The Ontario Ministry of Labour has recently proposed a new regulation under the Occupational Health and Safety Act that would prescribe certain functions of the Office of the Worker Adviser and the Office of the Employer Adviser in regard to worker complaints of reprisals by employers under section 50 of the Act. What does it really mean?
Who are these bodies?
First, the Office of the Worker Adviser was established in 1985 as an independent agency of the Ontario Ministry of Labour. Its main function is to provide free services to non-unionized injured workers and their survivors in workplace insurance matters (but it is not part of the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board).
Injured workers or survivors of injured workers typically use the service to have the office:
- Represent them in appeals at either the WSIB or the Workplace Safety and Insurance Appeals Tribunal
- Provide information over the phone about workplace insurance benefits and procedures
- Provide written materials on common workplace insurance problems
- Inform them about other places where they can find help
Second, the Office of the Employer Adviser was also established in 1985 as an independent agency of the Ontario Ministry of Labour. Its main goal is to help Ontario employers manage their workplace safety and insurance costs by providing expert advice to any size employer and representing employers who employ fewer than 100 employees. The service is completely confidential and free, given that it is funded through the premiums or administrative fees employers pay the WSIB.
The main functions provided by the Office of the Employer Adviser include:
- Advice: employers are able to call and make telephone queries to the advice centre in order to help resolve disputes early in the process
- Representation: the office provides representation at the WSIB and the Workplace Safety and Insurance Appeals Tribunal for employers who employ fewer than 100 employees
- Education: the office has several publications to help employers meet their daily needs and navigate their way through the workplace safety and insurance system
There is also a special site for construction employers to deal with that particular sector.
What is the proposal?
There is a public consultation happening right now until January 31, 2012, on the Ministry of Labour’s proposal to create a new Regulation under the Occupational Health and Safety Act that would prescribe certain functions of the worker and employer advisers in regard to worker complaints of reprisals by employers under section 50 of the Act.
What is a reprisal under the Act? Section 50 of the Act states that no employer or person acting on behalf of an employer is permitted to:
- Dismiss or threaten to dismiss a worker
- Discipline or suspend or threaten to discipline or suspend a worker
- Impose any penalty upon a worker
- Intimidate or coerce a worker
because the worker has acted in compliance with the Act or the regulations or an order made thereunder, has sought the enforcement of the Act or the regulations or has given evidence in a proceeding in respect of the enforcement of the Act or the regulations or in an inquest under the Coroners Act.
Under the proposed regulation, the functions of the Office of the Worker Adviser would be to:
- Educate non-unionized workers about reprisals
- Advise non-unionized workers who believe that they may be the subject of a reprisal
- Represent non-unionized workers who are making reprisal complaints or are the subject of referrals to the Ontario Labour Relations Board
The proposed functions of the Office of the Employer Adviser would be to:
- Educate, advise and represent employers with fewer than 50 unionized or non-unionized employees in respect of reprisals and referrals to the OLRB under section 50 of the Act
- Provide legal representation only for proceedings before the Ontario Labour Relations Board
Providing this kind of assistance and education to employers and employees seems like a good idea. What do you think?
First Reference Human Resources and Compliance Editor