Employment Contract Guide by Award-Winning Calgary Workplace Law Firm

By: Bow River Law

Published: 8 February 2024

Employment contract guide by award-winning workplace law firm, Bow River Law LLP.

Looking to navigate the complexities of employment contracts? Our comprehensive guide, brought to you by an award-winning Calgary workplace law firm, provides expert insights and practical advice to help you understand the ins and outs of employment contracts.

Welcome to the Employment Contract Guide by the award-winning Calgary Workplace Law Firm Bow River Law LLP. In this comprehensive guide, we will walk you through a lot of what you need to know about employment contracts in Alberta and the specific laws and considerations that apply in Calgary and across Alberta. Whether you are an employer or an employee, understanding the intricacies of employment contracts is crucial to protecting your rights and ensuring a fair and productive working relationship.

This guide is primarily directed at non-lawyers, and is intended for legal information purposes only.  It should not be considered legal advice.  The law is complicated, and anyone with a legal issue should consult with a lawyer directly.  Lawyers looking for guidance should consult other research sources, which could include our employment law blog.

What is an Employment Contract?

An employment contract is a legally binding agreement between an employer and an employee. An employment contract can be written, verbal, or partly written and partly verbal.  This guide is mostly focused on written employment contracts.  A written employment contract can set out the terms and conditions of employment, including the duration of employment, job responsibilities, compensation, benefits, termination clauses, and any other relevant terms that both parties agree upon. It is essential for both employers and employees to have a clear and well-drafted contract to ensure a fair and harmonious working relationship.

When entering into an employment contract, it is crucial for both parties to understand the rights and obligations outlined within it. The contract serves as a roadmap for the employment relationship, providing a framework that governs the interactions between the employer and the employee. By clearly defining the terms of employment, an employment contract helps to prevent misunderstandings and disputes that may arise during the course of the employment.

Key Components of an Employment Contract

When it comes to employment contracts in Alberta, there are several key components that should be included to ensure clarity and protection for both employers and employees. One important aspect to consider is the duration of the contract. Employment contracts can be for a fixed term or indefinite, depending on the nature of the job and the agreement between the parties involved.

In addition to the duration, it is essential to outline the job title and description accurately. This helps to establish the expectations and responsibilities of the employee, ensuring that both parties are on the same page. It is also often important to include the location of work, as this can have implications for commuting and relocation.

Compensation is another critical component of an employment contract. The contract should clearly state the salary or wage that the employee will receive, as well as any additional benefits such as bonuses, commissions, or health insurance. It is important to specify the frequency of payment, whether it is weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly, to avoid any confusion. Furthermore, the contract should address working hours and breaks. It should specify the regular working hours, including any overtime requirements and compensation.

It is also important to outline the employee’s entitlement to rest and meal breaks, and ensure they comply with the Employment Standards Code in Alberta.

Another crucial aspect to consider is vacation and leave entitlements. The contract should clearly state the number of vacation days the employee is entitled to and any specific conditions or restrictions. It should also address other types of leave, such as sick leave, maternity/paternity leave, and bereavement leave, along with the applicable policies and procedures.

Additionally, it can be useful to include provisions regarding termination and severance. The contract can outline the notice period required for termination, both by the employer and the employee.  The notice provided by the employer is sometimes called severance, and it is important that the severance in the contract comply with the Employment Standards Code. It should also address the circumstances under which the contract can be terminated without notice, such as for cause.

Understanding the key components of an employment contract in Calgary and Alberta is crucial for both employers and employees. By including these details in the agreement, both parties can have a clear understanding of their rights and responsibilities, ensuring a harmonious and productive working relationship. Let’s explore these key components in more detail.


One of the primary purposes of an employment contract is to establish the duration of employment. This can range from a fixed-term contract, which specifies a predetermined end date, to an indefinite contract, which does not have a specified end date. The duration of employment is an important consideration for both the employer and the employee, as it determines the length of time the employee will be engaged in the role and the level of job security they can expect.

Job Responsibilities

In addition to the duration of employment, an employment contract usually outlines the job responsibilities of the employee. This includes a detailed description of the tasks and duties that the employee is expected to perform as part of their role. By clearly defining the job responsibilities, the contract helps to ensure that both parties have a mutual understanding of the expectations and requirements of the position.

