Ontario launches multilingual toll-free number for employment standards

Resources now available in 23 languages

As Ontario becomes increasingly diverse, the province is providing more resources — including a multilingual toll-free number — to send a message to employees and employers: Know your employment rights and responsibilities.

“Ontario is advancing fairness in the workplace by providing new online, interactive tools and multilingual resources to help Ontarians understand their employment rights and responsibilities,” said the ministry.

The province has expanded its Employment Standards Information Centre (1-800-531-5551) to provide service in 23 languages, from Arabic to Vietnamese. Nearly 315,000 workers in Ontario used a language other than English and French on the job in 2006, according to Statistics Canada. The call centre allows Ontarians to make queries about employment standards, filing a claim and where to find more information.

The ministry has also created posters in 23 languages and placed information in more than 50 ethnic news publications in Ontario. These direct people to ontario.ca/employmentrights which provides information in 23 languages on issues such as employment rights, filing a claim and how employees are protected.

The ministry has also produced two videos (at www.labour.gov.on.ca/english/gallery/index.php) on complying with the Employment Standards Act and how to file a claim. Both videos are available in multiple languages on the ministry website and YouTube.

The online tools include: an employer workbook, a public holiday pay calculator, a severance tool and a termination tool. The ministry said it will be developing further tools in the coming months on its website.

Modernizing employment standards

The new resources continue the ministry’s efforts to modernize Ontario’s employment standards, including improvements for faster resolution of claims that were implemented Jan. 19. It is investing $6 million over two years to create a task force to eliminate the employment standards claims backlog and it has changed the employment standards claim-filing process to shorten investigation wait times.

The changes require employees, where appropriate, to inform their employer of their employment standards issue before an employment standards complaint will be assigned for investigation. Employees can contact their employer through regular mail, email, fax or phone. Face-to-face contact is not required.

The requirement to contact the employer can be waived in some instances, such as when an employee:

• is young
• has a language barrier
• fears an employer
• is owed money that is more than five months due
• worked at business that has closed.

The changes also allow the ministry’s employment standards officers to help employers and employees to reach a settlement. Neither party has to participate in such a settlement unless they agree to it. The legislation also affirms employment standards officers can deal with undue delays by making a decision on the best information available. In the past, claims have been delayed if one party would not provide all the required information.

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