The Ontario Ministry of Labour (MOL) is the provincial body that promotes and enforces employment standards, including the Ontario Employment Standards Act (ESA). It is also in charge of labour laws in Ontario through the Ontario Labour Relations Act. Another major area the MOL oversees is the Ontario Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA).
But that’s pretty much it. If an employee or employer calls the MOL, they will only receive information regarding employment standards, labour laws, or health and safety. MOL won’t be able to discuss discrimination, human rights, EI, or the common law, which can really affect an employee or employer’s understanding of their workplace rights and interests.
For example, if an employer calls the Ministry of Labour asking how much severance they must provide an employee they want to dismiss, the MOL will provide information about the minimum entitlements the employee is entitled to under the ESA. If the employee had worked for six years, all MOL can say is that they should receive at least six weeks of notice or termination pay in lieu of notice, and possibly six weeks of severance pay pursuant to the ESA. The employer may think that this is all they need to provide to the employee.
In reality, the employee may be entitled to a lot more severance. If the employee does not have an employment contract with an enforceable termination clause, the employee may be entitled to reasonable notice at common law, which is usually much more than what the ESA provides. See this blog on how to calculate severance.
If that same employee called the MOL themselves, they would receive the same information and may not think they could get any more severance. Further, the MOL can only discuss their own process in handling complaints, including an ESA officer investigating an employee’s claims, which may eventually wind up at the labour board. The Ontario Labour Relations Board does not hear matters regarding wrongful dismissal, or employee claims for more severance at common law. Like the MOL, this labour board only decides issues solely within the ESA, OLRA, or OHSA.
The employee may also not know about other protections they may have under different laws, specifically the Ontario Human Rights Code. The Ontario Human Rights Code provides that employers cannot treat employees differently (discrimination), including terminating their employment, based on their creed, religion, family status, sex, pregnancy, disability, age, and gender, among others.
While the Ministry of Labour may be a good resource in understanding employee rights and employer obligations under the ESA, there are other considerations in employment law that can significantly affect employment. Seeing an employment lawyer is critical to understanding all the issues.
Toronto Employment Lawyer Jason Wong practices exclusively employment law, labour law, human rights law, and workplace investigations. Instead of calling the Ministry of Labour, contact Jason to determine your potential legal options.