On Contracts: It’s All About What You Want

In light of what recently happened, I decided to write this article about what people should check before signing their contracts. Some friends who have read my article about finding a job in Thailand found themselves in the sweetest predicament – deciding whether they will take the job or not! How great is that!?! Anyway, to save myself from the agony of repeating the same advice over and over (since there are six people inquiring about the same dilemma), I decided to just write an article about it instead.

Okay, where do I start? There’s so many things to consider but I’ll try to discuss as many as possible, most especially the important ones. (Warning: This entry only has one photo!)


How Much?

I guess it is safe to say that salary is the #1 priority. Stop being a hypocrite and just nod your heads. Before applying, try to give yourself a price tag. Ask yourself how much you are worth. Don’t overprice nor undersell your goods. You, of all people, should know what you can bring to the table.

Try to base it on your last salary but if you think that you are worth more than that then don’t hesitate to demand for a higher price. Just ensure that you can defend the price tag you set the moment your employer inquires why. If you are uncertain or if you do not have a previous job to use as basis then relax. Try not to get your panties in a wad.

Foreign teachers in Thailand are earning more than the locals and like what I mentioned in my other article, your wage will also be based on the color of your skin. Yes, this is the truth. I can say that out of 50 schools, you will only find 5 who will not care about your nationality and will rate you based on your experience and expertise. Native English speakers grossly earn a minimum of 30,000 baht while all others get less than that. Filipinos are usually offered a minimum of 20,000 baht or higher, depending on what they will be teaching and their teaching hours. Some schools shamelessly charge lower than this but it’s really up to you if you want to risk being underpaid.

Now that we have gotten the figures out of the way, let’s proceed to the fundamental question – how much money does one need to live comfortably in Thailand?

Take note that every person has different needs. Period. What can you survive on? Do you need a big apartment or would a boxy pad work just fine? Do you cook your own meals or do you prefer take-outs 3 times a day? Do you use the internet often? What appliances are necessary for you? Do you travel? If so, how often? Are you supporting anyone? Will you be living alone? These are just a few of the questions that you need to ask yourself to assess your standard of living. Write down the figures and do the math.

As an example, let’s see how a 20,000 baht will stretch in one month since this was the lowest rate quoted in this article. Bangkok rates are different from provincial rates. I am not the perfect person to ask about basic apartment costs in the province but in Bangkok (depending on which area), a 4,000 baht apartment is already decent. On top of this, you also need to think about your utility bills like water, electricity, phone and internet; roughly, it might sum up to 6,000 baht. With the 14,000 baht left, you need to contend with small matters like transportation, food and groceries, laundry (maybe), weekends away, etc.

How Long Is The Contract?

Contracts in Thailand are not always a 12-month deal; other contract lengths are 8,9,10-month agreements. When you review your contract, you have to check this information. 12-month contracts are always the safest option because it means that you will get paid 12 times in a year. 8,9, and 10-month contracts may or may not be so good depending on your plans. For example, some teachers prefer to have 10-month contracts because it would mean that they will be free to do something else during the summer when their school is close. Usually, the ones who prefer this arrangement are the ones who have been in Thailand for a long time and have established financial connections.

How Many Teaching Periods?

In the corporate world, employees are required to work 8 hours a day, 5 days a week and there is a set clock-in and out time; universally, it’s 8am to 5pm. Teaching in Thailand, however, is not as consistent. Some contracts do not require the teachers to report to school at a certain time everyday; meaning they can come in minutes before their actual class starts or report to work only when they have a scheduled class. These teachers are paid per hour, not per day and the downside is, if they do not have a class (like during the holidays or when classes are cancelled due to some unforeseen circumstance) then they will also not get paid. I have had friends who have this kind of arrangement and they were not too happy last October and November, 2011. If you can remember, it was during those months when Thailand suffered it’s worst flood crisis.

When reviewing your contract, check if it states hours or period. Hours are easy to understand because classes are usually within the 60-minute requirement but periods are different. The definition of one period varies in every school and generally, it’s dependent on the level of the learners. For instance, one period in kindergarten may consume 40 minutes only, while some schools offer 50-minute classes to their primary and secondary levels. It’s important that you check how long your classes are because you don’t want to end up having too many classes.

Who Handles The Legalities?

When you go through your contract, ask about who will process and pay for your work permit and visa in Thailand. Believe me when I say that it’s too much a hassle if you keep extending or renewing your tourist visa. It is more convenient if your employer will help you process the above mentioned, that way you’ll only have your 90-day appearance at the Immigration Office to worry about. Some employers will happily pay (taking into consideration that you will finish the contract); but some will expect you to shoulder everything and will just do a reimbursement afterwards. However, there are cheapskates out there who will do neither so it’s important to know where you’re at on this matter as this will give you an idea on how much money you need to set aside.

Are You Covered?

Health and accident insurance is a must-have. You never know what is going to happen so it is always best to have something to pull in your wallet other than your hard-earned cash or over-used credit card. Last year, I was able to prove this when I slipped in my bath tub. My insurance company paid for everything and I was even given outpatient meds that are good for two weeks. Imagine the damage it would have cost my pocket if I was not covered. Most schools offer their employees insurances but just to make sure, ask about it still.

Do They Have Incentives?

Incentives come in different forms. Many schools offer end-of-contract incentives, a number is actually quite generous in terms of sick and vacation leaves, some give attendance and punctuality incentives, others give yearly bonuses. There are a few schools that do not know the idea of incentives at all; so if you end up in such establishments, then that’s not going to be good. The truth is, you will meet other teachers and listen to them brag about what they are enjoying. This will suck big time, but you’ll get over it. Incentives are not really a necessity but they can be your happy poppers during days when you are procrastinating.

The key thing to remember when you’re reviewing your contract is to go through the details. DON’T just sign and worry about the content afterwards. You also need to ask questions. I assure you, you will have many so don’t hesitate to shoot. There is no need to hurry. Relax, the contract is proof that the employer likes you. Read, re-read, and think about it.

To all of you who now have offers, congratulations! You’re one step closer to working as teachers in Thailand.

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  1. Scott Brown says

    Very, very good advice there. Pay inequality does exist across the board, and it does suck.

    You made a lot of very valid points which I am sure should greatly help those who are fresh off the boat, or more likely a plane.

    • denramonal says

      oh my goodness, Scott is in the house ya’ll! Wait, I need to check my entries now and see if I mentioned anything inappropriate that is work-related (else I’m screwed!) hehehe…but thanks, Boss — just trying to be helpful!