Practical Tips and Tricks for Managing a Unionized Workforce

While strikes involving high-profile unions like the recently resolved Federal Worker strike are often hot topics in the news, we rarely hear much about the day-to-day relationships between the employer and the union or how those relationships are effectively managed. In this blog, we take a step back from the high-intensity environment of a strike and provide some practical tips and tricks on effectively managing the unionized workforce and the ongoing relationship with a union.

Unionized Workplaces

The number one question I get asked by family, friends and even complete strangers when I tell them I practice labour and employment law is: “What is the difference between labour and employment law?”. Given the passion with which this question is often delivered, this seems to be a burning question on most people’s minds. Ultimately, while labour and employment lawyers all focus on workplace issues and disputes, labour lawyers handle conflicts that arise in workplaces which have a union or unions representing their workers that are bound by the terms of a collective agreement.

Labour law is often focused on helping the parties manage their relationship and find practical solutions to what are often complex problems.

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An Important Legal Update on Naloxone Kits in the Workplace

Last year, Bill 88 or the Working for Workers Act, 2022 introduced a mandate under the Occupational Health and Safety Act (“OHSA”) that all Ontario’s provincially regulated employers needed to provide naloxone kits on site if there was a risk of a worker having an opioid overdose. At the time, employers were not given a specific timeline as to when they needed to comply with this legislation. Now, in an ongoing attempt to tackle the opioid crisis, firmer timelines have been implemented. 

By June 1, 2023, employers need to determine whether or not they must provide naloxone kits in the workplace, and if so, they must meet certain minimum requirements.  

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No At-Will Employment in Canada

Are you an employer with operations in both Canada & the US? This post is for you.

Contracts vs At-Will Employment

For our US readers, Canada does not have at-will employment. In Canada, employment relationships are governed by employment contracts, either written or implied, and various employment laws and regulations. Employers are generally required to provide reasonable notice or pay in lieu of notice when terminating an employee without cause.

For our Canadian readers, at-will employment is a term used in the United States to describe the employment relationship between an employer and an employee, where either party can terminate the employment at any time, with or without cause, and with or without notice. This means that an employer can fire an employee for any reason or no reason at all, as long as it is not for an illegal reason (such as discrimination). Similarly, an employee can quit their job at any time without providing a reason or notice.

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Join SpringLaw’s Lisa Stam and guest speaker Anna Malazhavaya, a tax lawyer and founder of Advotax Law, as they walk you through the intersection of employment and tax law for your mobile workforce.

Date: Wednesday, May 17, 2023
Time: 10:30-11:00 am EST
Register today: Click here!

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Employee Productivity Issues: How to Manage Time Theft

When the vast majority of the Canadian workforce suddenly transitioned to working from home in 2020, managers were concerned about employee productivity. Most employees believed remote work increased productivity, while managers believed the opposite. The debate continues. Candidly, I am on the “increased productivity” side of the debate: working remotely allows me to focus without interruption and bring my full energy to my work by avoiding a soul-sucking commute. However, managers’ concerns about productivity are not always misplaced. Employees who do not put in the hours required by their contract are engaging in time theft, which is typically cause for discipline and, in particularly egregious circumstances, termination for cause. 

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Collective Bargaining Remote Work

As a fully virtual firm since 2017, we are big remote working fans. We recognize that, as a result of the pandemic, most work environments have come to accept and adopt remote working With the recent public sector strike, remote work is once again a hot topic. This time however, the conversation has taken a new and interesting direction as the Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC) seeks to enshrine the right to remote work in new collective agreements for the hundreds of thousands of workers it represents. 

PSAC announced early Monday morning that it had reached a tentative deal with the Federal Government on behalf of the more than 120,000 Treasury Board workers it represents. At the time of writing this blog, the strike continues for the 35,000 Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) workers who are also represented by PSAC. 

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When Do You Need an Employment Lawyer?

When it comes to employment law, there’s no shortage of information out there. From blogs to TikToks to YouTube videos, there’s a wealth of knowledge available at your fingertips. And let’s not forget about the government guides – they’re a great resource for staying up-to-date on the latest employment laws and regulations. While there’s a ton of information that can help employers navigate employment issues DIY, there are still situations where you really need an employment lawyer. 

Let’s be real – running a business can be a real headache sometimes, especially when you throw in all the legal mumbo jumbo. That’s where employment lawyers come in – we’re the legal experts who can help you navigate the murky waters of employment law and protect your business.

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termination process and employee entitlements

Many HR professionals say the toughest part of their job is employee terminations. No surprise there, and it’s usually no day at the beach for the exiting employee either. Mapping out the termination process and employee entitlements in advance will reduce the sting of terminations for both sides. 

It Pays to be Nitpicky!

Another reason to have all ducks in a row: courts have awarded additional damages for aspects of the manner of dismissal that may seem a little nitpicky. A few examples: an employer’s failure to provide a written termination letter, late statutory payments, miscalculations in statutory amounts, and inaccurate ROEs. Courts have also called employers out for failing to explain an employee’s rights in a termination letter. All the more reason for employers to tighten up their termination process and termination letter template.

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Legal Fees Explained

So you’ve decided that you’d like to hire an employment/labour law firm. What about legal fees? You’ve seen the ads on TV and online where lawyers promise not to take a cut of anything until you win. Other lawyers’ services seem to cost an arm and a leg. How do you navigate the world of legal fees? This can be tricky, so below we’ve outlined some of the most common fee structures for employment lawyers.

Hourly Rate

This is one of the most popular fee structures used by employment lawyers. The lawyer charges an hourly rate for their time, and the client pays for the actual time spent working on the case. Basically, the lawyer will track every minute (or even every six minutes, to be exact) they spend on your case, and they’ll charge you for that time. That means if they spend 18 minutes on the phone with you, they’re gonna bill you for 0.3 hours.

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Join SpringLaw’s Tiffany Thomas and Evaleen Hellinga as they discuss employee accommodations and how long an employer must accommodate an employee before considering termination.

Date: Wednesday, April 19, 2023
Time: 10:30-11:00 am EST
Register today: Click here!

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