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A small Canadian company sent me an offer of employment in which there is nothing said about my salary figures (which does not concern me, as I and my employer have discussed this verbally). The only thing that he sent me to sign is a Non-disclosure agreement. The employer says that things are not very formal at this point, as there is also a probation period in effect. So I'm fine with that. But after the probation period is over, wouldn't I need to have a formal contract in place? Or if I find that there are no formal contracts with other employees and they make verbal agreements with the employer and have no problem with that, then should I not be concerned at all about having a written employment contract with this company?

Update: I had to wait for several days before the employer even sent me that email (he was super-busy etc), yet he said he needed a person like me, with my skills, and that it is not easy to find someone qualified in that area. So he seems to be interested. When I asked him what I would show as a proof of employment if there is no contract he said he would produce a letter with all the relevant information to this effect. Is that alright? Wouldn't that letter serve as a contract?

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If they are formal enough for a non-disclosure, they are formal enough for a salary offer letter.

Salary offer letters are not complex. My offer letter for my current job just has a table of things like hours, benefits eligibility, and salary right at the top. Very simple and straightforward.

The employer says that things are not very formal at this point, as there is also a probation period in effect.

Exactly the kinds of things you want in an offer letter. My offer letter has the probation period. My offer letter states the "informal" aspects. It is extremely concerning that they aren't putting these terms on paper.

Cynical me thinks that you are

  1. Being taken for an unpaid or illegally underpaid probation period
  2. Will be stiffed at the end of your probation period for "underperformance"
  3. Not having your payroll taxes, EI, or Canada Pension Plan paid at the correct rate
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  • The hourly salary rate range was published in the job ad on a trustworthy website, so I don't think that (1) applies in my case. The other two items you wrote are points to consider though. – sequence Apr 17 at 20:46
  • When I asked him what I would show as a proof of employment if there is no contract he said he would produce a letter with all the relevant information to this effect, including my hourly rate. Would that letter serve as a contract? – sequence Apr 17 at 21:03
  • @sequence - The job advert and any statements made therein are a solicitation, not a contract(ual obligation). – Justin Apr 19 at 11:14
  • @sequence - Whilst verbal contracts are just as valid and binding as written ones, they are much harder to prove or enforce. A letter is not a contract, but is better than nothing; just assume you can be fired without redress at any point. An employment contract will be more nuanced than just hours & pay, and offer so much more (dependent on jurisdiction), most of which will not be explicitly stated, as it's covered by law. If they insist on "just a letter", make sure it contains the words "Employment Contract" at the top (may vary by jurisdiction; check with local employment bureau). – Justin Apr 19 at 11:22
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then should I not be concerned at all about having a written employment contract with this company?

You should always be concerned if there is no written employment contract that includes salary information. Without a written contract, any issues that you have over salary, duties, conditions...etc will be much more difficult to dispute. It is very difficult to prove/disprove verbal agreements. If you want to save yourself from any potential headaches down the road I would request a written contract that includes the salary and any other conditions for employment you feel are important. If the company refuses to provide one, I would walk away.

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  • When I asked him what I would show as a proof of employment if there is no contract he said he would produce a letter with all the relevant information to this effect, including my salary. Would that letter serve as a contract? – sequence Apr 17 at 21:04
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In Canada no written employment contract is required however it is extremely beneficial for both parties involved. It establishes compensation, it clarifies date of hire for benefits (EI or benefits that take effect on end of probationary), it clarifies the role you are hired for (helpful in cases of constructive dismissal).

There is very little up side for working under a verbal contract, especially if there is expectations that compensation will change at the end of probationary. There have been a lot of questions on this SE from people who were promised a pay raise at the end of probationary but never got it in writing.

What I would suggest is ask your employer to produce a simple contract, name, start date, job title/position, length of probation, compensation, and any other details that you've agreed to. If they won't produce this I'd suggest asking if they'd sign it if you produced it. If they are firmly against having any written record of the conditions under which you are employed I would see that as a huge red flag.

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  • Well, the employer says that they are a small team of friends kind of thing. But I had to wait for several days before he even sent me that email (he was super-busy etc). When I asked him what I would show as a proof of employment if there is no contract he said he would product something on a letterhead to this effect. Is that alright? I've been self-employed previously and never working for someone else but myself. I need to gain that valuable experience at his company, so it doesn't look like I have much choice overall. – sequence Apr 17 at 20:40
  • Personally I would push for more than that and explain it is just to make sure there are no misunderstandings. Also very serious in the offer to put one together yourself based on your understanding of the agreement. People are more receptive in buying in a problem exists if you bring a solution along with you. – Myles Apr 17 at 20:44
  • When I asked him what I would show as a proof of employment if there is no contract he said he would produce a letter with all the relevant information to this effect, including my salary. Would that letter serve as a contract? @Myles – sequence Apr 17 at 21:04
  • Him offering it "later when you need it" is the part where you are putting yourself at risk. What if he doesn't provide it? I would just come back with "I'd be more comfortable with a contract up front. We can revise it after the probation period is done." – Myles Apr 17 at 21:14
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    Sorry if he is will to provide a signed copy of that letter up front that would effectively serve as a contract, just don't accept that it will be provided at some point in the distant future. On your first or second working day at very latest. – Myles Apr 17 at 21:16
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I have worked 20 years in Canada, for 10 different employers and have never heard of a contract not stating the salary.

I would discourage signing it.

You can amend the contract yourself, put in the discussed salary, then sign and send it. Remember that you may need the contract to be shown to other parties (bank, government, etc...) They won't take "we discussed it verbally" as a valid reason.

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  • As I wrote in my question, there is no written contract at all at this point, only an offer of employment, which does not state the salary. – sequence Apr 17 at 20:32
  • The employer says that they are a small team of friends kind of thing. But I had to wait for several days before he even sent me that email (he was super-busy etc). When I asked him what I would show as a proof of employment if there is no contract he said he would product something on a letterhead to this effect. Is that alright? I've been self-employed previously and never working for someone else but myself. I need to gain that valuable experience at his company, so it doesn't look like I have much choice overall. – sequence Apr 17 at 20:40
  • @sequence I have only had 4 different employers, but I have never had an offer of employment not state the salary. – Matthew Gaiser Apr 17 at 20:43
  • @MatthewGaiser When I asked him what I would show as a proof of employment if there is no contract he said he would produce a letter with all the relevant information to this effect, including my hourly rate. Would that letter serve as a contract? – sequence Apr 17 at 21:03

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