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What Happens When Employees Violate Labour Laws

As a business owner, you are responsible for managing your employees and looking after their health and safety while they are on the job. But what happens when someone in your workforce violates a labour law set in place to protect them and you?

If your business possesses a workforce, then you will need to familiarize yourself with the employment standards by province and territory and what those labour regulations mean for you as the manager of your employees.

Here’s what you need to know when it comes to Canadian employment laws and managing your employees.

Canadian Labour Laws and Your Province

Depending on what province or territory your business operates out of Canada, the employment standards and labour laws will differ. It is the Ministry of Labour within each province and territory that dictates the Canadian labour laws and regulations surrounding these employment standards.

For example, the Employment Standards Act is Ontario’s regulatory legislation that dictates how companies must treat their employees, including wages, leave, compensation, holidays, termination, severance, and benefit plans. However, the Employment Standards Act is a separate piece of legislation from the Canada Labour Code, even though they are both similar in nature.

Knowing and understanding employee rights in the workplace can help you treat your workforce fairly while ensuring your business is covered ethically and legally. When an employee exercises their right using these standards, the employer cannot penalize them in any way. If a business owner violates these rights, the consequences include being ordered to compensate or reinstate the employee, pay the penalty, or even be prosecuted.

Union members

If you operate your business within an industry where your workers are unionized, then you will need to account for these unions. The laws surrounding union workers are different from non-union workers, which will affect you and your business. Learn more about unions and labour.

What Are Some Common Employee Violations?

The government and Ministry of Labour have created and set in place Canadian employment laws that regulate the workplace of all employees across the country. As a small business owner, the Employment Standards Act governs that your employees are entitled to work within a space that is free from discrimination and one that follows all health and safety regulations. Your workforce is also entitled to equal pay for equal work and the right to reasonable work hours.

In terms of employer labour law violations, you will need to familiarize yourself with these laws to guarantee they are being followed by both yourself and your employees. Listed below are some of the most common types of employment law violations that can happen between staff members and yourself within the workplace.

  • Theft or destruction of property
  • Health and safety
  • Falsification of documents
  • Physical or sexual harassment
  • Discrimination
  • Insubordination
  • Negligence of duties

Common employee right violations in the workplace

These are the instances where you, as an employer, could be violating the rights of your employees. Such instances include:

  • Unpaid compensable time
  • Unpaid vacation time
  • Payment below minimum wage
  • Improperly calculated overtime pay

In cases like these, you could be at fault for employee time theft, even if you don’t realize it. Therefore, it’s essential to keep accurate track of your employee’s hours to ensure they are adequately compensated and that you are following all laws surrounding work hours, overtime work, and wages.

Can an Employer Fine an Employee for Safety Violations?

If an employee fails to follow the safety regulations in your workplace, do you have grounds for fining or citing them? You, as the employer, do not have this power.

As an employer, it is your responsibility to ensure that your staff members are looked after and cared for. It falls to you to guarantee all safety measures are in place- whether it’s training your employees on the proper form for using a ladder, ensuring they have the certification for warehouse machinery, or the appropriate PPE when handling waste or hazardous materials.

However, if an inspection officer were to come into your workplace and notice one of your employees has ignored safety protocol, individual provinces can and will fine the employee for this violation instead of the employer.

In many instances, when an employee violates safety protocol, it will fall to the employer to make amends. Typically, the employer will be fined or cited for this issue. However, certain provinces have put in place statutes that allow the government to directly fine the employee for these violations instead of the employer.

For example, the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA) of Ontario dictates that employees can be fined directly for safety violations. That being said, the employer must illustrate that they did everything in their power to properly train and educate their employees on these health and safety protocols.

In either case, when it comes to fines, the company will always receive a higher penalty than the individual employee.

How to Report Workplace Violations as an Employer

If you’re a business owner or manager wondering how best to deal with violating employee rights in the workplace, you’ll have various options available to you. If they do not follow the safety protocol set in place to protect them, what recourse do you have as their employer?

The penalty for workplace violations can be significant. Whether the fault of the employer or employee, such instances are taken seriously. In most cases, a fine is issued to the guilty party. Still, there is always the possibility of jail time if the violation is severe enough. In some cases, both a fine and jail time are warranted.

Writing up employees

In instances where the employee has blatantly failed to comply with your business’ code of conduct and company policy, you as the owner can decide how to best reprimand the employee.

Many companies write up their employees with official warnings, using a three-strikes policy. You can also place your workers on probation to monitor their actions at work before deciding how to deal with their breach of conduct. It is best to have a policy in place that will help you stay consistent when issues like these arise. Your staff will also have an understanding of the consequences waiting for them if they fail to comply.

Terminating employees

Once employees have been given three official warnings or write-ups, you as the business owner have grounds to terminate their employment. If the employee executes a major breach in their contract, you have the right to dismiss them outright. However, as the owner and manager, it will fall to you to ensure you have the evidence and cause to back up this termination.

Unjust dismissal of an employee can result in penalties for the business or even a discrimination lawsuit. The employee has the right to request a written statement from their employer, explaining the terms of dismissal. They can also file a complaint with the Canadian government’s Labour Program for further action. Failure to illustrate hard evidence in the termination of the employee can mean you will have to pay them reparation, as well as your own court costs for the procedures.

Reporting to authorities

In cases where the employee has broken the law, you not only have the right to call the authorities on them, but it could be your legal duty to do so. Reporting criminal activity that has taken place in your business by an employee can also save you and your business’ reputation from damage, depending on the illegal activity in question.

All businesses should possess a policy for employee misconduct to determine how best to respond to these instances and in a uniform manner when various cases arise.

Workplace Inspectors

In certain cases where the violation of labour laws has occurred, a province’s Ministry of Labour can send an inspector to your place of business to determine the violation breach and enforce health and safety ordinances. Specific industries will have dedicated inspectors to do this job, such as construction, health care, mining, and industrial industries.

The inspector will begin this process with compliance orders, which dictate the actions an employer must take to comply with specific legal requirements. If the employer fails to do this, the inspector can issue a ticket or initiate prosecution against you. The inspector will review the business for any violations of employee rights in the workplace and determine if the complaint or claim of injury is warranted.

Once the inspection has taken place, the Ministry of Labour’s inspector can issue a ticket or fine or summons to the Ministry for minor violations. For major violations, the Labour Board can begin prosecution against you, which can result in imprisonment. How the inspector and Ministry of Labour respond to the breach within your workplace will depend on each province’s labour acts.

Using Software to Stay Accountable

The use of time tracking and employee scheduling software can significantly help you and your business to ensure all Canadian employment laws and labour regulations are being followed, and no labour violations are happening on your end. This software solution lets you track regular hours and overtime hours of your employees, so they never go over their maximum work hours, and stop time theft from happening inadvertently.

With software like QuickBooks Time by your side, you’ll always have a complete record of employee shifts should you ever need to reference this information or provide evidence for disputes. Helpful shift scheduling tools also make it easier to manage your employees’ work hours and shift scheduling needs. Access payroll reports gaining valuable insight into your employees’ labour to ensure all laws are being followed.

QuickBooks Time software offers business owners and employee managers the perfect tool to help them manage their workforce successfully. Sign up today for a free trial of this quality software and join the thousands of other businesses across Canada in their successful time tracking and scheduling endeavours.

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