Understanding Employment Contracts In Vietnam For Foreigners | A Guide In 2023

Huy Tran


Navigating the employment landscape as a foreigner in Vietnam can be a daunting task, especially when it comes to understanding the nuances of employment contracts.  This guide aims to provide a comprehensive overview of employment contracts in Vietnam, specifically tailored for foreign workers.

What is an Employment Contract?

Basic Definition

An employment contract represents an agreement between an employer and an employee governing the terms and conditions of the employment relationship.  It can take various forms, including implied, oral, or written agreements, and may involve a detailed written document that the employee signs to signify their acceptance of the terms.


The content and specifics outlined in the contract typically align with the agreements made between the employer and the employee when the latter confirms their acceptance of the job position.  These terms encompass a wide range of factors, including but not limited to:

  • Job Responsibilities: Clear delineation of the duties, roles, and responsibilities the employee is expected to fulfill within their position.
  • Compensation and Benefits: Specification of the salary, wages, bonuses, incentives, and any additional benefits or allowances that the employee is entitled to receive.
  • Working Conditions: Details regarding working hours, rest periods, holidays, and any other relevant working conditions applicable to the employment.
  • Duration of Employment: Clarification of the period or duration of employment, whether it’s for a fixed term or indefinite period.
  • Termination Conditions: Conditions outlining the circumstances under which the employment contract may be terminated, including notice periods and procedures.

The nature and extent of the terms included in the employment contract depend on the mutual agreement reached between the employer and the employee, as agreed upon at the time of the employee’s acceptance of the job offer or position.  Whether implied, oral, or in a formal written format, the contract serves as the guiding document that establishes the rights, obligations, and expectations of both parties involved in the employment arrangement.

The distinction between an employment contract and other contracts

Employment contracts differ from other types of contracts, such as service or independent contractor agreements, in several key aspects:

  • Subordination: Employees are typically under the control and supervision of their employers, while service providers and independent contractors maintain a degree of autonomy.
  • Compensation: Employees receive wages or salaries, while service providers and independent contractors typically charge fees or receive project-based compensation.
  • Benefits: Employees are often entitled to benefits such as social insurance, health insurance, and paid leave, while service providers and independent contractors are generally responsible for their benefits.

Different Types of Employment Contracts

Employment contracts in Vietnam can be classified into three main categories:

  • Full-time contracts are the most common type of employment contract and typically involve a standard 40-hour workweek.  These contracts often provide employees with a comprehensive package of benefits and protections.
  • Part-time contracts are less common than full-time contracts and involve fewer working hours.  These contracts may offer fewer benefits and protections compared to full-time contracts.
  • Temporary Contracts are used for specific projects or assignments with a defined duration.  These contracts typically offer the least level of benefits and protections compared to full-time and part-time contracts.

Anatomy of an Employment Contract in Vietnam

Terms and Provisions

Employment contracts in Vietnam must adhere to the provisions outlined in the Labor Code and other relevant regulations.  These provisions cover a wide range of aspects, including:

Core components: These include the names and addresses of the employer and employee, the job description, salary, working hours, rest periods, social insurance contributions, and termination clauses.

Job Descriptions

Job descriptions provide a detailed overview of the employee’s responsibilities, duties, and performance expectations.  They help ensure that both parties have a clear understanding of the job requirements.

Employment contracts play a vital role in guiding the employment relationship by:

  • Establishing clear expectations for the employee’s job duties, responsibilities, and performance standards.
  • Defining the responsibilities of both the employer and the employee, ensuring accountability, and minimizing potential conflicts.
  • Outlining the rights and obligations of both parties, upholding fairness, and protecting the interests of both the employer and the employee.
  • Fostering transparency by making the terms and conditions of employment explicitly and readily accessible to both parties.
  • Providing a structured framework for resolving disputes that may arise during the employment relationship, minimizing conflict escalation, and protecting the rights of both parties.

