Employment Law Advice for Canadian Manufacturers

Every workplace has its own unique challenges. Canadian manufacturers, struggling with an aging workforce and a lack of available skilled workers, can face a myriad of labor law issues. Given the wide range of employee classifications – from machine operators and technicians to administrators and management, here are some legal tips to help you maximize the efficiency and smooth running of your business and avoid costly mistakes. .

1. Manage an aging workforce

With the need to innovate and keep up with changing technology, we are seeing more and more complaints of age discrimination as employers phase out existing and often older employees without the skills to handle the new technologies.

To manage risk (and address labor shortage issues), employers could consider offering in-house training to workers who may be displaced by technology, and also use this as a way to retain employees. skilled workers who might otherwise retire early. If you are concerned about training costs, you can have an employee stay with you for a certain period of time or be responsible for reimbursing the costs.

2. Manage a more diverse workforce

When it comes to labor shortages, manufacturers should be aware of federal Temporary Foreign Worker (“TFWP”) programs, especially if you are in an eligible manufacturing sector, such as food manufacturing, manufacturing wood products and the manufacture of furniture and related products. If you operate in Quebec, a special pilot project related to the TFWP has expanded this year, with increased flexibilities for employers in certain sectors in that province.

We are also seeing more and more complaints of discrimination based on race as workplace demographics change. Remember that all workers, including your temporary foreign workers, are subject to employment standards and human rights legislation.

3. Management of overtime and working hours

Faced with labor and skills shortages, Canadian manufacturers inevitably find more employees working overtime. All employers must adhere to the maximum hours of work and minimum rest periods required by provincial employment standards legislation. If you regularly pay overtime, consider reviewing how overtime is handled and using averaging agreements or giving employees paid time off. You will need to implement these changes strategically to make them binding on your employees.

4. Risk management related to workforce reductions and business slowdowns

Although this is a typical feature of collective agreements, it is still surprising that most non-unionized workplaces do not have temporary layoff clauses in their employment contracts. We see many employers facing costly constructive dismissal claims due to temporary layoffs.

If you are considering adding a temporary layoff clause to your workers’ terms of employment, you should also have your termination clauses reviewed. When the employees you hire aren’t working or your business experiences a downturn, downsizing can be a significant cost unless you’re well prepared by limiting employee rights in the event of layoff. Unless contractually limited, all employees are entitled to reasonable notice of termination of employment.

A termination clause is rendered unenforceable if it contravenes applicable employment standards legislation. Except in Quebec, termination liability can be managed through carefully drafted employment contracts with enforceable termination provisions. With enforceable termination provisions, you can limit your employees’ rights to the minimum amount required by applicable employment standards legislation, which is significantly less than what the employee would be entitled to under reasonable notice. in common law. Unlike the common law provinces, Quebec poses a particular challenge and different strategies would apply.