Compensation and Benefits

Compensation and benefits are also key components of an employment contract. The contract specifies the salary or wage that the employee will receive for their work, as well as any additional benefits or perks that may be provided, such as health insurance, retirement plans, or paid time off. These details are crucial for both parties to understand and agree upon, as they directly impact the financial well-being and job satisfaction of the employee.

Termination Clauses

Termination clauses are another important aspect of an employment contract. These clauses outline the circumstances under which either party can terminate the employment relationship, as well as the notice period that must be given. They can also specify any severance or exit packages that may be provided in the event of termination. Having clear termination clauses in the contract helps to protect the rights of both the employer and the employee and ensures a fair and transparent process in case the employment relationship needs to be ended.

An employer should consider getting legal advice before drafting a termination clause.

Employment Contract Review

While an employment contract provides a foundation for the employment relationship, it is important to note that it is not set in stone. As circumstances change, such as the needs of the business or the employee’s personal circumstances, the contract may need to be reviewed and updated. This can be done through a process of negotiation and mutual agreement between the employer and the employee.

In conclusion, an employment contract is a vital document that establishes the terms and conditions of employment. It provides clarity and protection for both the employer and the employee, ensuring a fair and harmonious working relationship. By clearly outlining the duration of employment, job responsibilities, compensation, benefits, and termination clauses, an employment contract helps to prevent misunderstandings and disputes, while also providing a framework for future discussions and negotiations.

Find employment contract lawyers in Calgary, Alberta.

Key Components of Alberta Employment Contracts

When drafting or reviewing an employment contract in Alberta, there are several key components that should be carefully considered:

  1. Job Title and Description: Clearly define the employee’s role and responsibilities to avoid any ambiguity.
  2. Compensation and Benefits: Outline the employee’s salary, bonus structure, vacation days, health benefits, and any other relevant compensation details.
  3. Working Hours and Overtime: Specify the standard working hours and whether the employee is eligible for overtime pay.
  4. Termination Clauses: Clearly outline the conditions under which either party can terminate the employment agreement.
  5. Confidentiality and Non-Disclosure Agreements: Protect confidential information and trade secrets by including provisions to maintain confidentiality.
  6. Intellectual Property: Clearly state who owns any intellectual property created during the course of employment.

Types and Significance of Employment Contracts in Calgary

In Alberta, there are two main types of employment contracts: fixed-term contracts and indefinite contracts.

Fixed-Term Contracts 

These contracts have a predetermined end date or a specific project completion date. They provide both employers and employees with certainty, as expectations for the duration of employment are clearly defined. However, it’s important to note that these contracts must still comply with applicable employment laws and regulations.

Indefinite Contracts 

Unlike fixed-term contracts, indefinite contracts do not have a predetermined end date. They continue until either party decides to terminate the employment relationship. Indefinite contracts are the most common type of employment agreement in Calgary and across Alberta and provide greater flexibility for both employers and employees.

When considering which type of contract to use, it’s crucial to understand the specific significance and implications of each option based on your unique circumstances.

Special Considerations for Alberta Workplaces

Alberta has unique employment laws and regulations that both employers and employees must be aware of when entering into an employment contract. Here are some special considerations:

  • The Alberta Employment Standards Code sets out minimum employee rights, including minimum wage, overtime pay, minimum termination pay and general working conditions.
  • Alberta is not an “employment at-will” jurisdiction, which means that Alberta employers cannot terminate an employee’s contract without cause and without notice or severance pay, except in some cases during the first 3 months of employment (probationary period).
  • Employees are usually entitled to reasonable notice or compensation in lieu of notice if their contract is terminated without cause. The length of notice depends on various factors, including age, length of service and the employee’s role.
  • There are specific rules regarding employment of minors, hours of work, and breaks that employers must comply with to ensure a safe and fair working environment.
  • The Alberta Occupational Health and Safety Act and OHS Code set out the safety standards in Alberta workplaces, which require employers to keep the workplace reasonably safe.
  • The Alberta Human Rights Act protects employees from acts of discrimination at work where the discrimination is related to a protected ground, such as race, sex, gender, religion, sexual orientation, pregnancy, physical disability, mental disability or family status.

Understanding these special considerations is crucial for both employers and employees to ensure compliance with the law and avoid potential legal issues.

