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As an employer, it is critical to consistently review your workplace policies to ensure that they are up to date and in accordance with relevant legislation that governs human rights, occupational health and safety, employment standards, and any other legislation that governs the employment relationship. Especially during the unprecedented times combatting COVID-19 in the workplace, rules and regulations are constantly changing. It is important as an employer, to notify and make employees aware of newly implemented or modified policies.

Below, we discuss a few tips to strengthen the enforceability of workplace policies.

BEST PRACTICES REGARDING WORKPLACE POLICIES

When creating workplace policies, it is important for employers to ensure they are clear and comprehensive. The reasoning behind this is two-fold. Employees are more likely to abide by workplace policies that they are not confused by and that they can clearly understand. Further, if a workplace policy is ambiguous, it will generally be interpreted by the courts in the favour of the employee. Therefore, it is crucial for employers to use simple, transparent, and concise language when formulating workplace policies.

Ensure Your Workplace Policy Adheres to Current Legislation

When creating workplace policies, it is important that employers implement policies that adhere to relevant legislation that governs employment relationships. If any workplace policies can be interpreted as violating legislation such as the employment standards act, it will generally be deemed unenforceable. Furthermore, employers may increase their liability if they refrain from implementing certain workplace policies that are mandated by relevant legislation. A recent example of this notion is the newly passed Working for Workers Act, 2021 which creates an obligation for some employers to have a written policy regarding the right to disconnect. 

Consistently Enforce Your Workplace Policies 

When enforcing workplace policies, it is important that employers consistently enforce these policies amongst all employees. Generally, workplace policies are not effective if they are not followed, or employees are not knowledgeable of them. To that end, employers should ensure that all employees are made aware of workplace policies, and that management is trained on the established processes and procedures regarding the enforcement of such policies in appropriate situations.

Include Workplace Policies in Employment Contracts

Lastly, workplace policies should be expressly addressed in the employee’s employment contract. If an employer chooses to invest in creating a workplace policy manual, it is important that the policy manual is made part of the employment relationship at the onset. To do this, employers should utilize language in the employment contract that confirms that the employee is bound by both the terms of the employment contract as well as policies included in the policy manual.

Can an Employer Enforce a Policy If the Employee Was Unaware of the Policy?

It depends. 

As noted above, it is the best practice that an employer ensures that workplace policies are communicated to employees in a clear and concise manner, that the employee is made aware that their employment relationship is being governed by the relevant workplace policy, and that the policy is consistently enforced against all employees. To that end, if the employer fails to take action, it will be difficult for them to enforce the policy on an employee that is unaware of the policy. 

However, if the employer made all reasonable efforts to ensure that the employee was aware of the policy, and the employee still claims that they were unaware, the employer would have a much stronger case and will likely succeed in enforcing the workplace policy. 

Toronto Employment Lawyers Advising Employers On Workplace Policies And Policy Development 

If you are an employer who would like a review of your current workplace policies, or you do not have any workplace policies in place, contact Sultan Lawyers to discuss your options. Please contact us at 416-214-5111 or via email to khayward@sultanlawyers.com.

 


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