5 Basics Every Startup & Growing Business Should Know About Employment Law.

AuthorCooper, McInnes
PositionSpecial Report: Employment Law

Growing a business takes people. In early days, many startups have just one "employee": the founder. At some point, the founder might retain the services of independent contractors to perform certain services. And eventually, many startups and growing businesses hire employees and become, for the first time, an employer. But creating an employer-employee relationship carries consequences: the law grants "employees" certain benefits and protections--and imposes on employers certain obligations and liabilities. There's a lot to know about being an employer. Here are five employment law basics to get you started.

  1. Know and comply with employment standards laws, but remember: they're just minimums.

    Every employer should get a copy of the employment standards laws that apply to them, read them and keep them handy for reference. Every province has employment standards laws and there is a federal law that applies to federally-regulated employers (which is different than federally-incorporated employers, and includes: banks; marine shipping, ferry and port services; airports and airlines; railway and road transportation that involves crossing provincial or international borders; telephone and cable systems; and radio and television broadcasting). Employment standards laws are generally comprised of a statute in addition to one or more regulations, and are typically called employment or labour standards acts or codes. For example:

    * The N.B. Employment Standards Act.

    * The N.S. Labour Standards Code.

    * The P.E.I. Employment Standards Act.

    * The N.L. Labour Standards Act.

    * The Canada Labour Code (applicable to federally-regulated employers)

    Employment conditions. Employment standards laws apply to most employees and set minimum standards for certain employment conditions. The employment conditions the law covers vary between provinces for provincially-regulated employers, and federally for federally-regulated employers, but common ones include minimum wages, hours of work, public holidays, vacation time and pay, and termination notice. They also often set out restrictions, such as on the employment of children, or on the ability to terminate employees that have reached a specified amount of service (as in N.S.). And they typically mandate certain employee leave entitlements, including for maternity and parental, sick, bereavement and, most recently in some provinces such as New Brunswick, domestic violence, leave.

    Enforcement. A government agency, division or department is generally charged with enforcing the laws, investigating potential violations of the laws, providing information to employers and employees, and resolving employee complaints about violations. An employer can call the relevant governmental agency with questions, but it's important that employers understand that the agency's response isn't legal advice nor a defence to a complaint or...

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