Why your Canadian Employee must sign their Employment Contract before their First Day at Work.

Why your Canadian Employees must sign their Employment Contract before their First Day at Work.

It's critical that your business obtains employee sign off and acceptance of their terms and conditions of employment prior to the employee's first day of work.

Common Employment Contract Signing Scenario 

An HR story that I have seen played out often: 

  • An employment offer is made to a candidate without formal employee acceptance prior to the start date.
  • The employee receives their employment contract and policies for signature on day 1 of work (sometimes on day 2 or 3).  
  • The employee signs on day 1, 2 or 3, or later if they want to take time to review the paperwork. 
  • The employee is terminated and the employer points to the signed paperwork for protection.
  • Employee seeks out a lawyer. 

What the Employee's Lawyer will Argue

  • The employee made some general assumptions about the terms and conditions of employment before they began work.  These included wages, start date, benefits, and of course implied ESA statutes that protect the employee. That verbal or loose contract was accepted by the employee.
  • Once the employee arrives at work (having possibly resigned a position with another employer), asking the employee to sign off on previously unknown terms and policies requires new 'consideration' to become binding.
  • No additional consideration was provided at the time of signing, and the lawyer will argue that the courts will ultimately determine that the signed contract is invalid. 

The following case is a good example of the challenges you can experience if a written contract is introduced after hire: Rejdak v. Fight Network Inc.

The exception may be if the employer can show by way of email or other forms of communication during the negotiation stages that the employee was made aware of and accepted all terms and conditions before their first day of work as outlined in this case: Wood v. Fred Deeley Imports Ltd

Ensure employees sign off on employment terms and conditions before hire.

  • Don't put it off. Ensure the employee at minimum receives a copy of all relevant terms and conditions before their first day of work and that you obtain electronic acceptance of these terms. 
  • Keep a copy of any negotiations correspondence with employees in their digital employee file. This is as easy as dragging and dropping an email into their electronic employee folder. Years after a contracts administrator has left your company, you'll have easy access to records and communications.  
  • If you have a signed copy of an employment agreement and you don't maintain electronic employee files, make sure it is stored in a central place and managed by a role who will consistently be managing contracts. A signature is useless unless you can retrieve it as evidence of sign-off. 
  • Make use of cloud signature solution such as DocuSign or SignNow and standardize your offer acceptance processes.  These tools are inexpensive, robust and binding and keep your contracts organized and date stamped. 

Ariane Laird Vancouver

Ariane Laird is CEO & Founder of ConnectsUs HR, a company that provides tools & resources to quickly set up a Human Resources department.  
You can contact her directly from the Inquiry Type drop down menu.