By: Helen Patterson
Your worst nightmare is beginning. The Ministry of Labour is knocking at your door and auditing you for improper payment of wages. You didn’t know you were calculating overtime pay, statutory holiday pay and vacation pay incorrectly. Your star employee has told you she is pregnant and will be starting maternity leave in two months, and you need to hire four other employees as your business is booming! Just when you think everything is going so well, Murphy strikes. You know Murphy don’t you? Shows up and starts causing all types of headaches. Many organizations don’t realize that there is a myriad of HR compliance requirements that they need to consider as an employer. Do you know how to address these situations?
First Things First - Provincial/Territorial or Federal Jurisdiction?
Before a company can begin to navigate the complex web of regulations that apply to it as an employer, it will need to step back and assess its business. Is it a shipping business? A bank? Or a TV or radio broadcast company? If the answer is yes, then it is a federally regulated employer, and this covers approximately six percent of employees in Canada. Companies such as restaurants, grocers, other retail operators and manufacturing companies generally will operate under provincial employment standards and other HR laws. You should check this resource out and seek legal assistance if you’re not sure whether you are a federal employer.
Employment or Labour Standards
If you are a large national employer, operating across Canada, you likely know there are over 200 unique pieces of legislation that impact your business from payroll, human rights, privacy to occupational health and safety, employment standards and more. And that’s just the employment-related regulations; there are also other business rules that you’ll need to consider depending on the industry you’re in. If you are a smaller business, and operate within only one province, you might think it is easier, but there is just as much to worry about. Employment or labour standards is your starting point – these laws cover everything from hours of work and overtime, to time off protection, statutory holiday and vacation pay, breaks and more.
Put it this way – if you don’t know these laws, your employees certainly do. There is so much more available on the Ministry of Labour websites now compared to when I first started in the human resources field. The laws and the Ministry interpretations are not always easy to understand and it takes time to comprehend all of your obligations if you don’t deal with it on a day-to-day basis. Admit it – you’d rather be focusing on the growth of your business and how you are going to pay your suppliers than the ins and outs of HR compliance. It’s important though that you take the time up-front or hire the right people or company to help you navigate so you’re not surprised.
Privacy and Security
Ensuring that your employees’ sensitive and confidential information is safeguarded and that your company is kept secure is also part of the HR compliance landscape. You’ll want to understand the privacy legislation relating to your employees, as well as an understanding of social media impacts on your workplace, keeping your own data safe through policies and processes, and what compliance requirements might arise from these issues.
There are a number of other laws that apply to employers across Canada, and I like to bucket them into my “Healthy Workplace” category. So much negativity and compliance trouble is the result of employers not abiding by some basic principles relating to creating a safe and healthy workplace for its employers. Here you need to know about Human Rights, Occupational Health and Safety. Topics such as anti-discrimination, anti-harassment, anti-bullying and worker health, safety and protection are covered in these compliance requirements. Some provinces also now have accessibility stand-alone laws, such as the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities (AODA) and the Manitoba Accessibility Act, that address newer customer and employee requirements to help promote accessibility in the workplace. Are you hiring your employees without violating human rights laws? Are you creating policies that prevent sexual harassment, and training your employees when legally required to? Do you report workplace accidents? And the list of questions could go on for pages!
If your head isn’t spinning then that means your business is in good shape and you don’t have to worry about law suits, employment standard complaints or Ministry of Labour or Canada Revenue Audits audits any time soon. Maybe it’s time to look under the carpet to see what’s lurking and proactively assess where you fall on the HR compliance spectrum. It makes good business sense to create the best environment in which your talent can thrive, and HR compliance needs to be part of that equation.
Helen has a unique background combining careers in employment law and human resources and brings this expertise to her role in HR and Compliance Insights and Product Compliance at ADP Canada..