Employment Standards Ministry Under Fire
Republished with the permission of Canadian HR Reporter.
Caller Beware: Ministry Helpline Comes Under Fire
By Liz Berner
(Note: Although this article specifically refers to the Ontario Ministry, it has implications for all provinces).
If you rely on the Ministry of Labour’s employment standards helpline for advice on Ontario-based employees, you may not be getting the full story. The helpline has come under scrutiny in recent weeks after becoming the target of a lawsuit for allegedly giving negligent advice to callers.
Employers that call in to the helpline are advised of the minimum requirements they must meet under the province’s Employment Standards Act — but there may be additional requirements under common law. And if employers rely on incomplete or bad advice, they could leave themselves open to legal action.
It’s a significant concern, especially for small businesses that may not have the resources for in-house legal counsel, according to Nicole Troster, senior policy analyst at the Ontario branch of the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB).
“It’s dangerous because you can have an employer who in good faith is going to the government who puts the policies in place, and asking them, ‘What are the requirements?’” she said. “The problem is, they’re told about employment standards which are minimum requirements but there are common law precedents which could entail additional requirements… so it can leave the employer in a very precarious situation.”
Employers that rely on advice that turns out to be incomplete or misleading may find themselves liable — even if they had good intentions.
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