Job seekers whose skills are in high demand will have an advantage when negotiating terms of employment. Executive-level jobs also generally include negotiations over the terms between the hiring manager and the candidate.
Most employers require professional, administrative, and executive employees to sign a written employment agreement or contract that details the terms of employment. Hourly employees typically don't have to sign a contract, and their terms of employment often are outlined in an employee handbook or company policy manual.
In the U.S., employment contracts are "at will," meaning that either the employer or employee can legally terminate the agreement at any time for almost any reason. (Employees are protected from discrimination due to race, gender, or religion.)
At-will employment allows an employee to be fired even if no terms of employment have been violated. In practice, employees who have contracts generally have a degree of job security for the length of the contract as long as they do not violate the contract conditions. Some states have an exception to the at-will policy that gives some protection to an employee who is fired without good cause.
Minimum standards for terms of employment in the U.S. are set by the Department of Labor. They include rules covering the minimum wage, over time, the standard workweek, mandated break times, and safety issues. State laws may add additional benefits, rules, or rights regarding employment within their jurisdictions.
Terms of Employment Abroad
Most developed and developing countries have codified certain standard terms of employment. Ireland has its Terms of Employment (Information) Act which outlines rules covering a variety of workplace and labor topics. Australia's Fair Work Ombudsman sets rules related to pay, leave, redundancy, entitlements, and more.
U.S. labor laws are not generous compared to those in other parts of the world. The European Union, for example, mandates that workers get at least four weeks of vacation a year. In Finland, expectant mothers get paid leave seven weeks before their due date, and 16 more weeks after the birth of a child.
These kinds of benefits may not be included in your next terms of employment, no matter how hard you bargain.