Employment & Labour

Employers’ top three misconceptions about legal services

By AdvocateDaily.com Staff

Employers who take legal shortcuts could end up paying more to fix the situation than they initially saved, Toronto employment lawyer Christopher Achkar tells AdvocateDaily.com.

Achkar, founder of Achkar Law, says he understands the desire of businesses to save money, but they need to make sure they aren’t doing themselves a disservice by forgoing legal advice when it's needed.

“When employers are faced with a legal problem, they're often inclined to deal with it on their own. But more often than not, they quickly regret it, and it ends up costing them much more money than if a lawyer had dealt with it properly in the first place,” says Achkar, who has put together a list of his top three misconceptions employers have about legal services.

1. Online contracts are airtight

Achkar says many employers, particularly smaller ones, are tempted to trawl the ocean of free resources online to draw up “do-it-yourself” employment contracts and other documents integral to the running of the company.

It’s a temptation they should resist, he says.

“The danger of having contracts drawn up by people who don’t know what they're doing is that they are often not enforceable,” says Achkar, who used a recent post to explore the problems associated with faulty termination clauses in employment agreements.

“People think they are saving a couple thousand dollars on a contract, but they could end up spending 10 or 20 times that amount when they terminate a person because they haven’t properly limited their entitlements,” he explains.

2. Ministry of Labour proceedings are straightforward enough to handle alone

Achkar says employers are often understandably caught with their guard down when the Ministry of Labour comes calling following a complaint or inquiry from a worker.

“The ministry doesn’t do a very good job of telling employers that their conversations will be documented, and could be used against them,” he says. “An owner or manager has a phone call with an investigator, thinking it’s confidential or casual, and then will say something they shouldn't or don’t mean. And all of a sudden, the ministry comes back with a decision based on it.”

Achkar says he is typically called in at a later stage after an employer’s inaccurate or ill-advised comment has landed them in hot water.

“By that time, they’re seeking to appeal a ministry decision, as opposed to responding to an investigation,” he says. “It’s much more efficient and effective if you can get someone who knows what they are doing involved from the beginning.”

3. A legal consultation is the same as legal advice

When businesses come to Achkar for help dealing with a potentially troublesome employee, too often it’s a one-time event, he says.

“An initial consultation is a chance for me to talk to the employer in general about how things work, and to get as much information as possible about the scenario they find themselves in,” Achkar says. “Although I may offer some legal advice and propose some ideas about how to proceed, it’s not going to be enough for the employer to continue on their own.”

For the best results, he says lawyers and businesses need to work in partnership so that the legal advice can be tailored to address counterpoints and developing events.

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