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Young Workers: Know Your Rights and Responsibilities!

by Marguerite Jacobson

According to the Ontario Ministry of Labour, workers new to a job are three times more likely to be injured during the first month than more experienced workers. Young workers should be aware of this as they look for summer employment or start their careers.

Whether young workers have completed secondary school, high school equivalency and trade school or have been exploring employment choices for a while, there are many resources available to help them with the transition from student life into meaningful employment. Part of that transition should include learning about and understanding their workplace rights and responsibilities. There are two key areas that will help properly prepare workers for the workforce.

The first area is Health and Safety. Between 2006 and 2012, more than 58,000 young workers aged 15 to 24 received injuries resulting in lost time at work, according to the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board. Effective July 1, 2014, new legislation makes health and safety compliance in all workplaces more stringent. While the employer has to make sure that the workplace is safe and that proper training is provided, the employee also has health and safety responsibilities. When starting a job, an employee should ensure that they receive safety training, wear appropriate safety equipment, know and understand their workplace health and safety systems, and follow rules and regulations. By working together, employers and employees can ensure a safe workplace and reduce high youth workplace injury rates.

The second area to learn about is the Employment Standards Act (ESA). The ESA sets out employee rights and employer requirements that apply to most Ontario workplaces. The ESA has rules that employers must follow and covers minimum wages, break requirements, overtime, vacation and severance pay, employment termination and many other important aspects of the employer-employee relationship. This is often the first place of reference when the question “can my employer do this?” comes up. Knowing what is covered by the ESA is important, especially for a young worker who does not have the same “lived” experience as an older worker. You can find more information about the ESA on the Ontario Ministry of Labour website.

The more young job seekers know about these two areas, the more protected they are when they start their job. You may find it helpful to talk with an Employment Advisor at a one of our resource centres, where you can receive free assistance with your job search and learn more about your rights at work.