What We Can All Learn From the Honest Burgers New Employment Contract

What We Can All Learn From the Honest Burgers New Employment Contract

Employment contracts, does anyone ever really read them? Be honest.

Most of the time we sign our lives away on a black and white piece of paper because we can’t understand a word of the legal jargon that’s being presented to us. At most, you might read the holiday clause. But it’s rare that anyone will read the horrid thing, let alone understand it.

Traditionally, employment contracts are huge black and white legal documents that do more to scare people than to excite them. Essentially the contract states what will happen if things go wrong, more than if things go right.

But what if it doesn’t have to be this way?

In April 2021, Honest Burgers publicly shared their new employment contract that was the brainchild of People Director Chantal Wilson and Co-Founder Dorian White.

Now you may be forgiven for thinking this isn’t the most exciting news – especially when you consider how dull and drab employment contracts usually are. But the public release of Honest Burgers new employment contract sent a wave of excitement across the people and culture community because it represented a refreshing new way to build a clear agreement between the company and its people.

Gone was the black and white paper document, gone was the legal jargon, and instead what stands before us is a clear, transparent, engaging, and most of all, a human employment contract that doesn’t make your brain ache.

Aside from finally turning employment contracts into something that is more amicable for all involved. What I strongly admire about Honest Burgers is that they shared it.

Much of the work that gets done on culture is often behind closed doors. I understand this. It’s deeply personal work, even though it’s business. Brands like to keep things hushed and quiet, and even when the work is done they prefer to pretend that it has always been this way, rather than shout about anything that they’ve changed.

This deep lack of vulnerability in the culture arena only keeps us all behind.

Rather than feeling ashamed or embarrassed that you’re working on your culture, you should be talking about it, because you never know the conversations it’s going to stimulate or the collaboration that can unfold.

For this reason, I’m deeply inspired by the efforts of Honest Burgers and truly hope that more brands and businesses will follow suit and talk openly about their efforts to continue to be better.

Even Honest Burgers admitted themselves that this is just one step in the process they are undergoing. In a company statement Honest Burgers said;

“Here’s our new employment contract.”

“Our old one felt one-sided and it only protected Honest Burgers. So we changed it – to protect our teammates too. We now have guaranteed hours for everybody, this means nobody has a zero-hour contract (unless they ask to), nobody is on minimum wage, regardless of age or position, and we offer private healthcare for everyone.”

“There’s still lots that we’re working on to become a better employer. But we’re proud of phase 1, and we love the design of the contract too.”

I believe there is much we can all learn from Honest Burger’s new employment contract, and their openness to show the world they are on a culture journey.

honest burgers contract of employment

We Just Want Transparency - Not Jargon

In most employment contracts the language used in them is not understood by the average person. It is language that is only common if you work in some legal capacity. As well as being limiting for those who have some mild understanding of legal jargon, it’s deeply limiting for those who may have learning difficulties. Does anyone ever consider that?

The tone that is also used in a traditional employment contract is cold and transactional. It doesn’t evoke a sense of connection or humanity. It’s often an attitude of “you’re working for us, not with us.” – Immediately it creates a culture of them and us before they’ve even walked through the door to start their first day.

The Honest Burgers new employment contract shows what is possible when you just write to people, as people. When you speak to people in a clear and compassionate way.

When did you last read your employment contract from the mindset of a new employee? How did it make you feel? Could you read the whole thing? Could you understand the whole thing?

You would be surprised at the number of businesses that have never reflected on their employment contracts from the standpoint of their people.

If It Looks Good People May Actually Read It

We have to take our hats off to the Honest Burgers team for making contracts look good. Who even knew it was possible?

Creating bitesized areas for each policy, and making it engaging is something you don’t often see when looking at employment contracts. Sound silly, but it’s a good read!

First of all, it’s not on reams of paper, and second, they’ve taken the time to design it in such a way that people are going to read it.

Why do we have to make employment contracts so boring and lifeless? – The answer is, we don’t, and Honest Burgers have just shone a light on one way you can do it.

It's Not Perfect, But It's Progress

Without a doubt, like myself, you will read the Honest Burgers new employment contract and identify some gaps.

But as Honest Burgers have admitted themselves, this is about progress – they are not claiming it’s the best thing out there – they are just showing what can be done.

We Need More Pioneers Like Honest Burgers

Unfortunately, for most businesses it becomes the default to fall into the typical business blueprint of the way business has always been done. But that’s never going to serve you in the future. Change has happened and happens every day. It’s naive of us to think otherwise.

Being different can be scary. But being different is also powerful, and helps to make you a better place to work, which in turn makes the lives of your people better.

We need more pioneers like Honest Burgers to take the leap on new things and be brave enough to shout about it.

We don’t improve without collaboration and co-creation. When we can all start dropping the perfectionism illusion and start being vulnerable then we may begin to make more progress in the next year than we have done for decades.

Let this inspire you to decide to do something radical in your company culture today. Pick one thing, and see where it takes you.


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    About The Author

    Lizzie Benton is a people and culture specialist who supports organisations in developing a unique company culture and building engaged teams. Lizzie has been recognised as a millennial changing the world of work, and has been featured in the Metro, HuffingtonPost and has spoken across the UK on employee engagement. When not consulting or running a workshop, Lizzie can be found in rural Lincolnshire enjoying afternoon tea and fresh air.