Nowhere to hide: Light shone on HR’s ‘Wild West’

HR teams in one Canadian province are facing public condemnation over widespread backward employment practices that are still entirely legal.

Nowhere to hide: Light shone on HR’s ‘Wild West’
HR in Ontario is being pushed to the centre of a brewing storm over ‘brutal’ but legal employment practices under the province’s Employment Standards Act.
 
Earlier this year, the Ontario government promised to review the antiquated Act to protect people in so-called ‘precarious’ work from their employers.
 
With the Act now under review, questionable local employment practices are being singled out and companies derided for their poor treatment of workers.
 
The Toronto Star has revealed some companies are keeping low paid workers on temporary contracts for many years to save on giving benefits entitlements.
 
One 61-year-old father of three, who works eight hours a day at a recycling company in Toronto, has been on a temporary contract for half a decade.
 
Hired via a temp agency, he has since become a victim of the Act, as there is no limit to how long an employer can keep workers from becoming permanent.
 
Temporary worker numbers have been rising much faster than permanent workers in Toronto. The Star reports there has been a 33 per cent increase in the temporary workers from 256,000 in 2004 to 340,000 in 2014.
 
Over the same period, permanent workers increased by just 12 per cent.
 
The Star has also lambasted employers and HR staff for making punishing use of their entirely legal ‘flexible scheduling’ rights under the Act.
 
With no requirement to provide work schedules in advance, millions of workers are often not aware when or how much they will be working the next week.
 
These workers – including a single mother employed by the Metro grocery store chain – are forced into a humiliating rush to try to bring order to their week.
 
Flexible scheduling is used by managers and HR to quickly trim down staff numbers in slower periods, which leads to greater business efficiency.
 
However, companies have been accused of shifting the cost of doing business onto the poorest and most vulnerable workers by cutting hours to suit them.
 
Costco has been praised as an HR leader in Ontario, with guarantees of 40 hours a week given for full-time workers, and 25 hours for part-time workers. Costco also gives workers their shifts at least one week in advance.
 
The ongoing debate over the Act review has seen Ontario badged the ‘Wild West’ of HR, and employment practices as bordering on ‘brutal’.
 

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