Every employment relationship is governed by an employment contract, whether written or unwritten. Letters of Offer identify employer and employee obligations and rights; as such, they’re important documents for limiting an employer’s liability. In practice, these letters are referred to only if an issue arises affecting the employment relationship.
What should your letter include?
Job duties and responsibilities
Key responsibilities should be listed, along with a sentence indicating that “this list of duties is not exhaustive; other duties may be assigned as business needs arise.”
Compensation: Salary, bonus, commission structure, other
Be clear about salary: include details concerning car allowances, cell-phone allowances, expense accounts, parking and all non-salaried compensation.
Hours of work
Include your core hours of business and any expected overtime, business travel or weekend work. Outline fixed hours if these are applicable, noting that “these hours can be changed with two weeks’ notice”.
Identify how many weeks of vacation an employee is entitled to, plus any increase in vacation days after a given period. Note, too, if there is a waiting period before vacation privileges become effective.
Outline your organization’s dress and conduct codes, and the consequences contravening these expectations (if the position warrants).
While the traditional probationary period is three (3) months (Employment Standards), some firms indicate six (6) months.
Health and safety responsibilities
You may wish to include the following sentence: “You have the responsibility to report unsafe working conditions; you have the right to work in a safe environment and receive training on any procedures with which you are unfamiliar.”
Reasons for termination with “cause”
Outline the reasons that would cause you to end the employment relationship. These may include: poor performance, negligence, dishonesty, or a breach of confidentiality that affects the organization adversely.
Statutory holiday entitlement
Clarify any days your organization considers to be statutory holidays beyond those indicated in Canada’s Employment Standards Acts.
Outline the number of weeks of notice reasonably expected from an employee prior to holidays, leave or departure.
Making It Legal
- Do not contradict or “contract out of” the Employment Standards Act.
- Ensure that prospective employees have five to seven days to review the Offer (ample time to obtain legal advice, should a candidate choose to do so).
- Ensure that the Offer is signed prior to the first day of work.
- Ensure that the Offer is self-contained and does not refer to other employee handbooks or guidelines, as these may be amended from time to time.
- To limit the potential of one clause making the whole Offer invalid, consider adding:
“If any provision of this Agreement is unenforceable, such unenforceability shall attach only to such provision and all other provisions shall continue in full force and effect.”