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With the start of a new year comes the opportunity to reflect on your business’s labour relations and start tackling those items on your “to-do” list. Here are three sample New Year’s resolutions that may benefit your business:

1. Revise your template employment contract, if necessary

One of the most important clauses in every employment contract is the termination clause. A well-drafted and enforceable termination clause can be the difference between providing terminated employees with several weeks’ compensation and several months’ (or years’) compensation. As we discussed in a previous blog, several recent Ontario court decisions have clarified some of the differences between enforceable and unenforceable termination clauses. It may be a good time to look at your business’s template employment contract to consider whether your termination clause is enforceable.

It may also be a good time to reflect on whether any other clauses in your employment contract have led to workplace confusion or conflict. If a vague or ambiguous clause has caused your business headaches, it may be worth revising that clause going forward to avoid similar issues in the future.

2. Ensure your business is compliant with the Occupational Health and Safety Act

Among other obligations under the Occupational Health and Safety Act (the “OHSA”), employers with 6 or more employees are required to prepare, and intermittently review, policies with respect to workplace violence and workplace harassment. These policies must also be posted in a conspicuous place at work. Such employers must also develop and maintain written programs for workplace violence and harassment, which, among other things, will set out how the business will investigate complaints of workplace violence and/or harassment.

If your business has not implemented such policies/programs, now is a good time to introduce them. If your business does have such policies, it would be prudent to review them and make any necessary changes to ensure compliance with the OHSA and/or to ensure that the policies are updated to reflect the issues/procedures in your specific workplace.

3. Update/draft important workplace policies

Several significant changes to the legal landscape in 2018 have forced businesses to revise their workplace policies. Most notably, the legalization of cannabis has rendered many businesses’ drug and alcohol policies obsolete, particularly if the policy prohibited the use of “illegal” drugs and alcohol. If your business hasn’t yet updated its drug and alcohol policy, consider doing so before any problems arise.

Similarly, as described in another recent blog, the Ontario government has yet again introduced widespread changes to the Employment Standards Act, 2000 (the “ESA”) and the Labour Relations Act, 1995 with Bill 47. These changes may affect some businesses’ workplace policies.

For example, among the changes introduced in Bill 47 is the elimination of Personal Emergency Leave (“PEL”) in the ESA and the introduction of Sick Leave, Family Responsibility Leave and Bereavement Leave. If your workplace policies still refer to PEL, it will likely be worthwhile to revise those policies to ensure that employees do not attempt to take PEL days pursuant to your policy and then also try to take Sick Leave, Family Responsibility Leave and/or Bereavement Leave under the ESA.

If your business requires any employment-related advice with respect to the above or otherwise, please contact any member of Siskinds’ Labour & Employment Group.

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