Do I Have an Employment Contract?

The most basic presumption of employment law is that each employee has a contract of employment. Many employees have the impression that unless the agreement is written down, then there is no contract. But this is not true. Most employment contracts are verbal, not written.  And verbal contracts are every bit as enforceable as written ones.

If you are employed directly by your employer, even if there is no agreement in writing signed by you or your employer, you still have a form of contract that falls under contract laws in Vancouver and beyond. The precise terms of the contract can be sorted out with employment law advice.

What is My Contract?

It is a contract of service. You have agreed to perform certain defined work, and your employer has promised to pay you defined benefits for that work. That is the basic bargain of an employment contract. Of course, employment contracts can contain a dizzying amount of points of agreement, such as medical or dental insurance, bonuses, commissions, vacation, sick pay, pension contributions and plans, job title, job duties, responsibilities, location of the work, hours of work, days of work, and the like. These points of agreement become “terms” of your employment.

How Does Having a Contract Help?

If you are an employee: The fact that you have a contractual agreement with your employer entitles you to rights under contract law, which is guided by common law. Should either party to the contract wish to change a term of the contract, they must first obtain the agreement of the other party. For instance, if the employer wished to increase your pay, you probably would not argue the point, and your agreement would be inferred. However, if the employer sought to reduce your pay or reduce your title, or reduce your duties, or some such change, then in order to do so lawfully, the employer needs your agreement. Unfortunately, most employees are not aware of this, and the employer takes advantage and forces a cut in pay or some other term of employment onto the employee without agreement. This can often be categorized as constructive dismissal. If this has happened to you recently, then you should fill out our questionnaire with the details of your situation, and we will set out your legal position for you.

If you are an employer: A skillfully drafted written employment contract is the best way to ensure stability in your employment relationships.  Both parties know what is expected of them, during the employment relationship and after its termination.  A well-drafted employment contract will provide an essential road map of the employment relationship, which can guide both employer and employee through important phases such as hiring, promotions, compensation changes, workplace changes, employee discipline, employee complaints, termination by employer or employee, and residual rights and duties following the end of the employment relationship.  Without a strong employment contract, employers are at the mercy of the common law.  If your business does not have written employment contracts in place, now is an excellent time to find out how to secure this benefit for your employees and your business by contacting us for a legal opinion.

Contracts and Wrongful Dismissal

In order for an employer to bring an end to a contract of employment lawfully, the employer must follow either the contract itself, or the common law.  This can happen in two ways:

  1. If the employment contract contains a termination clause that is valid and enforceable, the employer must follow the provisions of the contract in terminating the employment.
  2. If the employment contract is not written down or does not contain a termination clause that is valid and enforceable, the employer must follow the requirements of the common law in terminating the employment.

The common law permits employers to terminate the employment contract of any employee, for any reason. However where there is no just cause, the employer must provide what the common law calls reasonable notice of termination. Where the employer fails to provide reasonable notice, then the employer is in breach of the contract, and this allows the employee to claim damages against the employer for wrongful dismissal.

Contact us today for your free over-the-phone consultation with an employment lawyer.