Top 10 Things to Look for in an Employment Contract

Tips for Job Seekers

Receiving an offer of employment is incredibly exciting. Whether you’ve been looking for work after time off, you’re in need of a change, or you’re getting your first offer after completing your studies, it’s always a good feeling to receive an employment contract and offer. This excitement can sometimes lead to not reading the employment offer carefully and jumping straight to signing. It’s important to read any offer of employment and contract carefully to make sure you understand the terms and conditions of your employment and don’t end up feeling blindsided or confused in the future. Here are a few of our most important things to look for before signing an employment contract.

1. Probationary Period

It’s important to be aware of the probationary period of your employment. Alberta regulates a 90 day probationary period  that does not require notice of termination (whether from the employee or employer). After 90 days and up to 2 years, it is required to give one week of notice, after that, 2 weeks. Something to look for when signing your contract is what benefits or perks are only available after the probationary period. Most employers will not provide medical benefits until after probation, and some employers will not start accruing vacation time or other benefits until your 3 months are up. Be aware of your probationary period when you sign! 

2. Job Description and Duties

When you receive an employment contract, make sure your job description and duties are clearly listed. This is an important reference when it comes to annual reviews. This list will show that you have been successful in completing the expected duties as well as if you have gone above and beyond your job description.

3. Compensation 

Make sure your salary is the same as what was agreed upon when offered employment. Your contract should also state the payment periods and how you will be paid. If your employer provides bonuses or reimbursements, it is important to have these written in your contract. 

4. Benefits

Medical and health benefits are often a key item prospective employees seek from their employers. The company provided health benefits should be clearly stated in your employee contract, from the start date of receiving these benefits, what kind of benefits you have, who the group plan is under, and more. 

5. Look for the Job Term

It’s important to know the terms of your employment. If you are a permanent hire, this should be stated on your employment contract. If you’ve been hired for a fixed term, the term of employment needs to be clearly stated, as well as opportunities for renewal or moving to permanent employment.

6. Paths to Promotion and Raises

Many employment contracts will lay out the different paths to promotion available. Whether certain promotions require additional education, time working for the company, or taking on additional responsibilities. Your employment contract will often lay out the structure for compensation increases. 

7. Terms for Time Off and Leave

How much time, and when you can take that time off, should all be laid out clearly in your employment contract. Items you should see range from how much notice you need to provide to take time off, company policies on sick and personal days, and how much vacation time you have (and the accrual process). 

8. Start Date and Expected Working Hours

Your start date and expected working hours should be stated in your contract. This will give you time to plan as well as ensure you show up to work on time! Working hours are different for every company and sometimes per employee, so it’s important to have your expected hours in writing from your employer so you can plan accordingly. 

9. Termination Clause

Terms of employment termination need to be clear in order to protect your best interests and that of the company. If your employment contract has ‘at the sole discretion of the employer’ written into your contract, your employer will have the right to terminate your employment without speaking with you. Most employment contracts will have the different causes for termination laid out as well as provided notice. 

10. Restrictive Covenants

Restrictive covenants are a way for employers to protect themselves if you choose to leave the company. These could be non-compete clauses where you are not allowed to go and work for direct competitors, or clauses where you cannot take clients from your previous employer if you were to start your own business. You may also be restricted from dealing with certain suppliers or bringing colleagues to your new company. While many of these clauses are legal, a former employer is not allowed to prevent you from making a living, so if you work in an incredibly niche environment, a non-compete clause may not be valid. 

Employment contracts are an important step to starting with a new company. Make sure you read your contract carefully and keep your own copy. Employment contracts can be a beneficial reference for both positive and negative interactions with your new employer. If you have any questions about employment contracts, our team of qualified recruiters are here to help!