Spring Cleaning – Human Resource Practices

May 13, 2014

With spring finally upon us, it is an opportune time for employers to review their human resource practices.  With numerous obligations to employees, it is important that an organization’s policies and procedures are current and in compliance with applicable legislation.  Proactive human resource practices have the additional benefit of increasing productivity, fostering employee growth, and reducing overall costs.

Employers may wish to focus on the following areas in an internal review of human resource policies and practices:

Health and Safety

Occupational health and safety legislation requires all parties in the workplace to play a role in promoting health and safety.  Employers are required to take every reasonable precaution to protect the health and safety of persons on or near the workplace.  To ensure compliance, employers may wish to update the following practices:

  • First Aid Policies and Procedures
  • Joint Occupational Health and Safety Committee (JOHSC) Training Policies
  • Stress Management
  • Ergonomic Assessments
  • Hazardous Waste Disposal Procedures
  • Disaster Readiness Procedures

Terminations

Policies adopted by an organization in advance of an employee’s termination are crucial to a smooth exit from the organization.  Unintended legal repercussions may arise if these policies are inadequate.  Most importantly, employers must ensure proper documentation is maintained.   Further, an exit interview is essential for employers to receive feedback from resigning employees and to reduce employee turnover.

When an employee is dismissed for cause, an employer must demonstrate that the dismissal is reasonable in light of the circumstances.  In such circumstances, prior documentation of personnel issues is extremely important.

Restrictive Covenants

Frequently, the terms of an employment contract attempt to restrict the activity of a former employee- this is known as a restrictive covenant (e.g. a non-competition or non-solicitation clause).  Employers insist on such clauses to protect confidential client information or other proprietary interests.  Courts are hesitant to enforce restrictive covenants without evidence that they are reasonable in the circumstances.  Generalized language is normally unenforceable and terms should be continuously updated to ensure minimal restrictions on former employees.

Benefits

Organizations offer employment benefits and bonuses as an incentive to reward exceptional behavior.  Not all benefits are treated equally under the Income Tax Act and different benefits may have unintended tax consequences for employers and employees.  Benefit programs should be tailored to reward the specific goals of the organization in order to increase productivity and employee engagement.

Documentation

Arguably, the single most important concern of any human resource department is ensuring appropriate documentation is maintained.  An organization with extensive and complete records is better able to demonstrate legislative compliance and due diligence.  These documents may also be admissible as corroborating evidence in the event of litigation.

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