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  • HR Heartbeat: More protections against workplace violence, terminations during probation and...

HR Heartbeat: More protections against workplace violence, terminations during probation and...

Discover why all businesses in Saskatchewan will now need to have a policy on preventing workplace violence and why layoffs shouldn’t be confused with resignations.

First published on Friday, May 10, 2024

Last updated on Friday, May 10, 2024

5 min read

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Welcome to HR Heartbeat, where we give you a rundown of the week's top employment law stories. Stay on the pulse of current trends impacting your business, plus get up-to-the-minute commentary on all things HR and legal.

Protecting workers against workplace violence

Amendments to the occupational health and safety provisions in Saskatchewan will come into effect on May 17, 2024. All provincially regulated workplaces must now have a policy statement and prevention plan (PSPP) to prevent workplace violence.

So, what do these changes to the province's Employment Act mean for employers? Well, in the past, only workplaces in high-risk industries like healthcare had to have a PSPP, but with the new legislation, every business will need to create one if they want to pass compliance inspections.

Your PSPP must do the following:

  1. Outline your commitment to actively minimizing or eliminating risks of violence, with a policy and plan review every three years.
  2. Identify parts of the worksite where violence has occurred or could potentially occur in the future.
  3. Recognize which staff positions are more susceptible to violent situations.
  4. Establish procedures to effectively inform workers about the nature and risks of violence at their workplace, including any known risks associated with individuals who have a history of violent behavior.
  5. Outline the specific actions you will take to minimize or eliminate the risk of violence.
  6. Create clear procedures for employees to report violent incidents.
  7. Specify how you will investigate any reported incidents of violence.
  8. Recommend that workers affected by violence consult a physician for treatment or obtain counseling.
  9. Pledge to provide training programs to educate workers on recognizing, handling, and preventing violence in the workplace.

Need help conducting risk assessments for workplace violence and harassment? Check out BrightSafe, with access to over 200 risk assessments created by industry experts to help guide your efforts at creating a safer workplace.

Terminating employees on probation—not that easy

A recent case from the British Columbia Human Rights Tribunal is a reminder to employers that human rights protections apply to employees when being terminated, including during their probationary period.

The employee struggled to learn the company’s sales method during their probationary period, leading to performance issues. After a few warnings, the employee was terminated. But the employee had two mental health-related incidents in the workplace before the termination, one of which led to hospitalization and police intervention.

The employee claimed they were terminated because of their mental health struggles. And because the employer had no documentation to prove their decision to terminate him was unrelated to their mental health incidents, the Tribunal ruled in the employee’s favour and received total awards of $170,000.

When terminating any employee, including those on probation, remember to adhere to human rights obligations and consider if these protected grounds could influence any employment decisions.

You should also review the language of the probationary clause in your employment contracts. If a probationary employee is underperforming, it’s important to give them constructive feedback and set clear benchmarks for improvement instead of going straight to termination. If you decide to terminate them, make sure that the reasons for this decision are thoroughly documented.

Our library of expertly drafted contracts, templates, and policies BrightBase contains employment contracts with watertight probationary clauses to help you conduct terminations compliantly and avoid hefty fines.

A not so simple misunderstanding

In a compelling judgment, an Ontario Small Claims Court has delivered a fresh reminder to employers: an employee getting a different job during a temporary layoff doesn’t mean an automatic resignation.

The employee was working as a full-time funeral director but agreed to a temporary layoff to manage childcare during the early pandemic period. However, as their financial strains intensified, they temporarily took a maternity leave replacement contract at another firm and communicated to their previous employer that they would be happy to resume back at their previous position. The employer was taken aback after learning about their new role—a miscommunication that led him to incorrectly considering it a resignation.

As an employer, it’s best not to act or come to conclusions based on an employee's actions or verbal cues only. Everything, including resignations, should be *confirmed in writing. *

Since the employee had communicated her intentions to return through an email, the court marked the importance of this written communication, aligning the judgment in the employees’ favour, and awarded them $2,750 for wrongful dismissal.

This case highlights the importance of proper layoff and resignation procedures. Not to mention, the necessity of clear communication. It also serves as a reminder for employers to ensure employment contracts clearly address policies regarding multiple job holdings.

That's it for today! Come back next time for more HR news so you stay ahead of major employment law changes.

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