Get legal advice before signing any employment contract

New employees need to protect their rights

Starting a job is an exciting time marking new beginnings, but it’s also an important moment for employees to ensure their rights are protected, warns Barrie commercial litigator Scott Hawryliw.

Often, when someone begins working for a new organization they are presented with an employment contract, which many sign without thoroughly vetting it, Hawryliw tells

To truly ensure your rights are being protected, the best approach is to see a lawyer before adding your signature, he says.

“The starting point is to get advice before signing any employment agreement,” says Hawryliw, founder of SRH Litigation. “To be fair to them, this is a happy time — employees are thinking about how great this new position is going to be, employers are thinking about how the new hire will be a solid addition to the team. Everyone’s feeling good about the relationship.”

But, he says the employment contract exists for a potential situation in the future when the relationship deteriorates.

Hawryliw says the biggest issue he sees after the employee is terminated usually concerns restrictions to their severance payouts that are spelled out in the employment agreement that they often signed several years earlier.

He says the agreement may include references to severance packages where the employee agrees to the basic statutory entitlement, which is the minimum required by law in Ontario.

“For some people that could be a significant difference in their compensation,” Hawryliw says. “I have also worked with some employees whose defined termination entitlements in these agreements are better than the minimum.”

Having a defined entitlement could work well for the employee because it means they don’t have to later negotiate the terms of the separation, but the bottom line, he says, is that the termination package needs to be fair to both the employee and the employer.

The best approach to protecting your rights is by knowing what they are, Hawryliw says.

“That means paying attention when it comes to signing the employment agreement and getting legal advice,” he says

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