Common Employment Law Issues for Seasonal Workers in Canada
Do you hire around the holidays? Here’s are a few things to keep in mind regarding employment law issues for seasonal workers in Canada.
Hiring a few seasonal employees is a great way to handle a temporary rush, but it does present some interesting employment issues that employers must consider before they put out the word that they’re hiring temporary workers.
Failure to have a signed contract
Employers sometimes fall into the habit that since they’re only hiring an employee for a few weeks or months, they don’t have to worry about creating a formal employment contract. This failure can lead to an assortment of legal contracts, especially if the employee feels they’ve been unfairly treated. Information included in the contract should include:
- The business’s standard termination clause
- The length of time the employee is expected to work for the company
- If the employee is expected to work on Sundays and public holidays
- How much the employee will be paid
- What the employee’s duties are
Labour shortages and the hiring of seasonal foreign employees
Canada’s agriculture industry has struggled to find enough employees to care for livestock and help raise/harvest crops. The problem has reached the point where farmers are genuinely concerned that they won’t have enough employees on hand to successfully harvest the crops. The problem has grown so severe, it was one of the topics on the agenda when the country’s agriculture met in July for the annual federal-provincial-territorial meeting.
Since so many Canadian residents aren’t interested in working in the agriculture industry, farmers and ranchers have to rely on Canada’s temporary foreign worker program. While the program does a great deal to ease the seasonal labour woes of farmers/ranchers, the business owners must be diligent about maintaining their employment records and not making any of the legal mistakes that plagued Canada’s restaurant industry in 2014 when several employers faced fraud charges for violating the temporary foreign worker program.
Working on Sundays and public holidays
In 2001, Ontario lawmakers updated the Employment Standards Act so that if a retail business hires an employee, that employee doesn’t automatically get Sundays and public holidays off. For the most part, this has been a good thing for retail employers since those are often their busiest days, however the employer doesn’t have the right to force a seasonal employee to work on Sundays if the employee has a religious belief/observance that prohibits them from earning money on that day. The employee is supposed to alert the employer to the problem, in writing, within 48 hours of the Sunday they require off. The best way for employers and seasonal employees to avoid a potential conflict is discussing the situation during the initial job interview.
The days that Ontario considers public holidays include:
- New Year’s Day
- Family Day
- Good Friday
- Victoria Day
- Canada Day
- Labour Day
- Thanksgiving Day
- Christmas Day
- December 26
Failing to provide adequate training for seasonal employees
Since things are often backing up, many business owners hire a seasonal employee and put them straight to work. This is a very dangerous habit. Legally, employers are required to provide seasonal employees with the same type of training they’d provide full time employees who were hired to handle the same duties. Failure to provide sufficient training makes the employer liable if the seasonal employee is injured while working. Employers can’t lose sight of the fact that they are legally required to pay the employee for the entire training period.
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