I have a written employment contract. Does it set out all my rights?
Whenever an employment relationship exists between an employer and an employee, BC law provides that the relationship is governed by a contract, even if nothing is written down.
A contract is simply a bargain between two parties. Even if no part of the bargain is set down in writing, our law would find enforceable obligations on the part of both employer and employee. Many such obligations are “implied” merely by reason of the relationship. An example is the obligation on the part of the employer to give reasonable advance notice of termination if no “just cause” exists. This is a term that is implied into every employment relationship unless there is a specific agreement otherwise. Even then, such an alternative agreement might not be enforceable, which would again lead to an inference that the employee is entitled to reasonable notice.
Even if an employment agreement is written, the implied terms that our law prescribes remain, unless expressly superceded by written terms. Written terms of employment agreements would normally supercede implied terms, however even written terms of employment agreements are sometimes not enforceable. Employment in British Columbia is governed by certain provincial and federal statutes which prescribe minimum rights of employees. The BC Employment Standards Act, the BC Human Rights Code, and other similar statutes provide employees with certain “statutory rights” which protect employees, regardless of the provisions of written employment agreements. Attempts to provide less than those minimum amounts are legally unenforceable.