Salary and Remuneration

The salary or wages payable to the employee must be specified in the employment contract.  The contract may also include details about other forms of remuneration, such as bonuses, commissions, and allowances.

Types of Employee-Employer Relationships in an Employment Contract

At-Will Employment

  • Definition: In this arrangement, either the employer or the employee holds the right to terminate the employment relationship at any time and for any reason, with or without prior notice.
  • Flexibility: Both parties have the freedom to end the employment without cause, offering flexibility but also potentially leaving both the employer and the employee vulnerable to sudden terminations.

Binding Authority

  • Limitations on Employee’s Powers: This clause restricts the employee from binding the employer to contracts, commitments, or agreements without obtaining written consent from the employer.
  • Protection of Employer’s Interests: It safeguards the employer from being legally bound to agreements initiated by the employee without prior approval.

No Exclusivity

  • Non-Exclusive Agreements: The agreement established in the contract is not exclusive.  This means that both the employee and the employer are free to engage in similar agreements or contracts with other parties.
  • Flexibility in Additional Engagements: It allows both parties to pursue other similar agreements or relationships without being constrained by exclusivity terms within the employment contract.

Working Conditions

Working conditions encompass the physical, psychological, and social environment in which an employee performs their job duties.  They have a significant impact on employee well-being, productivity, and job satisfaction.  Employers are responsible for providing a safe and healthy work environment, which includes identifying and mitigating potential hazards or risks.  Measures to improve working conditions may include conducting risk assessments, providing training and resources, promoting open communication, and seeking feedback and suggestions from employees.

The Special Clauses

  • A Confidentiality agreement is a clause that prohibits the employee from disclosing confidential information of the employer to unauthorized third parties.  This information may include trade secrets, customer lists, marketing strategies, or any other information that the employer considers to be confidential.
  • A Non-compete clause is a clause that prohibits the employee from working for a competitor of the employer for a specified period after the termination of employment.  This clause is designed to protect the employer’s business interests by preventing the employee from taking their knowledge and skills to a competitor.

Additional special clauses

In addition to confidentiality agreements and non-compete clauses, an employment contract may also include other special clauses, such as:

  • Intellectual property rights: This clause may specify who owns any intellectual property that is created by the employee during their employment.
  • Dispute resolution: This clause may outline the process for resolving disputes between the employer and the employee.
  • Governing law: This clause may specify which law will govern the interpretation and enforcement of the employment contract.

Special Requirements for Foreigners

Employment contracts for foreign workers may include additional provisions, such as:

Work permit requirements

  • A work permit is required for foreign employees working in Vietnam for over three months.  The employer submits the application to the Department of Labor, War Invalids, and Social Affairs (DOLISA).  Upon receiving the work permit, a labor contract must be signed by both the foreign employee and the employer.  However, a Vietnamese labor contract is not mandatory for foreign employees working under different circumstances, such as internal transfer.
  • Exemptions from the work permit requirement include members or owners of companies, individuals offering legal services, representatives of foreign non-governmental organizations, internal transferees of companies operating in service sectors specified in Vietnam’s WTO service commitments, professionals providing consultancy services, individuals authorized by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to engage in media activities in Vietnam, and other exemptions stipulated by the Prime Minister.

Immigration status

  • Foreign nationals entering Vietnam must have a valid passport and an appropriate visa.  Visas can be obtained through various channels, including the Immigration Department, consulate offices, foreign representative offices, or Vietnamese consulates abroad.
  • Foreign workers can obtain a visa with a maximum validity of 12 months. Upon expiration, a new visa can be applied for. Foreign workers with a valid work permit can also apply for a Temporary Residence Card, valid for up to three years.  Applications should be submitted to the provincial Immigration Department and may require additional documents.

Personal Income Tax

  • Foreign residents spending at least 183 days within a continuous 12-month period in Vietnam are liable to pay personal income tax on all earnings acquired within Vietnam, as well as on regular income obtained internationally.  Vietnam employs a progressive tax structure to compute personal income tax, with the highest tax rate set at 35%.
  • Foreign individuals staying in Vietnam for fewer than 183 days within 12 months are accountable for personal income tax solely on income sourced in Vietnam during their residency.  In this case, a flat rate of 20% is applied instead of the progressive tax rates used for those meeting the 183-day threshold.

