Q. My employer is not following the Employment Standards Act, mainly regarding sick leave and leave required to care for a sick child or elderly parent. What does the Employment Standards Act say about an employer’s responsibilities in such cases?
— Thank-you, Agatha B.
A. The first thing to understand about the Employment Standards Act is that it is a set of mandatory minimum requirements. To put that another way, compliance is not optional.
Employers are free to provide more than these minimums but cannot provide less.
However, the non-compliance might be something that is only a clerical error. You may want to start by addressing this with the human resources person at your employer. Most of these provisions are not overly complicated and you might be able to get this sorted out with your employer if the issue is one of not understanding rather than refusing to comply.
If you aren’t able to resolve this issue with your employer directly, you may want to contact the Ministry of Labour to raise your concern; being that your employer is not following certain sections of the Employment Standards Act. The Ministry of Labour enforces the Employment Standards Act.
Unlike hiring a lawyer to protect your rights as an employee, because the Ministry of Labour is a branch of the government that enforces the Employment Standards Act, someone will receive your complaint, investigate it and, if appropriate, force your employer to comply without any cost to you.
If the Ministry of Labour concludes that you are owed money, it might make an order requiring your employer to pay you what you are owed.
However, there were a number of changes made to the Employment Standards Act in Bill 47, known as the Making Ontario Open for Business Act. This includes removing the provisions related to Personal Emergency Leave days. These have been replaced with some other leave days that fall into specific categories but they are all unpaid. These changes are effective now but only became effective as of January 1, 2019. They might be related to the issues you that are having.
Lastly, it is probably also worth adding that it would be highly inappropriate for your employer to dismiss you or punish you because you asked your employer to comply with the Employment Standards Act or because you contacted the Ministry of Labour about your employer not complying with the Employment Standards Act. This is again set out in the Employment Standards Act.
Scott Hawryliw is a civil litigation lawyer with SRH Litigation in Barrie, Ont. He helps clients with legal problems related to injuries, employment, and business issues and can be reached at [email protected]
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