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Pay very close to your hiring letter and contract � it will save money in the long run

Just been offered a job with a new employer? Excited to be employed or moving on to greener pastures? Can’t wait to sign that offer letter? Please consider reading it before you sign.
Like one half of a recently engaged couple, you are giddy with anticipation. Nothing, of course, could ever go wrong. This is forever. You just know it. Who cares what the pre-marital contract actually says about the division of assets on separation? It will never matter anyway! There are a number of provisions, however, that are often found in hiring letters or employment contracts that you may come to regret if the marriage ever goes sour.
If you have been securely employed for a number of years and somebody came seeking to date and seduce you, why would there be a three-month probationary period?  In these circumstances the person hiring you usually knows your skill set and your achievements.  Why would they have to try you out? If they decide shortly after your hiring that you’re not who they thought you were and you are out the door, that probationary clause could haunt you.
When you come to me hoping that I will be able to get you a severance package based not only on your four months with the new company but also on the five years of employment you were induced to leave by warm looks and flattering statements, you may be disappointed. Although it does not end the discussion, your former employer will argue that since you knew there was a probationary period as mentioned in the hiring letter, you knew no promises of long term employment were being made. If you are going to sign something with a probationary clause in it, you should also require a minimum payout if you are terminated.
You simply say to your intended employer, “Look, it sounds like a great opportunity but I am leaving five years of secure employment. We both know these things don’t always work out despite best intentions. In order to protect myself and my family, I need a clause in that contract that says if I am terminated at any time after I sign it I get a minimum payout of three months pay in lieu of notice to cover me while I look for new employment.” Ask for more if you can get it. What reasonable employer would balk at this? It is the same thing they would ask for in your circumstances.
I am not saying to refuse the job if you don’t get it, but you could at least ask.
And what about that termination clause you saw towards the end of the contract? It said that if you were ever terminated you get only the Employment Standards Act minimums and nothing more. That means that all this “reasonable notice” based on your age, seniority and level of responsibility is out the window. You would get only the minimums.
If it is an entry-level position there is not much you can do about this. But if you are an experienced sales manager and your skills are in demand in the marketplace, your intended employer should not be surprised if you ask for more. Suggest that simply adding the words, “as well as three weeks’ pay in lieu of notice for each completed year of service” would be reasonable for somebody in your position.
Again, if you put it the right way, there is no harm in asking. A sensible employer will understand that you are looking out for your own interests and thinking ahead. Isn’t that the kind of employee they want to hire?
Ultimately, even if you follow my advice and ask for some of these changes, especially with larger employers, they are often entrenched in their contract and not willing to be flexible. I would never tell you not to take the job because it didn’t make the changes you want.
At the end of the day, these provisions may never matter and you don’t want to spend the rest of your life wondering if you turned down a job that could have made you happy for a very long time because you didn’t get the contract your own way.
At least understand the risks you are taking. If you’re conscious of the risks then you are in control of your own destiny and that’s way better than being surprised by what you signed later.
So as you rush towards the alter, bouquet in hand, your fairytale future clear before you, please pause to consider the possibility that you are marrying a boor and should take some steps to protect yourself.
Or don’t. I don’t get much work from people who have clear contracts. At least one of us will be happy.
As published in the Hamilton Spectator, October 5, 2009
Ed Canning
Ed Canning
P: 905.572.5809