01 November 2009
INSIST ON A WRITTEN MEMORANDUM OF UNDERSTANDING(MOU) BEFORE GETTING DEEP INTO A COLLABORATION:
Ask your partner to state specifics of areas of collaboration and have an MOU signed!
When Dan graduated as a teacher he was fortunate to get a teaching job in a private school soon after. The terms of the job were verbal. He was simply told to immediately start work. Three months down the road, he had not received any salary. He chose to leave the job without any pay since he had no written agreement with his employer. Like Dan, many people all over the world get into cooperation without any written terms.Usually; there are many reasons why people end up working under such conditions. These include the nature of who you are to relate with, expectations from the collaboration, high need for the cooperation, high levels of un-employment to mention but a few.However, even where there is no written understanding, parties therein should reach a consensus. A written MOU can be replaced by a company or business handbook which lists the terms and conditions of the collaboration let alone the specifics of areas of cooperation. In the absence of such an MOU, you should refer to the company handbook. If such written MOU is not there, parties therein will have to rely on a verbal agreement. Verbal agreements are difficult to verify especially in cases where there is a clash between the parties. For instance, if one party wants to get rid of the cooperation, you may recall that when it was started, the notice period would be two weeks. On the other hand, the other party seems to remember that the notice was one month. Who is right? Unless there is a witness who was a party to the conversation to verify your allegations, you would have to negotiate for a compromise. Unfortunately, this is the scenario that many people let alone co operations with only verbal understandings find themselves in. Verbal contracts do not reflect professionalism on either side of the parties in cooperation. If there are no agreed upon principles, it is your word against his. Indeed there should be respect between both parties in form of a written agreement. An agreement does not have to be 10 or more pages; it can be as small as one page and still serve the purpose.Because you have nothing in writing, you will have to hope that the other party is an honest one, has a good memory and remembers that you are owed a week’s holiday and maybe a generous commission. In many cases if there is only a verbal agreement, but the cooperation has been functional for over two months, one party can insist on a written record of the most important terms of the collaboration. This will ensure that there are agreed regulations and procedures one party has to follow in the event that they decide to Quit. Such Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) can be in form of a traditional written agreement that is signed and agreed upon by both parties. More frequently, such MOU’s are “implied”— from verbal statements or actions taken by either parties, through company memoranda or the parties handbooks, or via policies that are adopted during such making of MOU.Most co operations offer written agreements and handbooks stating all the terms and conditions of each other’s work. If one says they will do something for another and in return they agree, then the parties therein have made an agreement. If one agrees to work for someone and that person agrees, then you and that person have a contract of employment. The type of work that you do, hours of work, wages and other allowances can all be part of your agreement. These are called conditions of employment. They are express terms of the agreement. Even if either party did not talk about some conditions of the collaboration, for example, when the collaboration will be having a holiday and it is the custom that all toil takes some sort of holiday. These are implied terms of any agreement. The law says an agreement does not have to be in writing. If two people speak and they agree about something, then that is called a verbal agreement. A verbal agreement is also legal. However, legal experts advise that a written agreement is better, if all its conditions are written on a piece of paper, and each party signs the paper, then its proof of what was agreed upon.