By Stuart Ducoffe, Ceridian for Small Business

Whether you have one employee or a thousand employees, Canadian employment law applies to your organization. Although the employment laws vary by jurisdiction, and sometimes around the number of employees employed by the organization, one thing is clear: all small businesses must abide by an ever increasing number of employment laws.

Employment Standards Legislation

Having a handful of employees, does not exempt you from the obligation to pay overtime, nor does it permit employees to work whatever hours are required “to get the job done”. Employment standards legislation across Canada sets out limitations regarding a wide variety of employment terms including:

Failure to adhere to these minimum standards can result in significant liability to the employer in the event of a complaint and may result in an audit of your overall employment standards compliance by the province’s Ministry of Labour.  An outline of the minimum standards can be found here.

Human Rights Legislation

Minimum employment standards are not the only employment laws which business, small and large alike, must adhere to. Human rights legislation provides protection to employees against discrimination on the basis of prohibited grounds including race, age, gender, disability, marital status, or family status. Given complaints by employees and former employees to human rights commissions/tribunals is at no cost to the employee/former employee and the awards against employers are skyrocketing, it is not surprising this area of employer compliance has become a “minefield”.

Violence and Harassment

Finally, although varying across jurisdictions, employment laws have recently been introduced to protect employees against violence and harassment in the workplace.  Under these laws, all employers have obligations to prevent violence and harassment, by implementing policies, formal complaint procedures, and training. In some cases, these laws actually require the employer to disclose to all employees certain personal details regarding a specific employee’s domestic dispute where that dispute could “spillover” into the workplace.

Although certainly not exhaustive, the employment laws outlined above provide a brief overview of some of the employment laws imposed upon small business employers. Seeking legal advice to ensure compliance with your jurisdiction’s employment laws is a fundamental risk management strategy for your business.

This post originally appeared on the Ceridian for Small Business Blog, February 25, 2014.

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