The Ontario Ministry of Labour has announced that it will be conducting "blitzes" of retail establishments under the Employment Standards Act, 2000. Among the establishments being targeted are:
- Gas stations
- Retail chains
- Convenience stores
- Other retail/grocery
If you're so inclined, you can read the complete 2013-2014 Blitz Schedule.
The reality is that, compliance with the requirements of the ESA can be complicated. The potential liability can be significant - case in point, a discovery that the employer has misclassified certain employees as being exempt from the overtime requirements under the ESA or, for example, misclassifying a relationship as one of contractor rather than employment.
In any event, these inspections are invasive and will identify any employment policies or practices that are offside the ESA requirements. Smaller and mid-size retail establishments who lack a human resources infrastructure often experience challenges during these inspections. That said, putting a positive spin on it, these inspections can be seen as a way of identifying and correcting improper HR practices. This is a good thing, though it can come with a price tag.
The challenges are not, however, confined to smaller establishments. In fact, larger establishments can face even greater risks. For example, the identification of compliance issues in a franchise environment where policies and practices are, in many cases, uniform across the structure, can have widespread and adverse implications "across" the organization. Certainly red flags will be raised "organization wide" when a practice is determined to be in contravention of an ESA requirement at a single location.
Our firm's experience in grounded firmly in the retail sector and we have pretty much seen it all. There are, indeed, unique challenges facing retail employers and this blitz will put the industry under somewhat of a spotlight (at least for the next few months).
Fortunately, some useful tools are available through the Ministry of Labour to assist not only with these inspections but in putting your HR house in order (at least so far as the minimum ESA requirements are concerned). He are some links to just a few of them:
What Businesses Need to Know (including Keys to Compliance)