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Definition

golden handcuffs

Contributor(s): Ivy Wigmore

Golden handcuffs are a type of financial incentives designed to motivate employees to stay with a company longer than they might otherwise do. 

Golden handcuffs agreements are often part of an employment contract. In a more general context, the term "golden handcuffs" is used to refer to salaries that are lucrative enough to prevent highly-valued  employees from seeking positions elsewhere. The practice is most common for executive-level employees for whom there is likely to be competition. 

The financial incentives are usually expressed in a formal document as a specific amount of money and/or some other type of benefit, to be disbursed at specified points throughout a contractually-mandated time period. Bonuses and stock options that will vest in the future are common examples of financial incentives. 

The agreement may also stipulate penalties in the event that an employee leaves the company ahead of the contracted date, such as requiring repayment of bonuses. Other constraints may include non-disclosure agreements (NDA), which prevent the employee from divulging sensitive corporate information and non-compete clauses (NCC), which prevent the employee working for competitors if they do leave the company. 

See also: severance agreement, severance package, voluntary severance package, professional emancipation

This was last updated in September 2013

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