Employment Contracts 101 | Employment Lawyer Darren Schmidt


Writing stuff is hard.  When it comes to employment contracts, we often try to find shortcuts to avoid doing the writing.  This might mean relying on sample documents from third parties (e.g., the internet, your know-it-all friend, that guy from college who kind of took some business classes). This is often the situation faced by entrepreneurs and small business owners who know they should have employment contracts for their employees.  They might Google sample employment contracts online.  They see a “good” one with lots of big words and long sentences.  They think “wow, look at this 21 page, iron clad, beauty … there’s no way my employees can sue me after they sign this!

Sound familiar? Do you download (or have downloaded) sample employment contracts found on Google? Stop it. Just Stop.  Before even thinking about avoiding a law suit (or, in legalese – “liability”), think about simplicity.  In fact, there’s really only 9 things I recommend my clients include in their employment contracts:

  1. Position title,
  2. short description of job duties,
  3. start date,
  4. hours of work,
  5. pay (hourly or salary),
  6. vacation entitlement (paid vacation or vacation pay),
  7. statutory holiday pay,
  8. possible overtime eligibility, and
  9. notice owed to the employee to terminate the contract.

Simplicity is power.  Here’s the thing. That 21 page behemoth employment contract from Google might have all those key things.  Then again, it might not.  It most definitely has a whole bunch of other stuff that you don’t need. More importantly, your employees will see right through that 21 pager.  They’re smart.  They use Google too. If you use a simple, easy to read, employment contract, you build trust with your employees.  You appear authentic and they buy in to your business model.  Win – Win.

Darren Schmidt is a lawyer at Stringam LLP’s Lethbridge and Fort McMurray offices. He maintains a focus of employment and labour law and has a pre-law background as a human resources practitioner.

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