RIGHTS & RESPONSIBILITIES IN THE WORKPLACE

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By Dale West from Employment Services

 

Like any good blog post about Rights and Responsibilities, let me start by saying that I am not a lawyer, and this is not legal advice.  

Good news! After a challenging interview process, you’ve finally been offered a position in your dream job with a well-respected and cutting-edge company. Of course, you’ve focused on understanding the unique culture and the unwritten rules of the workplace and show the employer that you’ll be a great fit for their team. Now, on your first day – after what seems like a million introductions – you find yourself sitting in a quiet meeting room tasked with reviewing the policy and procedure of your new employer. Captivating reading! 

These are the written rules of the workplace. But they are not created at the sole discretion of your new organization. Employment typically falls under three pieces of legislation. While some jobs are federally regulated (for example, some communications and transportation roles), the vast majority – over 90% – are provincially regulated. This means they are governed by laws passed by the provincial government. For this reason, when we think of the written rules of work – our rights and responsibilities in Saskatchewan –  we should think of the Saskatchewan Human Rights Code, the Saskatchewan Employment Act, and the Occupational Health & Safety Act.  

HUMAN RIGHTS IN THE WORKPLACE 

The Saskatchewan Human Rights Code is in place to “promote and protect individual dignity and equal rights” in the province. Though it applies to most aspects of life in Saskatchewan, the majority of formal complaints are related to employment.  

The code outlines a number of prohibited grounds. These are factors that employers are not allowed to use when making decisions about, amongst other things, who to hire or promote. These grounds include religion, sexual orientation, place of origin, and disability, alongside several others. Employers are allowed to consider other pieces of information when making decisions related to employment, such as experience and training. However, by removing prohibited grounds, employers are discouraged from relying on stereotypes and biases that may eliminate qualified candidates and include candidates who may not meet the requirements of the role. 

While discrimination does continue, there remains some recourse when our rights are infringed upon. 

The Saskatchewan Human Rights Commission oversees the complaints process and works towards discouraging and eliminating discrimination. For more information or resources, visit their website (https://saskatchewanhumanrights.ca/). 

RULES & REGULATIONS 

The Saskatchewan Employment Act describes the relationship between employers and employees and outlines many of the minimum requirements or standards that both parties must meet. While the information can be complex and nuanced, understanding what is covered and where to locate the details is invaluable. 

Thankfully, there are a number of resources and summaries available through the Government of Saskatchewan website. For example, we may not need to know the details of every job-protected leave, but knowing where to find the information is paramount. 

Indeed, because this legislation describes the “written rules” of work in Saskatchewan, the minimum expectations of employers and employees and covers many topics – including wages, scheduling, holidays, lay-offs and termination, to name only a few – it is crucial that those who work in the province understand how it affects their employment because it does – every day. 

WORKPLACE SAFETY 

While the nature of work can vary dramatically, from office buildings to construction sites and everything in between, all workers should have the knowledge and resources to do their work safely. Indeed, it is the Occupational Health & Safety Act that outlines regulations in the province. While the legislation can be industry-specific at times, there are many protections that extend to all workers.  

The Saskatchewan Employment Act outlines three key rights. All workers have the Right to Know the hazards in their workplace and this includes receiving the “instruction, information, training and supervision” required to safely do the job. While some work is inherently more dangerous than others; without adequate information, workers are unable to make informed choices about the level of risk they are willing to accept. 

Workers also have the Right to Participate in making their workplace safer. Whether that means joining a workplace occupational health committee (OHC) or reporting workplace hazards so they can be addressed, everyone can contribute to the overall safety of their workplace and the well-being of their co-workers.  

Additionally, the Right to Refuse unusually dangerous work is in place to ensure that when the work cannot be completed safely, employees are still able to protect themselves. While the circumstances may vary, if the danger is not normal for the job, would typically stop work, or if appropriate training, equipment, or experience are not provided, a worker can refuse the task until the concern is resolved by their supervisor, OHC, or the Occupational Health & Safety Division. 

PROTECT YOURSELF 

By increasing our knowledge and understanding of the written rules of the workplace, we can not only protect ourselves from harm, exploitation and abuse, but become an advocate for better and safer workplaces for everyone.