5 Basic Employment Laws Every Employer Should Know

Canada’s employment laws, particularly in Ontario, are constantly changing. Every year, it seems like the federal and provincial governments are adding or revising labour codes, and this can cause headaches and confusion for both employer and employee.

How can you know your rights, either as a business or a worker, if they’re always changing? Just ask employment lawyers that very same question!

Whether you’re a full-time staff member or a part-time worker, a giant corporation or a startup, you need to be aware of employment laws to ensure that you’re well protected, or that you can take proper action if you feel have been a victim of egregious and unscrupulous behaviour.

Should you wish to avoid being taken to court, or you are considering taking legal action, there are several important elements that you must know.

Here are five basic employment law tips employers and employees should know:

1. Follow the Workplace Code of Conduct

Every company needs to produce, inform, and maintain a workplace code of conduct. This booklet contains the usual workplace rules: no harassment, no bullying, no lewd conduct, no inappropriate attire, no foul language, and the list goes on.

The employer needs to ensure that not only are these policies adopted, but they (executives, management, senior staff, etc.) are abiding by these rules, too.

An employee, meanwhile, must follow these guidelines at all times.

2. Being Tough Does Not Equate to Bullying

Let’s be honest: all of us have come across tough people at the workplace. It can be a supervisor, it can be a middle manager, it can be a senior clerk. They can appear to be serious, stern, and sombre. But can this be identified as bullying? Perhaps to an overly sensitive person but being solemn from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday to Friday does not count as bullying.

Yes, workplaces are trying to eradicate bullying, but it is not the employer’s fault if you’re delicate.

3. Take All Complaints Seriously

Do you feel that a colleague is violating the code of conduct?

Has an employee submitted a complaint about a manager’s behaviour?

Whatever the case might be, it is essential to take all complaints seriously. No matter how benign or unfounded it may seem, the company needs to allocate its resources, manpower, and time to investigate a complaint about sexual harassment, workplace bullying, or physical force.

4. Will Severance Be Extended?

Severance can be a tricky thing, especially if it is not dictated in your employment contract.

For the most part, employees are paid one week of pay for every one year of service. Moreover, the amount employees are give in severance can depend on how many hours you worked in the last six to 12 weeks.

5. Employees & Independent Contractors Are Different

It may be common sense, but many are unaware of the fact that employees and independent contractors are quite different, particularly when it comes to labour law.

Here are a few differences between the two:

  • Employees are given direction and daily tasks; independent contracts are engaged in a specific occupation for a specific project.
  • Employees utilize the company’s equipment; independent contractors have their own supplies.
  • Employees are paid by the hour or annual salary; independent contractors are paid on a per project basis.
  • Employees complete a wide array of tasks; independent contractors complete the work based on specialized skills.

There are a lot more, but these are the rudimentary differences between these two professionals.

Both workers and entrepreneurs must understand these gaps to correctly move ahead in their pursuit for independent contractors and full-time/part-time employees.

The labour market has drastically transformed in the last decade as precarious employment has become the dominant theme. As the type of employment changes, governments respond – sometimes for the better, sometimes for the worse – which can make it difficult to know what you’re liable for, what your rights are, and what you should do to protect yourself with the help of an employment lawyer.

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