Human resources professionals are responsible for making sure that their organizations comply with all laws relevant to employment. An HR professional who does not have enough education or experience with the law can lead a company into trouble.

There are many different aspects of the law that an HR professional should be familiar with. Non-compliance with these employment laws can lead to severe consequences for the company.

Discussing employment law

Aimee Rieck, a human resources manager and industry expert, explains the most important laws that pertain to HR and how they can affect the proper operation of any company.

Why Human Resources Professionals Need to Know the Law

HR professionals have many different focuses and responsibilities. Some HR professionals are involved with recruitment. Some are concerned with employee relations. Others are in charge of compensation. Many HR professionals need to cover all of these bases in the course of their daily jobs.

HR professionals know that being in compliance with all relevant laws will keep their companies out of legal trouble. Even though they are not legal professionals, they must fully understand these laws in order to comply with them.

Legal Areas HR Professionals Must Know

Workplace Discrimination

Discrimination is one of the most common complaints against any company. HR professionals must make sure that companies comply with the Human Rights Code to ensure they are not infringing on the rights of their employees, to protect against potential Human Rights complaints.

Companies must not discriminate based on the protected grounds set out under the Human Rights Code, including religion, family status, sex, gender expression and identity, race or color, ethnicity, creed, national origin, genetic information, disability, or age. Protected ground may differ depending on which Provincial or Federal jurisdiction the company must adhere to. HR professionals in Ontario should also be conversant with the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act and the Pay Equity Act.

Employment Standards

The Employment Standards Act, Ontario, sets out the minimum requirements employers must adhere to and the rights and responsibilities of employees and employers in most Ontario workplaces. This Act covers basic rules such as hours of work, minimum wage, overtime pay, vacation pay, public holidays, eating periods, and equal pay. It also covers more case specific matters such as leaves of absence, termination, and severance of employment.

Every section of this Act must be adhered to and HR professionals refer to it frequently to ensure they are protecting their employers from costly legal action resulting from Ministry of Labour inspections or investigations, or wrongful dismissal cases.

Labour Relations

Unionized workplaces are required to adhere to the Ontario Labour Relations Act. Other provinces have their own specific Labour Relations Act or Code, which varies by Province, and Federally under the Canada Labour Code. These Acts govern the relationship between unions and employers.

The Act is concerned with fair labour practices and covers requirements such as processes for establishing a union within a workplace, and collective bargaining.

Company managers wearing hard hats

Health and Safety

Safety falls under the perview of OHSA, the Occupational Health and Safety Act. This act was established with the goal of reducing employee injuries, illnesses, and deaths. Many lines of work are dangerous, and OHSA attempts to reduce these perils. Even employers in office settings need to be aware of OHSA rules, as they can cover such accidents as slips and falls and repetitive strain injuries.

More robust workplaces such as mining or manufacturing are also governed Health and Safety Codes. HR professionals should be aware of any codes which may be applicable to their specific workplaces.

In the event of an accident arising at a workplace, HR professionals should be aware of, understand and adhere to Ministry of Labour policies, procedures and processes. In addition, first aid and emergency supplies requirements are stipulated in Regulation 1101, which is governed by WSIB, the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board.

Workers’ compensation laws cover the process of paying for healthcare and services required by people who are injured on the job. The WSIA, Workplace Safety and Insurance Act, or Provincial and federal regulations need to be followed in these cases for accident reporting and workplace accommodations for early and safe return to work.

HR professionals are also responsible for violence and harassment in the workplace policies, procedures and training for their employees. It is crucial for HR professionals to fully understand these laws in order to protect their companies from costly and image-damaging litigation.

Understanding HR Laws

HR professionals must have a complete understanding of these legal areas in order to perform their jobs effectively. They need to work with their corporate counsel to make sure these laws are being obeyed. Aimee Rieck emphasizes the importance of non-discrimination laws and believes that adhering to these will improve the workplace performance and culture.