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The Value of Workplace Advice – When to Contact an Employment Lawyer

You only call an employment lawyer when you’re in trouble, right?

Wrong!

There is still a broad misconception that employment lawyers are simply the people to call when you’re facing a case of wrongful dismissal. Whether you’re an employer or an employee, when things turn ugly during a wrongful termination your first thought is that you need to ‘lawyer up.’ Yes, employment lawyers do that work, too.

Yet there is so much more in our toolkit that we can use to help guide both employers and employees through every step of the employment relationship. From contracts to policies to discipline, our goal is always to keep things running as smoothly as possible, which also makes it easier for us to help when they are not so smooth. 

So, how can we help?

Employment Contracts

Employment lawyers are a helpful resource to both employers and employees even before work begins!

For employers, it’s crucial to have your contracts drafted properly so that they can protect your business. A poorly drafted contract will not protect you like you hope that it will. If that contract is tested in Court and a Court rules against it, the financial exposure to your business could be significant.

Employment lawyers work with the latest updated standards to ensure that your contracts are legally sound today, and they can conduct regular reviews of those contracts to make sure they’re still protecting you in future years. Don’t get caught unaware when a major legal change renders your contracts unenforceable. A lawyer will stay on top of those changes and make sure that your employment contracts are kept up-to-date.

For employees, lawyers can help review employment contracts to ensure that your contract says exactly what you think it does. Employment contracts can look like standard boilerplate, yet that language should align with your expectations. If you’ve been told one thing, and your employment contract says another, it’s important to catch that discrepancy before you start working so that a lawyer can help intervene. 

The termination clause in any employment contract is crucially important. If written carefully by the employer, a termination clause can significantly limit an employee’s entitlements upon termination.  A limiting termination clause may not seem like much at the start of a role, but 20 or 30 years in, the difference in what an employer may owe can be the difference between weeks’ and years’ of pay. 

Employment Policy Drafting and Implementation

Employers and employees alike may want to wave off workplace policies dismissively, but they are important for both groups. For employers, policy is essentially how you set the rules of the workplace. From social media usage to dress codes to vacation time and benefits, workplace policies are like a user manual. You may not read them daily, but if something malfunctions, your first response is to check the employment policy manual.

Having employment policies in place is just one piece of the puzzle. To be effective, all team members need to be trained on the employment policies as well, with a record kept of their training. Companies that claim to have employment policies but have no written record of their implementation or training have been hit with significant penalties in Court. Simply put, without those records, there is little evidence that the employment policies were in place or that staff were trained on them. 

For employees, employment policies may be called upon when discipline is being implemented. For employees who are being threatened with discipline or termination for not following a policy, we can advise how to handle next steps to either repair the employment relationship, or assist in making an exit where appropriate. 

Workplace Discipline

While dismissals can sometimes be spontaneous, many start out as matters of discipline, either through a series of warnings, a performance improvement plan, or some other measures. The law requires that this discipline be done in good faith, in an attempt to ‘right the ship,’ but there are certainly times where terminating a person’s employment seems inevitable. 

The law requires employers to act in good faith, and that’s exactly where employment lawyers can help. From setting clear expectations to regular check-ins, employment lawyers can help with discipline measures that do act in good faith, and that make a valiant attempt to get things right. That way, if termination is required, an employer can have significantly better protections knowing that they took every measure before making that decision.

Unfortunately for employees, discipline is not always done fairly, and may have been orchestrated with the clear goal of ousting an employee from the workplace. If an employee believe that they have been targeted, or that they are effectively being ‘set up to fail,’ an employment lawyer can help the employee navigate those next steps. 

We’re here to help

If you’re not sure where to turn next with your workplace issue, give us a call! We work routinely on a variety of issues with both employers and employees throughout the Cambridge, Kitchener, and Waterloo Regions. 

Contact our office today to set up a consultation.