Regardless of what industry you are in, if your employees ever feel their job is threatening or dangerous, they have the right to refuse to do it. What does this mean for you as a business owner? The best thing you can do is become familiar with the Canada Labour Code regarding dangerous work. Then, read through and understand the procedures your employees must follow when exercising their rights.
According to the Canada Employment and Immigration Union, danger means any condition, situation, or activity that could cause sickness or an injury. The term is not well-defined, so once an employee refuses to work, there are a few more steps to prove whether the danger really exists. At this point, as a business owner, you have to sit tight and wait for a health and safety officer to investigate. You also can’t punish your employee for refusing unsafe work until all the procedures and avenues for appeal are complete.
Following the Procedures
- The employee reports the dangerous situation. If several of your employees are claiming the same thing, they may have one person represent the group. They can file as a group or as individuals.
- You investigate the problem. Let the individual show you what they think is dangerous. If you think danger exists, you should protect your employees and then inform the workplace committee or representative what you’ve done to resolve the problem. Regardless of what you decide, you have to file a written report of what you saw.
- If you think no danger exists, the employee can continue with the right to refuse dangerous work complaint and go straight to the workplace committee. The committee will assign a representative to both you and the employee so both sides are equally represented during the investigation.
- The committee will then let you know what it found. At this point, you have to go over the results and make a decision that danger exists and you’ll take action, it exists but the refusal isn’t allowed, or danger doesn’t exist.
If the employee doesn’t agree with your decision, they can take their complaint to the Minister of Labour. During this part of the investigation, you can assign someone else to do the work.
The Minister will conduct research and give you a written decision of the findings. If the Minister agrees there is no danger to the employee, the individual has 10 days to appeal the decision to an appeals officer.
If you don’t agree with the Minister’s decision, you have 30 days to appeal the decision in writing.
The Code also gives you the authority to discipline an employee who took advantage of the procedure. Keep in mind, if you do discipline an employee, they can appeal to the Canada Industrial Relations Board or the Public Service Labour Relations Board if they feel you treated them unfairly. You should also go over the Labour facts before terminating an employee.
One of your jobs as an employer is to make sure your employees are safe from danger during a normal workday. If an employee feels you’re putting them in danger, they can refuse to do the work. It’s up to you to make sure the correct procedures are followed so the job can continue forward safely.