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There’s a lot more to Bill 148 than minimum wage hikes and personal emergency leave

So Ontario’s Ministry of Labour (MOL) is hiring 175 new “employment standards officers.” It has set a target of inspecting one in 10 workplaces every year. And it has essentially stated that they are no longer there to help workplaces comply – they’re there to lay charges from now on.

If you are a small or medium-sized business, and you don’t have a full-time compliance person, you need to be paying very close attention to all this, because it could most certainly jump up and bite you.

For most of us, when you hear “MOL inspector,” you think of serious workplace hazards on construction sites or in factories – things like safety equipment, guards and shields, excessive noise, or hazardous chemicals in the air. And, to be sure, the MOL is still doing this important work.

But what we’re talking about here is a new focus on largely administrative rules and regulations, and a change in attitude from education on compliance, to punishment for non-compliance.

Remember when, if the MOL found some minor administrative infraction – like an out-of-date WSIB poster or something – they would issue an order and give you 60 days to comply? No longer. Now they’re more likely to lay charges and issue fines right off the bat — $350 for starters, and up to $1500 per infraction.

It’s the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB) that’s sounding the alarm on these new labour policies, and the way they are being applied.

I think they have a point. There’s something scary going on when the bureaucrats in a provincial government ministry say they are “becoming a more traditional law enforcement agency, and less an agency involved in customer service.” They actually published that statement – “less involved in customer service.”

And it’s even scarier when this “law enforcement agency” – the MOL – has extraordinary powers that no police force in the country is allowed under our constitution and the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Such as the ability to enter any workplace without notice or warrant or probable cause. Or to seize anything they like without court order. Or to place liens on personal property. Or to publicly shame any businesses not in full compliance by publishing their names on a “bad businesses” website.

I was talking to Eva Miranda, District Manager for the CFIB, at a local event they hosted a few weeks ago, and she really opened my eyes to what’s going on here. She also gave me a quick list of current requirements that businesses have to make very sure they’ve got covered.

  • Post the “Health and Safety at Work, Prevention Starts Here” poster in a prominent location or common area where all employees will see it.
  • Train all workers and supervisors in basic health and safety awareness, and maintain current records of the training.
  • Post the WSIB “In Case of Injury at Work” poster (note that there was new one issued a few weeks ago).
  • Post a copy of the Occupational Health and Safety Act book (the green book).
  • Develop and post a “Violence Policy and Program.”
  • Develop and post a “Harassment Policy and Program.”
  • Develop and post a “Health and Safety Policy and Program.”
  • Elect a “health and safety representative,” if you have 6 or more employees, but fewer than 20; elect a Joint Health and Safety Committee if you have 20 or more.
  • Maintain a First Aid Kit and ensure that there is at least one First Aid Certified worker available at all times.
  • Post a copy of the “Employment Standards in Ontario” poster AND distribute a paper or electronic copy to each employee.
  • Develop policies, practices and procedures on the “Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act,” such as “Accessibilities Standards for Customer Service.”

The CFIB also strongly recommends taking steps to comply with other current requirements, that include the following:

  • Develop a system for tracking (and planning) scheduling changes, including shift changes and cancelations.
  • Develop a “Customer Privacy Policy” to comply with the “Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act.”
  • Develop a system for tracking all employee leaves, including Personal Emergency Leave days.

Note that there are many other requirements, especially those that apply to specific types of workplaces. Note also that keeping careful records of compliance is often just as important as compliance.

The CFIB has pretty comprehensive information on all of these topics, and provides consultation to members. You can reach them through their website at https://www.cfib-fcei.ca

If there is a topic that you would like me to write about, please email me at bill@penmore.com.

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