Top 3 tips to ensure your business complies with HR & employment laws

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Candace Synchyshyn, CPHR Candidate
Candace Synchyshyn, CPHR Candidate
Manager, Human Resources, Payworks

Candace is a CPHR Candidate who has spent the last five years partnering with employees to support and guide them as they realize success. She fosters trust through transparency, leveraging employees’ strengths and identifying opportunities for growth.
Directrice, Ressources humaines, Payworks

Candace, candidate au CRHA, travaille depuis 5 ans avec les employés pour les soutenir et les guider dans leurs succès. Sa transparence inspire confiance aux employés, qui peuvent ainsi exploiter leurs atouts et identifier les opportunités de développement.

When you own a business, time often feels like it's in short supply. From growing and supporting your client base to managing day-to-day operations, it may be difficult to prioritize the administrative duties required to comply with Canadian human resources and employment laws.

While employment and HR requirements can seem overwhelming, building a sufficient basis of knowledge upon which to properly manage your employment law obligations can help protect you from costly compliance issues in the future. Here are our top three tips to make sure your business is HR compliant and follows all Canadian employment laws:

1. Know which laws apply to you and your business

Some small business owners mistakenly think they're exempt from employment laws since they only have a handful of employees. While there are certain employment laws that only apply to larger employers, even if your business only has one employee, you still have to comply with certain minimum employment standards.

If your business is in a federally regulated industry (such as banking, ferry and port services or radio and television broadcasting), federal employment standards will apply; all other industries must comply with provincial or territorial employment standards. These standards are designed to ensure that your employees are treated fairly, setting parameters for minimum wage, annual vacations and other types of leave, statutory holidays and hours of work. If your employees are unionized, there may be additional standards within their collective agreement that you also need to follow. To learn more about the employment laws that apply to your business, please visit the Government of Canada’s Employment standards site.

2. Ensure employment contracts are written, signed and meet the minimum standards

No matter the size of your business, it's best practice to have a written employment contract signed by a new employee. If you rely on an oral contract alone, you're at risk if a dispute arises or the employee’s contract is terminated - the burden of proof is on you as the employer to prove the original parameters of the contract, which is significantly more challenging without documentation.

Keep your province or territory’s employment standards legislation in mind when developing your standard written employment contract. For example, a statement that entitles an employee to two weeks of vacation would contradict the employment standards in Saskatchewan, where starting vacation is three weeks long. In other regions, the legal minimum reflects the employee’s length of service, rather than a set minimum amount.

3. Create (and follow) written employment policies

While some provinces and territories require businesses to establish employment policies on topics like workplace violence, harassment and occupational health and safety, many small business owners opt to create written policies beyond the minimum requirements. These policies can be helpful to employees in illuminating what your expectations are as their employer, but you must ensure that you strictly follow all policies in turn.

Any policy that an employer creates and doesn’t follow could create liability for the business. For example, if your company’s harassment policy dictates that an investigation process must be initiated after a complaint is made and you fail to follow that process, you may be held liable if your employee brings forth a human rights complaint.

Of course, we've never met a human resources professional who doesn’t cringe at the thought of being known as the "Policy Police!" When creating policies, it's best practice to ensure they apply to all employees and aren't designed to limit creative thought or set up unnecessary red tape. Policies should be designed and rolled out as needed or mandated.

Managing employees is a serious and multi-faceted responsibility, and making sure that you’re in compliance with Canada’s HR and employment laws will help you ensure that your organization is on the right track.

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