Vietnam vs. Global Standards

Unique Vietnamese Traits in Employment Contracts

Probationary Periods and Termination Clauses

  • Probationary Periods: Vietnam tends to have longer probationary periods compared to many other countries.  Employers often utilize these extended periods to evaluate new hires’ performance thoroughly before confirming their permanent employment status.
  • Termination Clauses: Termination clauses within Vietnamese employment contracts may be more restrictive, setting forth stringent conditions under which employment can be terminated by either party.

Working Hours and Overtime Compensation

  • Working Hours: Vietnamese working hours are typically longer than those in many developed countries.  This culture often entails extended working days, reflecting a different approach to work-life balance.
  • Overtime Compensation: The compensation for overtime work in Vietnam might not be as generous as in some developed countries, and the regulations governing overtime might vary, impacting the compensation employees receive for additional hours worked.

Social Insurance and Health Insurance Contributions

Social insurance and health insurance contributions are mandatory payments made by both employers and employees in Vietnam.  These contributions provide social protection and healthcare coverage to workers and their families.  The contributions are shared between the employer and the employee, with the employer contributing a larger portion.  The contribution base is capped at 20 times the minimum wage.  Employers are responsible for deducting and remitting the contributions to the Vietnam Social Security (VSS) on a monthly basis.  Social insurance and health insurance contributions play a vital role in ensuring the well-being of the workforce and contribute to a more harmonious and productive society.

Differences with International Practices

Fixed-Term and Indefinite-Term Contracts

  • Prevalence of Fixed-Term Contracts: Fixed-term contracts are more prevalent in Vietnam compared to some other countries.  Employers often opt for fixed-term agreements to manage labor costs, project-based needs, and regulatory compliance.
  • Indefinite-Term Contracts: Conversely, indefinite-term contracts, offering more stability and security to employees, are more common in certain other countries, providing greater job security.

Minimum Wage and Salary Structure

  • Minimum Wage: Vietnam’s minimum wage is relatively lower compared to developed countries.  The minimum wage levels set in Vietnam might not be as high, reflecting differences in cost of living and economic factors.
  • Salary Structure: Salary structures in Vietnam may be less transparent compared to some developed nations, impacting how wages are determined, negotiated, and communicated within the employment contract.

Annual Leave and Public Holidays

  • The number of annual leave days and public holidays in Vietnam is generally fewer compared to many other countries.
  • Employees may have fewer days off for holidays and annual leave, affecting work-life balance and leisure time.

These unique traits and differences between Vietnam’s employment contract practices and global standards illustrate the distinct characteristics of Vietnam’s labor landscape, shaped by cultural, economic, and regulatory influences.  Understanding these differences is crucial for both employers and employees to navigate the Vietnamese employment environment effectively.

Tips on How to Negotiate and Sign an Employment Contract

Negotiating an employment contract can be a daunting task, especially for foreign workers in Vietnam. However, with careful preparation, effective communication, and a focus on achieving mutually beneficial outcomes, you can successfully negotiate a contract that meets your needs and protects your rights.

Preparing for the Negotiation Process

Research the Employer and the Market

  • Familiarize yourself with the employer’s company history, culture, values, and business objectives.
  • Research the average salary range and benefits for similar positions in the industry and region.
  • Understand the local labor laws and regulations governing employment contracts.

Set Goals and Priorities for the Contract Terms

  • Identify your top priorities and what you want to achieve from the negotiation.
  • Consider your salary expectations, benefits needs, work schedule preferences, and career aspirations.
  • Prioritize non-negotiable items and be prepared to compromise on less important ones.

