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  • HR Heartbeat: Risky fixed-term contracts, National Work Zone Awareness Week and…

HR Heartbeat: Risky fixed-term contracts, National Work Zone Awareness Week and…

This week, we take a closer look at why fixed term contracts can be risky for employers, why you should encourage safe driving among employees and so much more.

First published on Monday, Apr 08, 2024

Last updated on Monday, Apr 08, 2024

3 min read

Have you heard the latest news?

Welcome to HR Heartbeat, where we give you a rundown of the week's top employment law stories. Stay on the pulse of current trends impacting your business, plus get up-to-the-minute commentary on all things HR and legal.

Working for workers

Ontario’s Working for Workers Four Act, 2024, has received royal assent. Some of its requirements are already in full effect, and a few others will take effect at a later date set by government regulation.

The Act introduces the following new employer requirements:

  • Wage protections—employers must now pay workers for all work done for them, including work done during trial shifts. You also can’t deduct wages from your employee’s pay cheques because of cash shortages or loss of property by a client or customer on that employee’s watch. This includes cases of dine-and-dash or gas-and-dash, where clients take off without settling their bills.
  • Tip sharing—if your business operates in the hospitality or service industry and participates in tip sharing, you must now have a tip-sharing policy and display it in an area visible to all employees. Plus, you must keep a hard copy of your tip policy for at least three years after it expires. This requirement will come into effect on June 21, 2024.
  • Pay transparency – employers must now include the expected wage or salary range in publicly advertised job postings. You must also state if you’ll use Artificial Intelligence (AI) to screen applicants.
  • Vacation pay—you must now clarify how vacation pay is distributed. Though it’s typically paid in a lump sum before your employee takes their vacation or on their regular payday, if you agree to an alternative payout method, you must have it in writing. This requirement comes into effect on June 21, 2024.
  • Workplace sexual harassment—The government of Ontario is developing policies to limit the scope and use of non-disclosure agreements (NDAs) in settling cases of workplace harassment, misconduct, or violence.
  • Critical illness leaves—the Government of Ontario is also developing legislative options to create a new job-protected leave for critical illnesses like cancer, aligning the duration of this leave with the 26-week Federal Employment Insurance sickness benefit.

It’s important to be aware of employment law updates promptly, as it’s your responsibility to ensure your business operates in accordance with provincial legislation.

If you need help navigating the ever-changing employment law landscape, turn to BrightAdvice for round-the-clock advice from our team of qualified employment relations advisors.

Gear up for National Work Zone Awareness Week

The National Work Zone Awareness Week (NWZAW) is an annual campaign to encourage safe driving through highway work zones at the start of the construction season.

During NWZAW, the spotlight is on work zone safety, emphasizing that everyone—motorists and road workers—is responsible for maintaining safety. Through awareness, NWZAW aims to reduce collisions, workplace injuries, and fatalities in work zones.

It takes place between April 15 and April 19 this year. Since it’s only a week away, here’s what you should be paying attention to foster a safety-conscious culture, especially if you’re an employer in the construction industry.

  1. Prioritize safety training, awareness programs, and regular reminders for workers.
  2. Develop traffic management plans for work zones. This may involve lane closures, reduced speeds, and traffic pattern shifts.
  3. Ensure your workers frequently review and understand these plans.
  4. Remember that signage and communication are crucial. Make sure there is proper signage throughout work zones.

Staying on top of your health and safety obligations can be challenging, but with BrightSafe on your side, it doesn’t have to be. It’s packed with everything you need to build a safety-conscious culture, from risk assessments to safety plans and comprehensive e-learning courses on topics like Driving for Business.

Who knew fixed-term contracts are risky for employers?

In a recent case, an employee on a one-year fixed-term contract was terminated without cause after just six months of employment.

The termination clause in their employment agreement was considered void because they did not conform with Ontario’s Employment Standards Act. Because of this, the lower Court ordered that the rest of the fixed-term contract be paid to the employee.

The employer appealed the decision and argued that the clause setting a fixed term of employment also served as a termination clause, so it should also be considered void.

If the Court were to accept this argument, it would mean the employee would be entitled to common law reasonable notice with a duty to mitigate, which might amount to only a few months.

The Ontario Court of Appeals rejected this argument, stating that a fixed-term clause doesn’t double as a termination clause. Because the fixed-term clause remained in effect, the employer was ordered to pay out salary and benefits for the remaining six months of the term.

Many employers use fixed-term employment arrangements, assuming they’ll limit their legal obligations at termination. However, fixed-term employment contracts can carry significant legal liability, and employers should expect terminated fixed-term employees to claim payout until the end of the contract routinely.

Want to learn more about fixed-term contracts? Ask BrightLightning, “Do I have to give notice to end a fixed-term contract”?

That's it for today! Come back next week for more HR news so you stay ahead of major employment law changes.

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