Most employees in Ontario benefit from an interconnected web of laws and court rulings. It is important to be informed of these rights, so that you may protect yourself and ensure fair treatment.
It is equally important for small businesses to understand the obligations imposed by Ontario's employment laws in order to efficiently structure their operations, ensure legal compliance and limit the potential for costly litigation. With those thoughts in mind, and an acknowledgment that a plethora of employment rights and obligations exist in Ontario, here is our top ten list that every employee and small business should know:
- Vacation Pay: As an employee in Ontario, you are entitled to vacation pay. As such, your employer must provide you with vacation pay equal to at least 4% of the wages you earned during the period for which the vacation is given.
- Pregnancy and Parental Leave: As a pregnant employee, provided your due date falls at least 13 weeks after you commenced work with your employer, you are entitled to 17 weeks of unpaid leave. In addition to pregnancy leave, you are entitled to 35 weeks of parental leave following the birth of your child. A new father is entitled to 37 weeks of unpaid parental leave, which must be taken within one-year of the birth of his son or daughter, provided he has been working for his current employer for a period of at least 13 weeks.
- Minimum Wage: Employers are required to pay you a minimum wage. The general minimum wage in Ontario, as of June 1, 2014, is $11.00 per hour. If you are a student under 18 years of age working 28 hours or less during the school year or work during the summer holidays you must be paid at least $10.30 per hour. Finally, if you work as a 'liquor server' in a restaurant, pub or bar you are entitled to $9.55 per hour.
- Deductions from your Wages: At times, an employer may, either deliberately or by virtue of a payroll error, withhold your wages or make unilateral deductions. Absent the presence of specific limited circumstances, your employer cannot interfere with your receipt of wages without first obtaining express written consent.
- Freedom from Discrimination: As an employee in Ontario, you have the right to be free from discrimination in the workplace. Discrimination results when you experience differential treatment on the basis of an actual or perceived disability, due to your age, sex, creed, religion, colour, family status, marital status, sexual orientation, citizenship or gender identity.
- Accommodation: If, for example, you are suffering from a physical or mental disability which is affecting your ability to perform the requirements of your job, or have unique child care obligations that require flexibility in the hours that you work, your employer has an obligation to consider if and how your needs may be accommodated. This is no guarantee that the accommodation sought will be legally enforceable but employers are obliged to provide reasonable accommodations up to the point of undue hardship.
- Privacy: In Ontario, depending on the industry in which your work, you may be protected by targeted privacy legislation. In addition, the courts have also recognized a common law right to privacy for all persons (through a new tort action, referred to as 'intrusion upon seclusion'). As such, you have a right to a degree of personal privacy in the workplace. This right is not absolute and varies depending upon the context. For example, you can reasonably expect much greater privacy protection for emails sent through your personal email account while at work than emails sent through a company-provided account.
- Freedom from Violence and Harassment: Every employee in Ontario has the right to be free from violent or harassing behaviour (propagated by management, co-workers, customers or otherwise) while in the workplace. Employers are required to have in place an internal policy and process for dealing with such issues should they arise. Employees are encouraged to inform themselves of the policy in their workplace.
- Reasonable Notice of Termination: Employers in Ontario may legally fire an employee at any time. Unless the employer alleges that the employee was fired for just cause (i.e. theft, violence, drug-usage while at work), however, reasonable notice of the termination must be provided. A failure to provide proper notice entitles employees to commence legal action to seek damages for their resulting lost income.
- Record of Employment: When you leave your job, you are entitled to receive a Record of Employment. Your former employer must issue the Record of Employment within 5 calendar days from your 'interruption of earnings,' if provided in paper. This document is critical if you intend to seek Employment Insurance ("EI") benefits.
If you, as an individual or small business, are interested in learning more about basic worker rights, please contact us directly at: 613-238-4430 or firstname.lastname@example.org.