Self-audits create potential problems for Ontario employers

Folders with the label employees and salaries. Stock photo by Getty Images

This week, updates to Ontario’s Employment Standards Act take effect that could force employers to incriminate themselves, opening the door to fines and charges.

The first, more straightforward one requires employers to provide each worker with a copy of the ESA information poster. The poster, which provides information about the act and its regulations, is already required to have a conspicuous presence in the office.

The other, more demanding change could require employers to conduct self-audits of their ESA compliance. Instead of carrying out an audit themselves, an employment standards officer can tell the employer to do it.

This raises the thorny problem of employers policing themselves.

ESA audits and inspections are generally done to ensure an employer is complying with the provincial standards outlined on those ESA posters. Those include: 

  • Minimum wage
  • Overtime pay
  • Eating/break periods
  • Record-keeping
  • Vacation pay
  • Posting the ESA poster

The first phases of the Stronger Workplaces for a Stronger Economy Act, which created incremental changes to the province’s ESA, were rolled out last year.

Self-auditing employers who report ESA violations also need to show steps they’ve taken to resolve the problems.

Naturally, this could also tempt some employers to go easy on themselves, but that’s playing a dangerous game. Conducting a self-audit doesn’t excuse an employer from greater government scrutiny; an employment standards officer could still conduct an investigation even if your self-audit finds everything squeaky-clean. Of course, there are also legislative penalties for any self-auditor found to have falsified their reports.

Hopefully, this will provide better motivation for employers to keep a closer eye on their internal affairs, before having to rattle off their sins for a government inspector. The Ministry of Labour provides detailed information those standards and how to adhere to them.

Take a look before an auditor does it for you.


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