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Ontario Promotes Workplace Fairness

  • Issued: January 19, 2011
  • Content last reviewed: January 2011

Ontario is advancing fairness in the workplace by providing new online, interactive tools and multilingual resources to help Ontarians understand their employment rights and responsibilities. It is investing $6 million over two years to create a task force to eliminate the employment standards claims backlog. And it has changed the employment standards claim-filing process to shorten investigation wait times.

These improvements will provide employees with a faster and clearer investigation process, and a better understanding of their rights under the Employment Standards Act, 2000. The Employment Standards Modernization strategy aims to establish services that achieve fairness for employees, while helping business to be increasingly competitive in the global economy.

Multilingual Resources

In some areas in Ontario, newcomers are able to run a small business or be employed with little use of Canada’s official languages. However, some newcomers are unaware of their workplace rights and responsibilities. Ontario routinely receives the largest number of immigrants to Canada.

The goal of the Ministry of Labour is to ensure safe, healthy and fair workplaces for all Ontarians. The Ministry of Labour has produced posters and resources in 23 languages – and has made available a multilingual toll-free information line – to help Ontarians understand their employment rights and responsibilities. The resources and toll-free line services (1-800-531-5551) are available in:

  • Arabic
  • Bengali
  • Dari
  • Chinese (simplified)
  • Chinese (traditional)
  • English
  • Farsi
  • French
  • Tagalog
  • Greek
  • Gujarati
  • Hindi
  • Oji-Cree
  • Italian
  • Korean
  • Polish
  • Portuguese
  • Punjabi
  • Russian
  • Spanish
  • Tamil
  • Urdu
  • Vietnamese

Ontarians can access these resources at the ministry’s online multilingual portal page at: ontario.ca/employmentrights.

Faster Claims Resolution

Changes that facilitate faster resolution of employment standards claims were implemented on January 19, 2011.

The changes require employees, where appropriate, to inform their employer of their employment standards issue before an Employment Standards complaint will be assigned for investigation. Most employers want to do the right thing and they will often remedy the situation promptly and voluntarily, if they agree there is a valid claim.

Employees can contact their employer through regular mail, email, fax or phone. Face-to-face contact is not required. By settling disputes earlier, employers and employees can avoid unnecessary costs and shorten claimant wait times.

While employer notification is the preferred first step, the requirement to contact the employer can be waived in some instances, such as when an employee:

  • is a young worker
  • has a language barrier
  • has a fear of an employer
  • is owed money that is more than five months due, or
  • worked at business that has closed.

The changes also allow the ministry’s employment standards officers to help employers and employees to reach a settlement. Neither party has to participate in such a settlement unless they agree to it. It is completely voluntary.

The legislation also affirms that employment standards officers can deal with undue delays by making a decision on the best information available. In the past, claims have been delayed if one party would not provide all the required information.

The ministry is providing tools and multilingual resources to help employees file a claim. They include:

  • A “Before You Start” to file a claim booklet
  • Revised worksheets to help employees determine if they are owed money
  • New tools employees can use to contact their employers before filing a claim
  • A new-and-improved e-claim and claim form, and
  • A simpler, easy-to-understand interactive claim guide.

These improvements build on previous changes that include centralizing the intake of claims, hiring more staff and using new inspection, education and outreach activities.

Employment Standards Task Force

On August 30, 2010, the new Employment Standards Task Force began eliminating the backlog of employment standards claims. It will operate for two years.

The temporary task force is the first step in the Employment Standards Modernization strategy to:

  • address all outstanding Employment Standards claims
  • shorten wait times for new and future claims investigation, and
  • better assist employers to comply with their obligations through education and awareness.

The task force operates in tandem with the Employment Standards program, with the aim of eliminating the backlog of employment standards claims. The task force works out of the Ministry of Labour offices in Hamilton, Mississauga and Toronto. Staff are dedicated to resolving claims from across the province.

Most claims assigned to the task force are investigated according to an officer's review of written materials and through telephone discussions with parties. In some instances, officers will hold in-person meetings with employees and employers to decide claims.

Employees and employers are provided with reasonable notice for requests for documents and meeting attendance. If a party does not provide documents in the time specified without a good reason, or fails to attend the meeting, officers may base their decisions on the available evidence.

Settlements are an alternative and often efficient way to resolve claims. In some instances, if the parties agree, officers will facilitate settlement discussions. Information about settlements and a Notice of Settlement Form are available online.

Ministry Successes

These changes build on program improvements in recent years to deal with an annual increase in claims, such as centralizing the intake of claims, hiring more staff and using new inspection, education and outreach activities. In 2009-10, the program closed more claims than it received. The current changes to the program will resolve claims faster and prevent the recurrence of a backlog.

Employment Standards Tools

The Ministry of Labour has developed online, interactive tools to help employers and employees comply with the Employment Standards Act, 2000. They include:

The ministry will be developing further tools in the coming months on its website.