How to Handle Workplace Policy Changes in Ontario

As a result of Bill 148, Ontario’s labour laws continue to change. It’s important that you review your workplace policies to make sure that you are up to date with the province’s new and upcoming employment standards.

Below is a Summary of the Labour Law Changes that Will Impact Your Workplace Policies

On November 22, 2017, Bill 148 – otherwise known as the Fair Workplaces, Better Jobs Act, 2017 – was passed. The Act provided updates to the Employment Standards Act (ESA), the Labour Relations Act (LRA), and the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA). We continue to see these changes transpire.

To begin, the Act:

  • Increased the minimum wage;
  • Expanded personal emergency leave; and
  • Increased vacation leave and pay.

And soon to follow, the Act will:

  • Mandate equal pay for equal work (Effective April 1, 2018); and
  • Develop efforts to enforce laws (ongoing).

It is important for employees to understand these changes. Have you communicated these workplace policy changes to your employees?

7 Ways to Communicate Workplace Policy Changes to Your Employees

Whenever there are policy changes in the workplace, it’s important to communicate these changes to employees as quickly and as openly as possible. This applies to changes related to the labour law changes and any other policy amendments the company may make.

First, it’s important to remember that policy changes should be outlined in a purpose statement. The purpose statement will explain why the policy is being issued or changed, and what the desired outcome or effect will be. In this case, you are complying with changes to the labour law.

Employees should be made aware of the effective date of the policy changes.

Being upfront and straightforward about the change is very important. Here are seven ways you can be effective in communicating a new or changed workplace policy to your employees.

1. Be transparent

  • Have staff meetings to communicate policy updates.
  • Post new workplace policies in common areas where employees can easily see them.
  • Hand out copies of new policies in the form of memos or updated employee handbooks.
  • Email the new policies for your employees to have on file.
  • Inform your employees of changes electronically via e-mail, intranet, or a password-protected section of your company website.

2. Provide training, when necessary

  • More complex policies or procedural changes may require more training so that employees understand how the change applies to them.
  • Education may be scheduled on an on-going or as-needed basis.

3. Get feedback

  • Have feedback sessions and incorporate your employees’ opinions when possible.
  • Allow feedback to be anonymous or confidential so that all employees feel comfortable voicing their real opinions.

4. Two-way communication is important

  • Ensure that your staff is not only voicing their worries, but that you’re also addressing them openly and truthfully

5. Have employees sign off on a new or changed workplace policy

  • Especially with labour law changes – and sterner enforcement promised from the Ministry of Labour – it is imperative that there is documentation showing that the workplace policy has been relayed.
  • Place a copy of the sign off in your employees’ personnel files.

6. Explain how the changes will be implemented

  • Explain how and when the new policy changes will be implemented.
  • Employees will be more accepting of the changes and feel reassured if they have a clear picture of what’s going to happen.
  • Use graphics and/or step-by-step lists to explain the changes clearly.

7. Tell employees what to do

  • It may sound obvious, but it’s important to tell employees what to do.
  • Outline what needs to be done.
  • Put a deadline on those tasks.
  • Use bulleted lists or bold fonts to highlight necessary actions.

It is crucial to leave the line of communication open between management and employees. If employees are unsure of something, they should be able to talk openly and honestly about their concerns. If employees are confused and apprehensive about discussing their concerns, they may not follow the new policies properly, which could lead to other employees following suit.

When communicating, updating, or adding new workplace policies, think about how to alter your employees with comfort while doing what’s best for your business. If you have questions on workplace policy best practices, it’s always a good idea to ask an HR advisor for support.