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Doing Business in Ontario: New Employment Laws Are Overwhelming Small Businesses

By Doug MacLeod,
August 12, 2014 9:41 am

On August 13, 2014 I am scheduled to tape an episode of Rogers TVs Business Fix which is hosted by Brian Brennan and David Rubin. To obtain a schedule for Business Fix, follow the link below.

I will be discussing two obligations that are imposed on Ontario employers; that is:

(i) Mandatory training under the Accessibility for Ontarians for Disabilities Act (AODA); and the Occupational Health & Safety Act (OHSA)

(ii) The requirement to provide employees time off work to care for or support a family member with a serious condition, or to care for or support a critically ill child

New Mandatory Training Obligations for Small Employers

Mandatory Training under AODA has been in effect since January 1, 2012

Most small employers are not aware of the existence of AODA because most employees and customers are not disabled and the issue of providing access to or accommodating disabled customers does therefore not occur very often.

I suspect the Ontario government is trying to educate small employers about their obligations under AODA. However, the reality is, this kind of training is not a priority and likely will not become a priority until the Ontario government starts enforcing this legislation. Fines for non-compliance are significant.

Mandatory Training under OHSA has been in effect since July 1, 2014

OHSA training is a different story. Small employers are generally more aware of OHSA because the Ministry of Labour regularly target certain industries for workplace safety inspections and fines for a violation of this law is significant. Fines of $ 50 000 or more are common if a workplace accident is involved.

New Mandatory Employee Leaves of Absence

Employee absenteeism is the bane of most small business owners existence. There is often only one person in a position and therefore a persons absence can disrupt operations. Because one employee typically performs a diverse range of duties at a small business it is often difficult to find a temporary replacement. Accordingly existing staff usually have to pick up the slack. A day here and there is not usually a problem but extended absences can create an overworked and stresses out workforce.

Accordingly, small business owners traditionally tended to refuse requests for time off work. The legal landscape is changing in this regard. It started with pregnancy leave. This was followed by mandatory parental leave, personal emergency leave and family emergency leave. Three new leaves take effect in October.

Mandatory Family Caregiver Leave takes Effect on October 29, 2014

An employee will have the right to take 8 weeks unpaid leave to provide care and support to certain family members who have a serious medical condition including a spouse, child, parent, sibling or grandparent. The term serious medical condition is not defined

Critical Ill Child Care leave takes Effect on October 29, 2014

An employee with 6 months service can take up to 37 weeks off work to provide care or support to a critically ill child if a qualified health practitioner certifies that the child is critically ill and requires the care or support of one or more parents.

This leave is in addition to other mandatory leaves such as the Family Emergency leave and the Personal Emergency leave.

Employer Takeaways

It is difficult for small business owners to keep up to date on new employment laws.

In our experience, it is relatively easy to comply with the mandatory training requirements under AODA and OHSA in terms of time and cost.

On the other hand, we think it will be very difficult for small employers to find temporary workers to replace staff who take family caregiver or critical child care leaves. If few people take this leave like the dearth of men taking parental leave this will not be a practical problem.

If, however, employees start regularly taking leaves of absence to care for parents or children then small employers will no doubt start thinking of ways to discourage employees from taking such a leave, or start hiring employees who are less likely to take the leave. This could result in employees filing no cost complaints against small businesses under the Employment Standards Act or the Human Rights Code.

In sum, these new leaves will likely place an extra scheduling burden on employers. Taking preventive measures like establishing a relationship with a temporary placement agency will reduce the harmful impact that this new law can have on your business.

For more information on recent developments in Ontarios employment laws, and their implications on employers follow the link below.

For the past 25 years, Doug MacLeod of the MacLeod Law Firm has been advising employers on all aspects of the employment relationship. If you have any questions, you can contact him at 416 317-9894 or at

Reproduced from