My supervisor asked us to complete online training modules about sustainability and diversity, equity and inclusion at home. He says it will only take an hour max, watching videos and taking a quiz at the end. We need to complete the training and quiz by a certain date. Is this allowed? Shouldn’t this be happening during company hours, while we’re on the clock? If some of my coworkers have already completed the training at home, can they argue to get paid for it after the fact?
THE FIRST ANSWER
Alison Longmore, partner, Jewitt McLuckie & Associates LLP, Ottawa
Most provinces have employment standards legislation that sets out minimum standards for most non-unionized workplaces. Although certain industries and professions are excluded from parts of the legislation, in Ontario, the Employment Standards Act (ESA) generally requires employers to pay employees for time spent doing training that the employer requires the employee to complete or that is required by law to be completed, even if it is completed at home online or after regular working hours.
There are some exceptions, including circumstances where the employee has chosen to take an extra course on their own initiative that may improve their skills or help them get a promotion or a new job. The protections in the ESA would also not apply to qualifications that an employer might require an employee to obtain prior to being hired, such as alcohol server training certifications. Finally, if you have an employment contract that provides greater benefits than the ESA, your employer may not be required to pay you to do online training.
If your coworkers have already completed the online training and it was required by your employer as a condition of remaining employed and they have not been paid, they can ask to be paid for their time. If the employer still refuses to pay them, they can contact their provincial employment standards office or consult a lawyer about their right to make a claim for unpaid wages.
THE SECOND ANSWER
Shikha Shukla and Charles Osuji, student-in-law and managing partner, Osuji & Smith Lawyers, Calgary
Are these training modules mandatory or a voluntary component of your work? If the training modules are mandatory, and your supervisor insists on completing them outside regular working hours, then ideally, your employer should pay you for your time. On the other hand, if the training is voluntary, your employer may not be required to compensate you for your time.
What do the rules regarding mandatory and voluntary training in your province say? In Ontario, employers are generally required to pay employees for mandatory training that takes place outside of regular working hours. In Quebec, employers may be obligated to compensate employees for both mandatory training outside regular hours and voluntary training directly related to job duties. Alberta, however, does not have a specific requirement for employers to provide paid time for training.
Given that some of your coworkers have already completed the training at home, they may be able to argue for payment after the fact if the training was mandatory and required outside regular working hours. However, if the training was voluntary, your coworkers may not necessarily be entitled to payment for their time.
Understanding the nature of the training – whether it is a compulsory aspect of your job or an optional opportunity for professional development – is crucial in determining the applicability of compensation. Moreover, reviewing the specific regulations in your province regarding paid time for training is essential to ascertain your rights and entitlements.
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