Here are a few suggestions on how to keep the busy Christmas holiday season a safe, productive, and enjoyable one at your workplace. If you have other tips, share them below.
Keep holiday vacation scheduling fair:
Some businesses close their doors for a company-wide break during the holidays. But if your company is open for business during the Christmas period, determining which employees are required to work can be a tricky process.
When ensuring you have adequate coverage for your customers, you should select employees to work during this period based on the needs of the business and be ready to objectively justify your selection of employees. Be sure not to target employees that do not have children or do not celebrate Christmas. Allowing employees to volunteer to work or setting up a rotating schedule are other strategies you may deploy to keep things fair.
Keep employees safe from violence
Risk factors that increase the likelihood of workplace violence (see our FAQ) include working during times of increased levels of stress and the presence of alcohol.
The frantic pace of the Christmas season, particularly for those dealing with the frenzied public, and the common practice of serving alcohol at holiday parties certainly increases these risks.
Ontario's Bill 168, an amendment to the Occupational Health & Safety Act, states that employers have an obligation to take explicit actions to reduce the risk of violence against their workers. This can include hiring additional staff for the holidays, having managers or security guards to ensure that interactions do not escalate, and finding ways to reduce stress for your employees. Concrete plans on how to curb excessive alcohol consumption during holiday parties is also important.
Bill 168 also makes employers liable if they fail to prevent domestic violence from impacting the workplace (which includes workplace events like a Christmas party). If you suspect domestic violence or know of a history of spousal violence, it might be necessary to prevent that individual from attending. Due to the delicate nature of this issue, we recommend getting legal advice before taking action.
Keep your party a positive experience
Keep it real with Secret Santa
Exchanging gifts or having a "Secret Santa" in the workplace can be seen as a bit of fun. But some staff members might take advantage of the anonymous nature of the exchange and give inappropriate or even offensive gifts to their colleagues.
Organizers of the gift exchange must ensure participants are aware that Secret Santa falls under your company's HR existing policies and that anyone selecting a gift that might cause offense or be construed as bullying or harassment will face consequences.
Keep "decking the halls" safe
Putting up Christmas decorations can be a fun and festive way to celebrate the season at your workplace. However, it doesn't make you a Scrooge to insist that employees take all the necessary safety precautions when putting up those decorations. The people assigned to do the decorating might not be familiar with the requirements of the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA), so it's your job as the employer to enforce them.
Having someone injured or putting in a WSIB claim is not the way you want to start the holidays! Take precautions such as providing staff with suitable step ladders to put up decorations, making sure that Christmas trees are not blocking fire escape routes or exits, and checking any novelty lighting for defects.
Keep everyone productive
Have any questions about how to make your workplace a positive and safe environment? Don't hesitate to contact Anna Aceto-Guerin at (519) 624-0800 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, and Season's Greetings everyone!
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Do any of your employees also work for another company? Things could get complicated if your worker is ever involved in a workplace accident.
The fact that many employees are working more than one job can present interesting challenges if that worker has a work-related accident with one employer but is losing time from both. It also brings up issues regarding the obligations an employer has to accommodate disabled workers under the WSIB regardless of if they are the "Accident Employer" or not.
Recently a Clear Path customer was impacted by this situation. They had a part-time worker who was injured while working for them, making them the Accident Employer. Unbeknownst to our client, this worker had concurrent employment with another company on a part-time basis.
While our client offered modified work and was accommodating the worker to try to save costs under WSIB, the concurrent employer was not. This resulted in loss of earnings (LOE) benefits being paid out to the worker by the WSIB and charged to our client (who, as the Accident Employer, became responsible for these additional costs even though it was as a result of the concurrent employer's actions.)
The WSIB has deemed that the Concurrent Employer in this case was excluded from the obligations under Policy 19-02-02 (Work Reintegration and Re-Employment).
In our recent submission to the Appeals Division at WSIB, we argued that a Schedule 1, Concurrent Employer should be party to the WSIB’s work reintegration responsibilities under Policy 19-02-02, as OPM Policies are governed by the WSIA.
To support our argument, we noted that the WSIB operates under a no-fault system, which provides that regardless of who may be responsible for an incident, employers are protected from other liability. We believe this should include protection from negligence on the part of Concurrent Employers. Since the Accident Employer is financially responsible for workplace injury claim costs, the current interpretation of Policy 19-02-02 and the exclusion of Concurrent Employers from these responsibilities not only places Accident Employers at a financial disadvantage. It also is in contravention of WSIB’s “no-fault” system.
Human Rights perspective:
One can also look at this situation in relation to Human Rights legislation. Under subsection 10(1) of the Code, a person who claims or receives benefits under the WSIA is deemed to have a disability for the purposes of the Code. Therefore according to the Code, if a person with a disability requires accommodation to perform the essential duties of a job, “the employer must provide accommodation unless to do so would cause the employer undue hardship.”
Interestingly, WSIB Policy 19-02-02 indicates the following in regards to accommodation:
“All employers have a duty to modify the work or the workplace to accommodate the needs of the worker to the extent of undue hardship. This duty arises through the:
Finally, the WSIB Policy 11-01-03 (Merits and Justice) states: "In situations where the application of a relevant policy would lead to an absurd or unfair result, a case manager may depart from said policy." Taking this into consideration we can only conclude that current interpretation of Policy 19-02-02 to exclude Concurrent Employers from Work Reintegration and Re-Employment obligations can only lead to a prejudicial outcome, placing Accident Employers in a disadvantaged position. If the Code has primacy over conflicting legislation and policy, then the WSIB - as an administrative body - has a responsibility and jurisdiction to review the policy in question and apply the Code to ensure compliance.
We argue that by removing this obligation from Concurrent Employers, it essentially provides an opportunity for them to ignore duties under both the WSIA and section 5 of the Human Rights Code, especially in situations when administrative bodies are not monitoring workplace parties for compliance. It also inadvertently allows workers the opportunity to both disregard their obligations and unfairly take advantage of the PLOE paid by the Accident Employer.
What is the result?
What was the outcome of this? You will have to wait and see – as we are awaiting the final decision from the Appeal Division of the WSIB.
What can we learn from this experience?
It is important to understand the full employment history and current situation for each of your employees. A quick review of the monthly cost statement also revealed the LOE were being paid while the worker was supposedly full accommodated at the injury employer.
Lastly, offering modified duties to cover the time lost at the Concurrent Employer is a strategy we have used in the past if appealing to the WSIB to hold the Concurrent Employer accountable doesn’t work.
Need help in situation like these or other difficult claims – we are only a phone call away. Contact Anna Aceto-Guerin today.
We'd love to connect with you!
Clear Path Employer Services
295 Thompson Drive, Unit 2
Cambridge, Ontario N1T 2B9
T: (519) 624-0800
T: (888) 336-0950
F: (519) 624-0860
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