On April 3, 2014, the Ontario Ministry of Labour announced the focus of its 2014-15 Employment Standards Act (ESA) inspection blitzes. A “blitz” occurs when the Ministry of Labour (MOL) decides to have its employment standards officers target industries that have a history of employment standards violations or industries that employ vulnerable workers in order to ensure compliance with the ESA.
This year the MOL is targeting issues such as the use of interns, vulnerable and temporary foreign workers and temporary help agency workers as part of its provincial blitzes. These issues have received tremendous media attention lately. It will also target specific sectors in specific regions of Ontario.
The stated purpose of an inspection blitz is for employment standards officers to visit employers to ensure compliance with core ESA standards such as posting the ESA poster, providing wage statements, not making unauthorized deductions, complying with record keeping, hours of work, eating periods, overtime pay, minimum wage, public holidays, vacation with pay requirements, and in the case of temporary help agencies, providing required information to assignment employees and not charging employees fees.
If violations are found during an inspection, officers may issue a range of compliance tools, including compliance orders, orders to pay wages/fees, or Part I Notices of Offence (“tickets”).
In some cases, prosecution may be considered, and employers may also be re-inspected at a later date.
The province-wide inspection blitzes will target the following:
- From April to June 2014 the MOL will target Internships in the Marketing/Public Relations, Software Development, Retail, Media, Film and Entertainment industries. Unpaid internships have been a hot issue in the media as of late and the MOL wants to ensure compliance with the provisions of the ESA.
- From September to November 2014 the MOL will target Vulnerable and Temporary Foreign Workers in the Restaurants, Building Services, Personal Care Services, Buisness Support Services and Agriculture sectors of the economy.
- From January to February 2015 the MOL will target Temporary Help Agencies to ensure compliance with the ESA.
The regional inspection initiatives will target the following:
- From June to July 2014, the MOL will target Venterinary Clinics and Security Services in the Central West Region of Ontario including Simcoe, Peel, Dufferin and York.
- From June to July 2014 the MOL will target Auto Dealerships and Supermarkets in the Central East Region of Ontario including Toronto and Durham.
- From June to July 2014 to MOL will target Tourism and Seasonal Employees in Eastern Ontario including Ottawa, Kingston and Peterborough.
- From June to July 2014 to MOL will target Professional Offices in Northern Ontario including Thunder Bay, North Bay, Timmins, Sudbury and Sault Ste. Marie.
Employers should make sure they understand what is required and their obligations under the law. They should conduct a self-audit of their workplace to ensure they have addressed all the requirements under the Employment Standards Act and are in compliance before an ESA officer comes knocking at the door.
The Human Resources Advisor
If you are not sure how to be in compliance, check out the HRA for information and best practice on how to comply. The A-Z manual provides you with legally-reviewed answers to your daily employment law and payroll questions.
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