Legal Aspects of Employment Contracts in Alberta

Employment contracts in Alberta are subject to various legal aspects that aim to protect the rights and interests of both employers and employees. These legal aspects include:

  • The Alberta Employment Standards Code, which outlines the minimum rights and responsibilities of employees and employers.
  • Human rights legislation, which prohibits discrimination in the workplace based on protected grounds such as race, gender, religion, pregnancy and disability.
  • Occupational Health and Safety legislation outlines health and safety obligations for Alberta employers and employees.
  • Common law principles, which may supplement or modify the terms of an employment contract in certain circumstances.
  • Contract law principles, which govern the interpretation and enforcement of employment contracts.

It is essential to work with an experienced employment contract lawyer to ensure that your contract complies with all applicable laws and protects your rights and interests.

Essential Clauses in Alberta Employment Contracts

When drafting or reviewing an employment contract in Alberta, there are several essential clauses that should be included:

  1. The probationary period clause clarifies the duration and conditions of the probationary period.
  2. The termination clause outlines the process for ending the employment relationship and any notice or compensation requirements.
  3. The non-competition clause restricts employees from competing with the employer during and after the employment period.
  4. The non-solicitation clause restricts employees from trying to get clients of the employer to do business elsewhere, both during and after the employment period.
  5. The confidentiality clause ensures that employees do not disclose or use the employer’s confidential information.
  6. The intellectual property clause specifies who owns any intellectual property developed during employment.

Consulting an employment contract lawyer will help ensure that your contract includes all the necessary clauses to protect your interests.

The Role of Non-Competition and Non-Solicitation Clauses

In Alberta, non-competition clauses and non-solicitation clauses are commonly included in employment contracts to address specific concerns:

Non-Competition Clauses

Non-competition clauses restrict employees from working for competitors or starting a competing business for a specified period after leaving their current employment. These clauses help protect an employer’s confidential information, trade secrets, and client relationships. However, non-competition clauses must be carefully drafted to ensure they are reasonable and enforceable under Alberta law.

Non-Solicitation Clauses

Non-solicitation clauses are a bit different than non-competition clauses.  Non-solicitation clauses restrict employees from attempting to take clients away from their employer while they work there and for a specified period after they leave, but they do not prevent employees from simply working with a competitor after they leave.  However, like non-competition clauses they must be carefully drafted to ensure that an Alberta court will consider them to be reasonable and enforceable.

The Role of Employment Contract Lawyers in Calgary

Employment contract lawyers in Calgary play a pivotal role in assisting both employers and employees throughout the employment relationship. They provide expert legal advice, negotiate contract terms, and ensure compliance with employment laws and regulations.

Whether you are an employer drafting a new contract, an employee reviewing an existing agreement, or dealing with disputes or termination, seeking guidance from an experienced employment contract lawyer is highly recommended to protect your rights and interests.

Employment contract services by Calgary, Alberta lawyers.

When to Consult an Employment Contract Lawyer

It is prudent to consult an employment contract lawyer in several situations:

  1. Before signing a new employment contract to ensure you understand the terms and conditions.
  2. If you have concerns about the terms of an existing contract and need clarification or negotiation assistance.
  3. If you feel your rights have been violated or there has been a breach of contract.
  4. If you are facing termination and want to understand your rights and options.

An experienced employment contract lawyer can provide invaluable guidance and support throughout these scenarios, helping you to make informed decisions and protect your legal interests.

How Lawyers Can Help with Employment Contract Drafting

Employment contract lawyers in Calgary have extensive experience in drafting comprehensive and legally sound employment contracts tailored to your specific needs. They take into account the unique requirements of your industry, the nature of the employment relationship, and comply with applicable laws and regulations.

A lawyer can work closely with you to craft an employment contract that is clear, fair, and protects your rights and interests. They will ensure that all essential clauses are included, address potential issues and liabilities, and minimize the risk of disputes in the future.

How Lawyers Can Help with Employment Contract Review

If you have been presented with an employment contract, it is vital to have it reviewed by an employment contract lawyer before signing. A lawyer will thoroughly assess the terms and conditions, identify any potential risks or flaws, and provide you with valuable advice and guidance.

An experienced lawyer will help you understand your rights, negotiate more favorable terms, and ensure that you are entering into a fair and mutually beneficial agreement. They will also help you avoid any hidden traps or loopholes that may leave you vulnerable or limit your future opportunities.

