Camper and Nicholsons

Essential tips for using and understanding the MLC Seafarer’s Employment Agreement

9th Mar 2015

As the Mediterranean season approaches, there is always a lot of crew movement, with many crew considering changing yachts or embarking upon their yachting career for the first time. Given that there will be a lot of job offers and contracts changing hands in the next few months, it is definitely time for a run-down on seafarer contracts, both for commercial yachts operating under MLC and otherwise.

As we’ve written before in our series on the MLC 2006, all commercially registered yachts are required to issue all crew with an employment contract, or Seafarer’s Employment Agreement (SEA).

Please refer here to our quick guide as to what you should expect to find on your contract – but also bear in mind that during a job interview it’s important to focus on what YOU can do for the yacht rather than making demands about what the yacht will do for you. The following advice applies AFTER you have been offered a position.

First Steps: What you need to do with a SEA.

  • When you accept a new crew position, find out if the yacht is commercial or private, as if they are commercial they will need to send you an SEA before you join.
  • Once you have a SEA, read it.  Don’t skim it, actually read it. This is a legal document that makes you certain promises about things that matter. And by signing it, you are making certain promises in return.
  • After signing, make sure you have a copy of these three things:
  1. SEA signed by all parties
  2. The code of conduct
  3. The complaint procedure
  • If you are a captain, make  sure that you:
  1. Give the crew member the contract to read before they join the yacht.
  2. Make sure they write ‘read and approved’ next to their signature on the contract.

Things to check for on your SEA. Some of these items are discretionary and will differ from yacht to yacht so it’s important to check you are happy with what is outlined in your contract.

  • Holidays
  1. How much holiday accrues per month
  2. How often can you take holiday within the year
  3. How much of the holiday you can take will be paid
  4. Confirm whether weekends will be counted as holiday days or not during leave periods. This is at the discretion of the captain – usually holiday is counted in calendar days, not working week days. Therefore, weekends will normally be counted as holiday days.
  • Hours of Work and Rest
  1. Working hours and shore leave. Yacht crew are paid in calendar days: weekends are not necessarily given and are only given at the discretion of the captain.
  2. Hours of rest. On a yacht under MLC, crew are entitled to 10 hours min rest per day with a minimum of 6 hours uninterrupted in one stretch and a minimum of 77 hours rest per 7 days.
  • Flights and Repatriation
  1. Flight allowance. One flight is the minimum per 12 months of employment and applies after 11 months of continuous service. Usually flights are economy class unless specified differently.
  2. Agreed repatriation destination (home town or port of embarkation or other as agreed) – make sure you are happy with the destination put here as otherwise it could be an expensive mistake.
  • Probation, notice period and Termination
  1. Duration of probation period
  2. Notice period (during probation time and also after that).
  3. Termination clauses- read them carefully! Normally a minimum notice period of 7 days is applicable during your probation time and usually 30 days after, but note that if you are charged with gross misconduct you face instant dismissal.
  • What if the yacht offering you a job is private? 

Private yachts are not required by law to provide you with a contract, although most will, and it is a good idea to ask for one before joining the yacht. This is the way of establishing in writing where you stand in relation to holiday pay, health insurance, salary, repatriation and other issues relating to your employment onboard the yacht.

  • Not happy with the contract? Don’t understand it?

If something doesn’t seem right to you, seek some advice before signing. This is your right and you should never feel pressured.
Direct any specific questions to the person who sent you the contract or the yacht manager if there is a company in charge, but this is where we advise you to be reasonable. Remember you are out there looking for a job and although it is important that you enter into a fair agreement, it won’t make the best first impression if you come in making lots of demands over and above what is being offered and the mandatory provisions.

Our Yacht Management Division are specialists in the MLC and all aspects of compliance. For further information about management with Camper & Nicholsons please don’t hesitate to get in touch with our Yacht Management Division here.

by Camper Nicholsons

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