Employment & Labour

In the rise of the contract economy, workers must know their rights

By AdvocateDaily.com Staff

In the “uberization” of the job market, millennials are often hardest hit, taking on lower-paying, part-time or contract work, and they should know their rights, Toronto employment lawyer Natalie MacDonald tells Business News Network.

If a freelancer on a six-month contract is still working one day after the contract ends, for example, they transition to having the same rights as a “common law employee,” says MacDonald, co-founder and managing partner Rudner MacDonald LLP's Toronto office and author of Extraordinary Damages in Canadian Employment Law.

She calls this the “myth of the contract.”

“Many employers think if you have a contract in place for six months for an employee, if it ends after six months, it protects the employer. The myth is, it does not,” MacDonald says.

When the contract expires, and the worker continues working, the worker is considered a common law employee and “therefore entitled to all the entitlements an employee would have.”

That includes reasonable notice and severance, she says.

“If the person is terminated from their contract and it’s a day over, that person has legal rights and they should explore them,” MacDonald says, suggesting a consultation with a lawyer to ensure issues such as overtime entitlements, workplace harassment claims and human rights are covered.

It’s also important to know about rights to benefits, she adds. An organization may choose not to provide benefits to a contract worker. Therefore, even if the employee worked over the contract, there would be no entitlement to benefits. However, if the worker continues employment at least one day after the contract, and they have benefits, they may be entitled to benefits going forward.

MacDonald says contract and part-time work has a “three-pronged, cyclical effect on the economy.”

Millennials have less money to spend, they often live paycheque to paycheque, may live with their parents, which is bad for morale — and which in turn, is bad for the economy.

There’s a revolution in the workplace, and millennials are the casualties, she says.

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