Employment Law

Employment LawEvery Canadian will, at some point in their lives, enter into employment relationships – many do so as young as 14. An employment relationship will involve legal documents and processes, and Right Legal can help you find the right lawyer to guide you through those processes, as well as handle any employment-related claims you might have.

What is employment law?

Employment law governs the hiring, firing, and compensation of individuals in Canada, by other individuals or by businesses. Employment law also includes laws against discrimination in hiring practices, and concerning human rights in the workplace. The rights of workers’ unions to engage in collective bargaining touch on employment law issues, but are more properly considered another area of law, that being labour law.

A significant area of employment law concerns termination of employees. Generally, an employer is only entitled to terminate employment for “cause”, and whether any single act by the employee will constitute cause to terminate depends on its severity. While minor misdemeanour may not be cause to terminate on its own, repeated patterns of behaviour can also constitute cause. If the employer does not have, or is not able to prove, valid cause to terminate the employee, the employee will be entitled to notice of termination, or pay in lieu of notice (also known as “severance”). Notice means that the employer has informed the employee of their intent to terminate them, but the employee is still considered employed until the notice period expires. However, it is far more common for employees to be terminated immediately with financial compensation. Both the length of the notice period or amount of pay in lieu of notice increase based on the length of time the employee has been with their employer.

If no employment contract exists between employer and employee, the court will imply that certain things would have been agreed upon by both parties. The requirement of “reasonable notice”, or pay in lieu of notice, is one of those things that will be implied by the court.

What laws govern employment in Canada?

Generally, the provinces have jurisdiction to enact laws relating to employment, and each province will have an Employment Standards Act which establishes, among other things, maximum working hours and minimum wage. Those Acts will also set out public holidays, allowable vacation time for employees, as well as the various types of leave that are available: maternity and paternity leave, emergency leave, and family medical or bereavement leave. Provinces will also have a statute concerning human rights and discrimination in the workplace generally called the Human Rights Code.

The Federal government has the authority to legislate on employment in areas of exclusive federal jurisdiction, such as shipping, railways, and banks.

What sort of work would an employment lawyer do?

Employment lawyers will be involved in drafting employment agreements and helping employers structure their businesses to best handle employees, as well as advising businesses on their obligations toward employees such as withholding tax. When representing individuals, employment lawyers (see Edmonton employment lawyers) often find themselves arguing wrongful dismissal claims, filing lawsuits against a company that terminated a person and claiming that insufficient notice was provided, that the “cause” for termination was invalid, or some other factor. Employment lawyers for businesses and other employers are used to spending time defending against wrongful termination claims.

Points of Interest

Paying employees (and withholding tax from employee payments) are considered some of the highest duties of employers at law. Directors of a corporation can be found personally liable for unpaid employees’ wages, as well as tax payable on those wages to the federal government.

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