Employment & Labour

Three laws that Ontario small businesses need to know

By Doug MacLeod

It is extremely difficult for small businesses to keep up to date on Ontario’s employment laws. This blog summarizes three laws that apply to Ontario workplaces.

Employment Standards Act

This law sets out minimum standards of employment like the minimum wage, when overtime must be paid, nine statutory holidays, termination pay and severance pay. This law also requires an employer to create and maintain certain records. For more information, click here.

There are exceptions to these requirements. For example, some employees are not entitled to overtime pay and/or termination pay. For more information on these exceptions, click here.

This law is being changed on a regular basis. For changes that took effect in 2015, click here.

Ontario Human Rights Code

This law prohibits discrimination on 16 prohibited grounds including gender, race, place of origin, and disability. Gender identity and gender expression were added to this list in 2014.

Typically, about 50 per cent of all employment related complaints are disability related. For more information about discrimination on the basis of disability, click here.

About 20 to 25 per cent of complaints are gender related and sexual harassment complaints are common. For a summary of two recent cases where an employer was ordered to pay employees $150,000 and $300,000 for sexual harassment/sexual assault, click here.

Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act

Many small businesses are unaware of this law and according to media reports over 70 per cent of businesses did not comply with the customer service regulation which required employers to, among other things, conduct mandatory training and, for organizations with more than 20 employees, file a report with the Ontario government. For more information on this law, click here.

The most onerous obligations that are being imposed on employers under this law are coming into effect on January 1, 2016 or January 1, 2017 depending on the size of the organization.

In my opinion, non-compliance with employment laws will increasingly become a problem in Ontario – particularly for small employers. The fact is that these employers do not have the time, expertise or resources to keep up to date on changes to the law.

For example, how many employers have provided a copy of a poster to employees as required by a recently-enacted amendment to the Employment Standards Act?

Unless the Ontario government does a better job of educating employers on new laws and enforcing them then I am concerned the laws will increasingly be unknowingly ignored.

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