The following is a list of pitfalls and common foibles for which many employers have been sued. Stop what you’re doing and take head.  It’s cheaper in the long run to be informed, than it is to be sued.

1. Make everyone an “independent contractor” to avoid costly payroll benefits 

Independent contractor status is a very slippery slope if not clearly defined at the outset. CRA wants their pound of flesh and this is where they always come looking for it.

INSIST your contractor demonstrates self-employment. Your engagement must not be their sole source of income. Furthermore incorporation does not constitute self-employment.

Read more>> Globe & Mail insights on when CRA decides what ‘contractors or small business owners to audit.  BC Labour: Employee or Independent Contractor Fact Sheet

2. Classifying all workers as salaried

Classifying workers as salaried employees always sounds easier but a word of caution – this does not exempt employers from paying overtime for hours worked outside of the regular 40 hour week.

  • Employment Standards on wage and hour law issues here.

3. Letting workers take lunch whenever they want

Employees are required to take a 30-minute unpaid meal period if he/she works more than five hours.Letting employees take their 30 minute unpaid lunch break whenever they want can also put your company in the potential throws of an employment lawsuit.

“An employee must not work more than five hours in a row without a 30-minute unpaid meal break. An employee who is required to work or be available for work during a meal break must be paid for the meal break.”

What this means is the break must be taken no later the end of the employee’s fifth hour of work. If the employee does not take the meal break within this period, the employer must pay the worker one additional hour of wages.

4. Not providing training about harassment, bullying and discrimination to managers and supervisors

This hot topic is called Bill 14 and it came into effect July 1 2012 with Worksafe BC.
Kellie Auld of Simply Communicating tells it like it is. “ This is something that will have an impact on all employers in B.C. because it means that personal harassment, or bullying; or continued work-related stress could become Worker’s Compensation Claims. “

… “Education is going to be crucial in managing this new legislative bill and communicating with employees at all levels in terms of what constituted bullying, harassment, work-related stress, will be huge.”

5. Terminating Workers While on Leave of Absences

Employees have legal protection from termination when taking leave through workers’ compensation, disability, pregnancy, medical, military, jury duty, etc and workers are very clearly protected when on leave that is allowed under the Employment Standards Act.

6. Using Non-Compete Agreements to Prevent Employees From Going to the Competition. 

Non-compete agreements are a fact of life for many businesses. However citing unreasonable grounds that prevent someone from earning a living or that unrealistically deter fair trade are fair game for expensive legal battles.

7. Implementing “Use it or Lose it” Vacation Policy

As the employer, you may place a limit on the amount of vacation your employees bank and carry over to the next year, but you can’t not pay them for what has been accrued.

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Barbara Ashton is a senior recruitment specialist with over 30 years real-world business experience and hiring know-how.  Contracted by businesses locally and nationwide to recruit A-level talent, Barbara champions sustainable leadership and employment practices.

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Contact Barbara Ashton: 250-574-5869 or [email protected]

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