There are various workplace policies that a provincially-regulated Ontario employer must have as a matter of law (the vast majority of employers are provincially-regulated). There are other policies that, while not mandatory, are highly desirable for an employer to develop. Failing to have adequate policies in place may expose an employer to liability—either for breaking a law that makes a policy mandatory or for failing to take reasonable steps to avoid breaching its obligations as an employer, even where no policy is strictly required by law.
“Must Have” Policies
Ontario employers must have the following workplace policies or plans:
- Workplace Violence and Harassment Policy: All Ontario employers must have a policy addressing workplace violence and harassment upon hiring their first employee, and the policy must be in writing if they have five or more employees.
- Occupational Health and Safety Policy: An employer with five or more employees must have a written occupational health and safety policy.
- Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act: The number and kind of disability policies required depends on the type and size of employer. Large private-sector employers (those with 50 or more employees) must have a written accessibility plan and a multiyear accessibility policy, while smaller employers (those with 49 or fewer employees) are required to have an accessibility plan, but the plan need not be in writing. This is in addition to the requirement for customer service-related policies, and the numerous other obligations placed on employers under the AODA.
- Pay Equity: While all employers with 10 or more employees in Ontario must comply with the Pay Equity Act, a documented pay equity plan is required for private-sector employers that had 100 employees on January 1, 1988.
These policies make up a key part of the broader obligations imposed on employers under the above statutes. Certain industries may also have their own mandatory industry-wide or worksite-specific policies.
“Good to Have” Policies
Ontario employers should strongly consider developing and implementing the following policies:
- Human Rights, Antidiscrimination and Harassment, and Complaints Policy: Although not strictly mandated by Ontario’s Human Rights Code, the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal effectively expects all employers to have a human rights policy that provides for protections against discrimination and harassment in employment based on protected grounds, and which provides a mechanism for lodging complaints within the workplace. Thus, all Ontario employers should have such a policy.
- Social Media Policy: Information and message control, confidentiality, and protection of intellectual property are among the many reasons why an employer would want to implement a social media policy that specifies, among other things, what employees may and may not post on the Internet, how they should identify themselves when posting information on the Internet, and who within the company is responsible for speaking on behalf of the company.
- Information Technology and Electronic Use Policies: Employers should make every effort to ensure that their employees understand the line between personal and work use of information technology, and to ensure that employees are aware of whether they have a reasonable expectation of privacy when using employer-provided IT and electronic resources.
- Conflicts, Nepotism, and/or Fraternization Policies: Having written policies on conflicts of interest, nepotism, and/or fraternization can help employers steer their employees clear of potential hazards and uphold disciplinary action against employees who disregard such guidance.
- Attendance and/or Absenteeism Policies: Many employers find it helpful to have policies dealing with (culpable) absenteeism, though care must be taken when dealing with (non-culpable) chronic absenteeism due to an employee’s disability.
- Vacation Policy: A vacation policy may help avoid confusion around employees’ and their employer’s rights regarding vacation and potential disputes concerning, for example, scheduling and carryover of vacation time.
- Overtime Policy: Employers may benefit from written overtime policies, particularly if they seek to control the amount of overtime their employees work and/or to implement overtime preapproval or other oversight.