Common Questions and Misconceptions about Employment Contracts

Let’s address some common questions and misconceptions regarding employment contracts:

Can I Write My Own Employment Contract?

While it is possible to write your own employment contract, it is highly advisable to seek professional legal assistance to ensure that the contract is comprehensive, complies with applicable laws, and protects your rights. Employment contract lawyers have the necessary expertise to draft robust contracts that address all potential issues and minimize conflicts.

What Happens If There’s No Written Contract?

Even in the absence of a written contract, an employment relationship still exists based on verbal agreements, industry standards, and statutory protections. However, having a written contract provides clarity and avoids potential disputes and misunderstandings. It is often a good idea to have a written employment contract to protect the interests of both parties.

Regional Specifics: Employment Contract Law in Alberta

Employment contract law in Alberta is regulated by both provincial and federal legislation. The Alberta Employment Standards Code and Regulations set out minimum standards for employment contracts, while federal laws outline requirements for certain industries and sectors. It is important to consult an employment contract lawyer who is familiar with the specific laws in Alberta to ensure compliance and protect your rights.

Employment Contract Law in Calgary: A Closer Look

Calgary, as a major economic hub of Alberta, has its own unique employment landscape. Understanding what is typical for employment contracts in Calgary is crucial for employers and employees operating in this region. Consult an employment contract lawyer with expertise in Calgary employment law to navigate the specific legal requirements and considerations in this dynamic city.

Employment contracts in Calgary by Bow River Law LLP

Employment Contract FAQs for Calgary and Alberta

Q: Can my employer terminate my employment without cause?
A: If you are not in a union, normally an employer can terminate your employment without cause, but they normally have to pay you reasonable notice (severance) to do so.

Q: Can I negotiate the terms of an employment contract?
A: Yes, employment contracts are negotiable. It is advisable to consult an employment contract lawyer to assist you in negotiating favorable terms that protect your interests.

Q: Can an employer change the terms of my employment contract without my consent?
A: Generally, an employer cannot unilaterally change the terms of an employment contract without the employee’s consent. However, certain changes may be permissible depending on the specific circumstances and contract language. Consult an employment contract lawyer to assess your situation.

Q: Are employment contracts enforceable and legally binding?

A: Employment contracts are not always enforceable and legally binding.  Things that can cause them to be unenforceable include terms that violate Employment Standards or other legislation, or situations where the contract was not entered into properly by the parties.

Q: Can I sue my employer for breach of contract?

A: If your employer has breached your employment contract, you may be able to sue them for any amounts you have lost as a result of the breach, like unpaid wages, and may be able to sue for severance in a constructive dismissal.

As a leading workplace law firm in Calgary, we are committed to helping employers and employees understand and navigate the complex world of employment contracts. Our team of experienced employment contract lawyers is here to provide expert advice, ensure compliance with the law, and protect your rights. Contact us today for a consultation and let us guide you through the intricacies of employment contracts in Alberta.

Related Resources

These resources will provide your readers with further information and insights into employment contract law:

  1. Obligations of an Employer in Alberta and Upcoming Legislative Changes
    • Lexology Article
    • This article discusses common issues Alberta employers should consider, including employment contracts and legislative changes.
  2. Employee or Self-Employed – Canada.ca
    • Canada Revenue Agency Guide
    • A guide to help understand how to determine a worker’s employment status in Canada for taxation purposes. 
  3. Alberta Job Corps
    • Alberta Human Services
    • Information on the Alberta Job Corps program, providing workplace experience and training.
  4. Canadian Employment & Labour Law
    • Lexology Blog
    • A blog that covers various aspects of employment and labour law in general in Canada.  For an employment law blog focused on Alberta, check here.
  5. Alberta Employment and Labour Law Information
    • Alberta Government Website
    • Official government resource for labour law in Alberta, including employment standards, workplace health and safety, and labour relations.
  6. Employment Standards in Alberta
    • Alberta Employment Standards
    • Detailed information on employment standards in Alberta, covering hours of work, overtime, general holidays, and more.
  7. Alberta Labour Relations Board
    • Alberta Labour Relations Board
    • Official website with information on collective agreements, collective bargaining and more for unionized workplaces in Alberta.
  8. Alberta Human Rights Commission