Getting Employment Off to a Good Start in Canada

Global HR

​Many components go into getting the employment relationship off to a good start. Here are some key aspects employers in Canada should keep in mind as the pandemic slows and hiring picks up.

Perfect the Offer Letter

The most important step at the beginning of the employment relationship, according to Rose Keith, an attorney with Harper Gray in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, is the offer letter. 

“When you make the offer in writing, usually one of the most important things is, you want to contemplate how that relationship is going to end,” Keith said. It’s the employer’s opportunity to limit its liability or provide certainty of what its liability might be if the company ends the employment. The other important things to consider when drafting an offer letter are any necessary nonsolicit or noncompete clauses, along with the overall scope of the work, compensation, and any benefits plans.

Employers should ensure that job offers are made in writing and that their offer letter template doesn’t sit for too long without checking it with the company’s legal department. Offer letters generally contain language about the terms and conditions of employment that may need to be updated.  

“It’s not like you can get a template and never look at it again, and just keep using it. The law develops over time,” Keith said. “You would always want to make sure you had eyes on it from legal, and you probably want to periodically have it reviewed every couple of years.” 

There can be consequences down the line if offer letters are not worded carefully. For example, a poorly worded offer letter can negate termination provisions, which means that common law will dictate how much notice employees must be given prior to termination. “You’ll end up in litigation over how much notice someone should have been given of the termination,” Keith said.

Additionally, noncompete clauses can fall apart if they are too broadly worded. Be specific about any noncompete provisions, or a court could throw out an offer letter’s noncompete clause.

Don’t Overlook Effective Onboarding

Another way to start off the employment relationship on the right foot is through effective onboarding. 

Spend “the time at the front end to really onboard someone and really expose them to what your workplace is about,” Keith said.

Christie Esau works as a counselor and psychotherapist in Ottawa, and she just began a new job in June. She found that having focused, personalized onboarding has been one of the most important aspects in adjusting to her new company.

Esau is training with the person she is replacing. “So, there’s not a constant rotation of meetings to attend or new people to try to connect with; it’s with one person,” she said. “I feel like I’m able to establish a rapport with her, to have lots of opportunities to ask questions.”

Her predecessor also created a manual outlining the job, so Esau can consult the manual to address her questions. And although she won’t be working onsite just yet, her company is arranging a building tour for her so she can feel oriented when she visits the workplace.

[Want to learn more? Join us at the SHRM Annual Conference & Expo 2021, taking place Sept. 9-12 in Las Vegas and virtually.]

Challenges as Remote Work Continues

Companies will have to continue evaluating how to effectively onboard in a virtual work environment. When Misty Pratt began her new job last August, the pandemic was still rampant in Canada and her whole interview and onboarding process had to take place remotely. Pratt, a health research coordinator in Ottawa, found the virtual experience difficult at first, describing it as “strange.”

But her manager and co-workers have made it a priority to remain hands-on in her onboarding. “My own boss and the other research coordinator I work with, who I would also kind of consider my manager, checked in really regularly,” Pratt said. 

Keith thinks many employees will continue to want the flexibility of working from home going forward. “I haven’t been advising clients on it yet; it’s not something that’s been coming up yet, and I think it’s because we’re still at the really early stages of this. But I suspect we are going to have people who want to continue at least part time working from home.”

Pratt has found that just having open channels of communication can make a huge difference. 

“For me, that means having Slack channels where we can regularly message each other, or having once-a-week Zoom meetings where you touch base on everything that’s going on, even if you don’t have a whole ton to say,” Pratt said. “It might be a 20-minute meeting, because no one has major updates. But you’re all just seeing each other’s faces, and making that new person feel like they’re part of this team.”

Katie Nadworny is a freelance writer in Istanbul. 

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