We Spoke to a Labour Lawyer to Break Down Employee Rights You Should Know

It’s not uncommon for employers and employees to have misunderstandings about their rights and responsibilities at work.

And considering how much time we actually spend at work (what feels like a lifetime for some) it’s quite surprising to learn that there are tons of misconceptions about what is actually (see: legally) right.

As an employer, it’s important that you’re aware of your responsibilities relating to employee rights, employment terms, contracts, leave, and wages. And in return, an employee deserves to fully understand each of these rights.

In order to sort fact from fiction (because Google is a black hole that will lead you in circles), we put together some common workplace myths and spoke to Mike Blanchard of Caley Wray Labour and Employment Lawyers in Toronto, ON., to shed some light on some of our most frequent misconceptions.



Q: What happens if you’re not paid by your employer?
A: If you have not received your wages for hours you have worked you can submit a claim with the Ministry of Labour.

Q: Are employers required to pay the exact same salary to two different people with the same qualifications doing the same job?
A: If there is a union with a wage schedule in their collective agreement, then no. Also, many employers have pay equity policies addressing differential pay. Otherwise, if such discrepancy in pay is not prohibited under the Human Rights Code or other legislation, then differential pay is allowed.

Q: How many hours are you required to work to receive a break?
A: Generally speaking, you are required to get a 30-minute break to eat after five hours of work. A longer break can be negotiated with the employer, or could be negotiated in a collective agreement if you are unionized.

Q: Is it mandatory for your employer to pay you when you take sick leave?
A: Certain types of leave from the workplace may be covered by different insurance plans an employer may provide. Employers, however, are not under an obligation to provide such plans. There are numerous forms of leave that the employer may have to grant employees in the right circumstances. However, none of them have to be paid.


Q: Should an employer be making deductions from your paycheque?
A: Employers are required by many different statutes to make deductions from your paycheque – such as Income tax, CPP, and EI. Other forms of withholding may not be allowed, however.

Q: Is an employer required to provide benefits (health insurance benefits, dental benefits, etc) to employees?
A: While many employers do provide some form of benefits to their employees, they are not required by law to provide such.

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Q: Does an employer need to warn you or at least provide a reason before firing you?
A: If you are a member of a Union, there often are provisions in the collective agreement that provide for just cause dismissal. This means that employers have to have just cause to dismiss you, which can be challenged in grievance arbitration. This is also true of employees of employers under federal jurisdiction under the Canada Labour Code.

If you’re not a member of a Union and the federal Code does not apply, employers are permitted to terminate employees without giving a reason why or justification for doing so. However, they are required to provide notice to you, by giving you weeks or months before the termination is to take place. Often, employers prefer that the termination be effective immediately, and the length of the notice period is paid to the employee in wages.

Reasonable notice periods are determined by statute (in Ontario, the Employment Standards Act, 2000, section 57). Additionally, long-term employees may be entitled to a greater common law notice period above the statutory minimums. Long term employees who have been terminated should consult an employment lawyer concerning their potential common law entitlement.

Q: What happens if an employee is asked to wear something they are uncomfortable with and they refuse to wear it, is the employer allowed to fire them?
A: If the employer’s actions were a violation of the female employees’ rights under the Human Rights Code, if such were discrimination based on their sex, then the employer would not be allowed to terminate them. Such determinations are dependent on each set of facts.