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An on-line resource for small businesses in Ontario


Compensation includes base pay (regular pay/salary), variable pay (commission/bonus) and other compensation such as stock options, company vehicles, etc.  The best way to determine if pay practices are competitive is through surveys.   

The most cost-effective way to survey is to call competitors and other businesses in the area, to find out how they compensate employees in similar positions.  This is the least scientific, and success depends on the other companies’ willingness to share information.  Competitors’ willingness to share information may be improved by using a third party to collect and summarize the survey results, without identifying individual businesses.

Large consulting firms like Mercer, AON Willis Towers-Watson, and Hay, conduct annual compensation surveys, as do some industry associations, or you may wish to work with a local consultant who can help you develop your own survey, distribute the surveys and collect and analyse the results.

In some cases, participation in the survey may be a requirement to obtain the results: in others, non-participants may pay a higher fee to purchase the results.

Common Law

Common Law, also known as case law or precedent, is law that has developed over time through decisions previously made by judges.  For this reason, it is more complicated than civil (or written) law, and often requires the assistance of a lawyer to interpret.

At Common Law, an employment relationship is considered to be a contract between the employer and the employee.  If there is no written contract *, the terms of employment can be determined in various ways: the letter of offer of employment and the employment manual, for example.  If either party wishes to change the terms of the contract without prior agreement by the other party, reasonable notice must be given.  What constitutes reasonable notice will depend on what is in writing, and on legal precedents.

The most common situations where this comes into play are where an employer unilaterally changes an employee’s conditions of employment (e.g. transfer or demotion) or where employment is terminated without cause **.   If there is no clear, well-understood agreement as to what constitutes reasonable notice, the employee may have recourse to the courts, which will decide based on factors such as the employee’s age, length of service, position, and salary, as well as on recent precedents.  It is a good practice to seek legal advice to help determine how much notice to provide in these situations.



*  Consider having employment contracts drafted by an employment lawyer.  Asking existing employees to sign a new agreement may be considered a change in conditions of employment, and there should be something substantial offered in return.

** While the definition of cause is straightforward (can misconduct be proven, and was the nature and degree of misconduct sufficient to dismiss without cause?), there is a wealth of case law in which courts have found that the employer did not have cause to dismiss.  Consider consulting an employment lawyer prior to dismissing an employee for cause.

Access For Ontarians With Disabilities (AODA)

The purpose of the Access for Ontarians With Disabilities Act (AODA) is to “create a Province where everybody who lives or visits can participate fully.”  The five standards of the Act are being phased in over a number of years, beginning in January, 2012, and will impact all employers in the province to some degree. 

TheCustomer Service Standard required that, by December 31, 2012, all employers were to have created an accessible customer service plan, and to have trained their employees on how to assist customers with disabilities.  In addition, employers with twenty or more employees are to keep a written copy of the plan, let customers know it is available, keep a training log, and file a compliance report by December 31, 2012.

The Employment Standard required all employers to provide individualized workplace emergency response information to employees, where necessary, by January 1, 2012.  Other requirements are to be phased in for private and non-profit organizations beginning in 2016 and 2017, and will apply to hiring and human resources practices.

The Information and Communications Standard required that all employers make their emergency procedures or public safety information accessible to people with disabilities on request, as of January 1, 2012.  Further requirements, such as making feedback processes and information accessible will be phased in beginning in 2015. 

The Transportation Standard applies to organizations providing public transportation services.  Requirements are being phased in between 2011 and 2017

The Built Environment Standard will require companies with fifty or more employees, when building or renovating outdoor eating areas, play spaces, trails, etc., to make them accessible beginning in 2017.

While the Act may sound daunting, it doesn’t have to be: especially for small employers.  Making printed information available for customers with a visual impairment may be as simple as reading it to them, and the Ministry has provided an e-learning site that will help you to train your employees. 

The Ministry also provides guides, templates, and other information on its website.

Useful Links:  

Ontario Ministry for Seniors and Accessibility:

Ontario AODA Site:

Employment Standards

Employment Standards legislation defines the minimum requirements in dealing with employees in Ontario.  Other provinces and territories have their own legislation which is similar, but not identical to Ontario’s. 

Standards include, for example:

  •          hours of work and overtime pay
  •          statutory holidays and holiday pay
  •          vacations and vacation pay
  •          minimum wages
  •          legislated leaves of absence
  •          notice and severance pay when terminating without cause


Ontario Ministry of Labour, Training and Skills Development:

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