Employees must tell employer before filing a claim and new ESA resources have been rolled out

Faced with a backlog of approximately 14,000 employment standards complaints, the Ontario government has made the following statutory and policy changes to the complaint process under the Employment Standards Act:

Employees Must Tell Employer before Filing MOL Complaint. Employees are now required, before the Ministry of Labour will process an employment standards complaint, to tell their employer about the “basis for [the employee’s] view that this Act has been or is being contravened and, if he or she is of the view that wages are owed, the amount of the wages”.  

According to MOL policy, however, an employee who is a young worker, has a language barrier, “has a fear of an employer”, is owed money that is more than five months due, or worked at a business that has closed, is not required to tell his employer before filing a Ministry of Labour complaint. One wonders how broadly “fear of an employer” will be interpreted.

The requirement to tell your employer before filing a complaint, allows employers the opportunity to settle an issue before it becomes a costly – and potentially broader– formal complaint to the Ministry of Labour which might expand to include a group of employees.

Encouraging Settlements. The Employment Standards Act now expressly permits Employment Standards Officers to work with the parties to settle. Settlements will terminate the complaint, the MOL’s investigation, and all other proceedings regarding the complaint (excepting prosecutions).

Backlog Taskforce. The government also announced that it is investing $6 million over two years to create a task force to eliminate the employment standards claims backlog.  

New Multilingual ESA Resources. The government has also developed a series of multilingual resources on employment standards. Through a new web portal and an improved Employment Standards Information Centre, employees can now access a variety of educational resources in 23 different languages, from Arabic to Vietnamese.  

New Web‐Based ESA Tools. These developments come on the heels of the Ontario government’s introduction of several web‐based tools designed to help employers and employees calculate public holiday pay as well as statutory termination and severance pay.  

The government’s fact sheet on its employment standards “modernization strategy” is at: http://www.labour.gov.on.ca/english/news/bg_escampaign.php.  

The new multilingual employment standards web portal is at: http://www.labour.gov.on.ca/english/multi/index.php.