, agree to sign this contract and pledge to fulfill conscientiously all the obligations stipulated in it.

II. The period of service will be from the ____ day of _______, 20 ___________ to the __________ day of __________, 20_______.

III. The duties of Party B (see attached pages) 
IV. Party B's monthly salary will be______ yuan RMB,
____% of which can be converted into foreign currency monthly.

V. Party A's Obligations

1. Party A shall introduce to Party B the laws, decrees and relevant regulations enacted by the Chinese government, the Party A's work system and regulations concerning administration of foreign experts.

2. Party A shall conduct direction, supervision and evaluation of Party B's work. 

3. Party A shall provide Party B necessary working and living conditions.

4. Party A shall provide co-workers. 

5. Party A shall pay Party B's salary regularly by the _____ of the month.

VI. Party B's Obligations

1. Party B shall observe the laws, decrees and relevant regulations enacted by the Chinese government and shall not interfere in China's internal affairs.

2. Party B shall observe Party A's work system and regulations concerning administration of foreign experts and shall accept Party A's arrangement, direction, supervision and evaluation in regard to his/her work. Without Party A's consent, Party B shall not render service elsewhere or hold concurrently an post unrelated to the work agreed on with Party A.

3. Party B shall complete the tasks agreed on schedule and guarantee the quality of work.

4. Party B shall respect China's religious policy, and shall not conduct religious activities incompatible with the status of an expert.

5. Party B shall respect the Chinese people's moral standards and customs.

VII. Revision, Cancellation and Termination of the Contract

1. Both parties should abide by the contract and should refrain from revising, canceling, or terminating the contract without mutual consent.

2. The contract can be revised, canceled, or terminated with mutual consent. Before both parties have reached an agreement, the contract should be strictly observed.

3. Party A has the right to cancel the contract with a written notice to Party B under the following conditions:

(1) Party B does not fulfill the contract obligations according to the terms stipulated and has failed to amend after Party A has pointed it out.

(2) According to the doctor's diagnosis, Party B cannot resume normal work after a continued 30 day sick leave.

4. Party B has the right to cancel the contract with a written notice to Party A under the following conditions.
(1) Party A has not provided Party B with necessary working and living conditions as stipulated in the contract.

(2) Party A has not paid Party B as scheduled.

VIII. Breach Penalty

When either of the two parties fails to fulfill the contract or fails to fulfill the contract obligations according to the terms stipulated, that is, breaks the contract, it must pay a breach penalty of US$ 500 to 2,000 ( or the equivalent in RMB).

If Party B asks to cancel the contract due to events beyond control, it should produce certifications by the department concerned, obtain party A's consent, and pay its own return expenses; if Party B cancels the contract without valid reason, it should pay its own return expenses and pay a breach penalty to Party A.

If Party A asks to cancel the contract due to events beyond control, with the consent of Party B, it should pay Party B's return expenses; if party A cancels the contract without valid reason, it should pay Party B's return expenses and pay a breach penalty to Party B.

IX. The appendix of this contract is an inseparable part of the contract and has equal effect.

X. This contract takes effect on the date signed by both parties and will automatically expire when the contract ends. If either of the two parties asks for a new contract, it should forward its request to another party 90 days prior to the expiration of the contract and sign the new contract with mutual consent.

Party B shall bear all expenses incurred when staying on after the contract expires.

XI. Arbitration

The two parties shall consult with each other and mediate any disputes which may arise about the contract. If all attempts fail, the two parties can appeal to the organization of arbitration for foreign experts affairs in the State Bureau of Foreign Experts and ask for a final arbitration.

This Contract is signed at _______________, in duplicate, this __________ day of ________, 20______, in the Chinese and ___________ languages, both texts being equally authentic.

Party A Party B
(Signature) (Signature)



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