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Has Your Organization Had an HR Document Check-Up Lately? If Not, it Could be Costly! – Wendy Ferguson – BHRLR, CPHR




A Commentary by Wendy Ferguson – BHRLR, CPHR – Ferguson HR Consulting

Every employment relationship is governed by a blend of documents, legislation and human rights.   With work in energy industry that spans from downtown offices to the field, employment documentation should clearly establish the rights, expectations and obligations of both the employer and the employee.  If a policy or clause is not explicit or compliant, the law will impose terms as necessary.

Many organizations fail to execute suitable employment agreements or fall short in defining their employment policies.  Paying attention to this now will minimize liability and support the efficient operations of the company.  Paying attention to this when it’s too late may result in a costly legal situation or government penalties, or at the very least cause confusion in terms of rights and expectations by both parties in the relationship.

In January, 2018, the Alberta government will authorize Employment Standards Officers to request organizations to conduct employment standards self-audits.  Employers who fail to comply with employment standards may receive administrative penalties by the ‘Director’ up to $10,000.00 per day until compliance is met.

What should you have in place to protect your organization?

Know the Employment Standards

  • As an employer you need to either comprehend employment legislation or rely on a Human Resources professional to guide you in this area.  Sometimes you may even need to depend on legal counsel.  This is always important, but it is imperative given the upcoming changes to employment legislation in January, 2018.

Focus on Policy

  • Clear and concise policies should be implemented to deal with issues that may arise in your organization.  There are several that I recommend for all organizations, such as workplace harassment or discrimination policies.  However, policies such as dress code, or programs such as mentorship or employee referrals may vary or not be suitable at all in some organizations.
  • All policies should be monitored and enforced– otherwise they are senseless rules.
  • Define the consequences of breaching the policy within the policy.
  • Respond efficiently to breaches in policy which may include an investigation or disciplinary measures.
  • Communicate your policies regularly.  All managers and staff need to be aware of changes.  Policies should be accessible/posted/distributed, depending on your company format.  Policies should be clearly understood.  Provide information sessions or training for all managers (usually first) and all staff.
  • Policies should be acknowledged in writing by all staff (signature, date and witness).  I advise my clients that this should be done at least once per year or whenever there is a change to a policy.

Employment Agreements

  • The employment agreement (written offer of employment) should be issued by the employer and signed by the employee as ‘acceptance” to the offer.
  • Renew agreements regularly or as needed.
  • Contents of a thorough employment agreement should include:
    • Effective date
    • Job location
    • Hours of work
    • Vacation and time off
    • Job description
    • Reporting structure
    • Define pay: salary, hourly rate, bonus plan and other forms of compensation, but be careful in guaranteeing automatic increases or bonuses.  Also include when they will be paid.
    • Benefits
    • Termination of employment

The following may be referred to briefly within the agreement if desired, but I recommend issuing separate policies on the following:

    • Confidentiality
    • Privacy
    • Intellectual property
    • Company equipment or physical property
    • Conflict of interest or restrictive covenants
    • Health and Safety

An employment agreement may also express: “by accepting this employment agreement you agree to observe and abide by all the policies of the Company.  You should be aware that any breach of the policies which are in effect will be cause for discipline up to or including termination of employment”.  However, still have employees sign off on all the policies separately, as some will evolve over time.

Of course, all of the above must comply with the applicable legislation in the jurisdiction where there are employees.  We protect our clients and their employees by ensuring legislative compliance and safeguarding human resources documentation.  Should you need assistance relating to the above, call us so we can discuss how our firm can assist your organization to get organized and reduce liability.

About Wendy Ferguson

Wendy Ferguson is an Alberta based Human Resources Generalist and Consultant with over 15 years of combined experience in the areas of HR, Business Administrative Management and Marketing.

She has worked within a broad range of industries, including: oil & gas, architecture, law, information technology, engineering, accounting and business consulting firms.  She works with companies on both a full time and part time consulting basis to help them address their HR management, recruitment and policy needs.

She is also a Chartered Professional in Human Resources (CPHR).  CPHRs are uniquely qualified to help you achieve your business goals. With proven expertise across nine key business metrics, a CPHR has the knowledge and the experience to address the factors that underpin the degree of your immediate and long term success.

For your HR requirements contact Wendy at 

Wendy’s Specialties:
HR Management
Employee Relations
Administrative Management
Senior Management HR Advisory
Alberta Employment Standards
Conflict Resolution
Team Building

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