For most Ontario employers, the Employment Standards Act sets out basic obligations with respect to record-keeping, hours of work, overtime, public holidays, vacation and various leaves of absence, among other standards. This legislation also sets out an employer’s minimum obligations regarding notice, termination pay and severance pay. For federally-regulated employers in Ontario, the Canada Labour Code serves a similar function.
These statutes can be difficult to interpret and apply in practice, even for seasoned HR professionals. In unionized workplaces, the manner in which employment standards legislation interacts and overlaps with the collective agreement is complex, often leading to unexpected results.
Who is eligible for overtime pay? Can you pro-rate vacation after a return from pregnancy or parental leave? How does “emergency leave” affect our absenteeism-management program? Must we observe “Family Day” when our contract already provides for a dozen holidays? These are typical issues we deal with on a regular basis.
With a wide array of enforcement mechanisms and a dramatic increase in the number of complaints and workplace audits, employers cannot afford to turn a blind eye to these requirements. The recent advent of class-action lawsuits seeking compensation for unpaid overtime pay serves as a cautionary tale: an employer ignores these requirements at his or her peril.
We can help untangle the complex web of employment standards and guide managers through the maze that is the Employment Standards Act or Canada Labour Code.
George A. Leibbrandt