Manage People? Your Employment Law Knowledge is an Essential Business Tool

There are many Ontario companies still not in compliance with the laws for employers. This article will give you insight and help you become compliant— to a degree. This is not an easy task, as laws change often. If you are not up-to-date, you risk having the wrong information.

As of 2010 the ESA (Employment Standards Act) started making visits to ALL businesses. The first step in making sure that you are compliant (so as not to get a ticket or fine) is compiling your research on your industry. Unfortunately, to say that you did not know is not an acceptable excuse. If you run a business, surely you have done your research and made sure you are following the legislations. So find out what do you need in order to make sure that your company is at least close to being compliant.

As a business owner you will also need to get acquainted with is the ESA. This law sets minimum standards for businesses to follow. The ESA establishes basic employer obligations and employee rights with respect to rates of pay, hours of work, overtime, vacations, public holidays, various forms of leave and more. Every province and most industrialized countries have similar legislation.

The ESA is enforced by officers who work for the Employment Standards (ES) Program, which is part of the Ministry of Labour. They visit businesses throughout Ontario.

Here are some key employment standards you should be aware of.

Posting the poster "What you Need to Know".

Most Ontario workplaces are required to put up the poster "What you Need to Know" produced by the Ministry of Labour. This postercan be ordered from the Ministry of Labour website, and it’s free! The poster lets you and your employees know what the key minimum standards are and direct you to more information on the Ministry of Labour website and in the Act itself.

This poster will contain information such as minimum wage, how many breaks and after how long of work. This includes lunch. Which breaks, if any, are paid and which are not? For salary people this is really not an issue. Salary people are paid regardless if they take a break or not and for how long. There are companies that will tell you that you are on salary, then doc your pay when you are absent. Is this legal? No, actually it is not. You are not hourly; therefore you are not docked from any time off. Rather you would make it up, or use what you have banked.

There are also exemptions and special rules that could apply to your business. You should review them.

Next, we also have the Collective agreement which only apply to union members. This is a contract that only labor-level employees are able to be a member of. Managers, supervisors, etc are not a part of the union and have the company at heart. Unions have the employee’s best interest at heart. The union collective agreement will supersede the ESA. The ESA is only a minimum requirements guide. The collective agreement is one that is developed between the union heads and the employer in order to come to an agreement where it involves the employees and what they are entitled to.

We also have the Human Rights Law. This is a law that ensures that people, including employees, are not "harassed." For example; should someone make you feel like you are being discriminated again due to your race, age, sex, etc., then this is something you would discuss with Human Rights Office. You cannot be held back from a promotion, for example, due to your race, color, age, and so forth. Should you feel that you were not given a chance for a promotion, you are free to call your manager’s manager to discuss and resolve this. Should this course of action not satisfy, then you will need to discuss this with your Human Resources department. The next step would be to contact the Human Rights Commission.

We also have legislation called Health and Safety Act. This is where it is the employer’s responsibility to ensure that each employee is safe at work. Make no mistake though, as this is also the obligation of each employee as well. Many people are under that misconception that this is solely the responsibility of the employer. This is not the case and very far from the truth. Those that are responsible and can be legally charged are the employee, the employer and the immediate supervisor. This is a proactive act and has zero tolerance. There is a new bill, which is an amendment to the act (Bill 168).

Bill 168 states that employees are not allowed to be bullied or harassed in any way while at work. It is the responsibility of the employer to ensure there is a strict policy and procedure for any kind of misdemeanor. The government has put this Bill in place to lessen these types of things from happening in the workplace. It’s bad enough this is happening in schools, online and on the streets. Having it in the workforce is unacceptable. Although this has been happening for many years, it has been identified more often in the workplace whereas before it was overlooked and thought of as drama and/or politics in the workplace.

There is a Labour Relations law as well. This dictates that when a company has a union that is present or trying to come into the company, there needs to be at least one labor relations person to help the company facilitate this. The union works with the company to form standard rules and regulations on every aspect. Its sole purpose is to ensure that the employees are treated fairly. The words and meaning of "being treated fairly" are interpreted differently to the union, or employees and the company (i.e., the management and owners). The labor relations person represents the company and tries to work with the union heads to ensure that there is an agreement in place between both parties. Once this is done, a collective agreement is then born and given a renewal date. Approximately two months before the collective agreement is up for renewal, both parties meet to ensure that there is nothing that needs to be amended. This is when the negotiations take place again. The difference is that the collective agreement does not need to be voted on by the employees. Should the employees not accept this, more negations will take place. Should there not be an agreement taking place, this is when you could have a strike or even a lock out. This is something that companies want to avoid, as this is costly to them. They will either shut down or hire replacement workers until the collective agreement is agreed upon. This causes the company to lose income, not to mention slowing down or stopping production in both quality and quantity.

Stay tuned as we look at each part of the law, legislation, acts and codes one by one to help you understand how these factor in to your company.