Identify the Interests and Needs of Both Parties

  • Try to understand the employer’s perspective and what they hope to gain from the negotiation.
  • Anticipate their interests and concerns, and prepare arguments to address them effectively.
  • Seek a win-win solution that meets the needs of both parties and fosters a positive working relationship.

Communicating Effectively During the Negotiation Process

Effective communication is essential for a successful negotiation.  Here are some tips to keep in mind:

Make Proposals and Counter-Proposals

  • Clearly articulate your proposals for salary, benefits, and other contract terms.
  • Be prepared to justify your requests with relevant data and market comparisons.
  • Listen attentively to the employer’s counter-proposals and be open to compromise.

Seek Win-Win Solutions and Building Rapport

  • Focus on finding common ground and mutually beneficial solutions.
  • Build rapport with the employer by establishing trust, demonstrating professionalism, and showing genuine interest in the company.
  • Maintain a positive and respectful attitude throughout the negotiation process.

Handling Common Challenges or Difficulties During the Negotiation Process

Negotiations can sometimes present challenges and difficulties. Here are some strategies to overcome them:

Dealing with Power Imbalance and Bargaining Leverage

  • Be aware of the power imbalance between you and the employer.
  • Recognize your bargaining leverage, such as unique skills or experience, to strengthen your position.
  • Consider involving a trusted advisor or representative to assist in the negotiation process.

Respecting Cultural Differences and Avoiding Misunderstandings

  • Be mindful of cultural differences and communication styles in Vietnam.
  • Speak clearly and concisely, avoiding jargon or technical terms that may not be easily understood.
  • Use active listening techniques to ensure you fully grasp the employer’s perspective.

Managing Conflicts and Emotions

  • Remain calm and composed even when faced with disagreements or setbacks.
  • Express your concerns respectfully and avoid emotional outbursts or personal attacks.
  • Focus on finding solutions rather than dwelling on problems or past grievances.

Finalizing and Signing the Contract

Once you’ve reached an agreement, it’s crucial to finalize and sign the contract carefully:

Reviewing the Terms and Conditions of the Contract

  • Thoroughly review the finalized contract terms and conditions to ensure they align with the negotiated agreement.
  • Clarify any ambiguities or misunderstandings before signing.
  • Seek legal counsel if necessary to review the contract and protect your rights.

Making Amendments and Clarifications if Needed

  • If any discrepancies or omissions arise, request amendments or clarifications before signing.
  • Ensure all changes are documented and incorporated into the contract.
  • Maintain a copy of the signed contract for your records.

Remember, negotiating an employment contract is a collaborative process, and achieving a mutually beneficial outcome requires preparation, effective communication, and a willingness to compromise.  By following these tips, you can increase your chances of securing a favorable employment contract in Vietnam that meets your needs and protects your rights.


Employment contracts play a pivotal role in defining the professional relationship between an employer and an employee.  They serve as a legal framework that outlines the terms and conditions of employment, encompassing responsibilities, rights, and obligations of both parties.  For foreign workers in Vietnam, understanding and negotiating employment contracts is essential to safeguard their rights, ensure fair treatment, and establish a positive working experience.

Staying abreast of the latest labor laws and regulations is crucial for foreign workers to navigate the employment landscape effectively.  The Vietnamese legal system is constantly evolving, and familiarizing oneself with the current provisions ensures that employment contracts are compliant and protective of the employee’s interests.

Valuing feedback and consultation empowers foreign workers to enhance their understanding of employment contracts and make informed decisions.  Engaging with trusted advisors, legal professionals, or fellow expatriates can provide valuable insights and guidance, fostering a more informed and well-prepared approach to negotiating and signing employment contracts.

Frequently Asked Questions

  1. What happens if an employer does not provide an employment contract?
  2. How does the law protect employees who work without a formal contract?
  3. Are there penalties for employers who violate employment contract terms?
  4. Can an employee challenge the terms of an employment contract if they find them unfair?
  5. How are disputes between employers and employees resolved in the context of the employment contract?
  6. How are benefits like health insurance and retirement typically handled in employment contracts?