Your Guide to Hiring Interns

It’s that time of year again. College and university students are heading into the final stretch of their academic year and many are looking for a summer opportunity that will develop their skills and give them work experience in their field.

Why Hire An Intern?

Internships can be a great way for students to get ‘real world’ experience in their fields and make networking connections. Furthermore, internships are now required for the completion of many academic programs.

For employers, taking on an intern can be a rewarding undertaking. It’s an opportunity to get new perspectives and fresh ideas, extra help with a specific project or even find your next great hire.

Fresh from the educational environment, interns are generally on top of the latest trends of thought and technology. Their outsider perspective can help you discover new, practical and efficient ways of approaching your operations. Furthermore, they can be a great way for you to assign a little extra help to an ongoing project, or benefit from an area of expertise that your business does not yet have.

Whatever your reason for hiring an intern, there are some things you need to know to ensure that your internship program is successful and in line with Ontario employment law.

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Interns Are Not Free Labour

Having an extra brain or set of hands to support your team for free sounds enticing, but remember, interns are not replacements for paid employees. Indeed, there are only six circumstances under which you do not have to pay an intern.

First and foremost, interns are with you to learn. They’re not there to save you a buck or lighten your workload. These are certainly perks that an intern may contribute, but they are not the intern’s reasons for applying to your business. Interns are not employees. Adjust your expectations of them accordingly.

Interns Aren’t Experts

Remember, the main point of an internship from an intern’s perspective is to gain practical work experience. Employers should expect and accept that interns are going to be new to a whole lot of things. So don’t be dismayed if they’re not familiar with the finer points of Dropbox and SharePoint from the get-go. They’ll figure it out, especially if you help.

Interns Need Mentorship

Many students seek internships as part of their educational program or as a chance to apply their knowledge in a ‘real world’ setting. Accordingly, they’re looking for mentorship.

Interns require more hands-on direction and supervision than regular employees. If you know that you will be too busy to give your intern reasonable hands-on training, or unavailable to regularly check in, offer constructive feedback and answer questions, then an intern might not be a good fit for you.

Mutually Beneficial Internships Take Planning

Before you decide to hire an intern, it is important that you have clear and concrete goals for this temporary work arrangement. What project(s) will you have your work on and how will they align with the intern’s skills and learning goals? What skills will the intern have developed from working with you and what sort of mentorship will they receive?

Finding adequate and meaningful work for interns is a challenge many employers face. Because the work relationship is of a fixed term, employers are sometimes reluctant to invest the training and responsibility necessary for their interns to take on projects beyond the tasks they are directly assigned.

In order to keep your intern busy, you should consider creating a detailed workplan. It is reasonable to expect that your intern will be at least somewhat self-directed, but they will need a decent amount of information up front in order for them to productively fill their time. ‘Busy work’ is of little benefit to anyone. It’s frustrating for employers to have to constantly come up with little tasks, and disappointing to interns who hoped to get meaningful work experiences.

Legal Obligations to Interns

Legal Obligations to Interns

As an employer, it is essential that you be informed of your legal obligations to your interns. You should be familiar with the laws governing internships in order to ensure your program and policies are fair and lawful.

An experienced employment lawyer at KCY at LAW can advise you of these legal obligations and can help you craft policies and procedures that will make your internship program successful and beneficial to all parties. To book your consultation, call 905-639-0999 or contact us online today!

Wrongful Resignation – Understanding Wrongful Resignation

That’s enough. I’m walking out that door right now and never coming back.

The above thoughts have likely crossed the minds of many a frustrated employee. Indeed, in the moments when you’ve had it up to here with your job, there’s something very tempting and liberating about the thought of swift and unceremonious departure.

But take it from the experts at KCY at LAW’s employment law firm, you’d be well-advised to take a deep breath in these moments of anger before taking any rash actions.

What is a Wrongful Resignation?

If you haven’t heard of a wrongful resignation, don’t worry, you’re probably familiar with its sister concept: wrongful dismissal. When terminating an employee without cause, employers have a duty to provide reasonable notice or pay in lieu thereof. Failure to provide an employee with either leads to what is called a unlawful wrongful dismissal. A wrongful resignation is essentially the same thing as a wrongful dismissal, except that it is the employee who has failed to provide the employer with reasonable notice of their intention to quit their position.

The issue of wrongful resignation doesn’t come up that often since employers don’t usually suffer much loss, if any, for losing an employee without notice.

What is wrongful Resignation - KCY at LAW

Employee’s Reasonable Notice Obligations

Formally, there is no specific legal requirement under the Employment Standards Act or any other employment legislation for an employee to give two weeks or any other prescribed amount of notice of their intention to resign from their job. However, employees are required to give reasonable notice and it is also possible for them to have a contractual obligation to provide a certain amount of notice of their departure.

Even if an employee does not have a contractual obligation to give reasonable notice of their resignation, they may still be liable for damages should their unexpected departure cause a significant loss to their employer.

Wrongful Resignation or Not?

When deciding whether an employee’s departure was a wrongful resignation, the courts will consider what the reasonable notice should have been based on how long it would take the employer to find a replacement for the resigning employee. The employee’s position, length of service and the amount of time it would take to replace them will all be considered in this decision.

For example, it is much easier for a restaurant owner to find a replacement dishwasher than it would be for a tech company to replace a senior program developer who had been at the company for several years.

Determining Damages for Wrongful Resignation

Damages for Wrongful Resignation - KCY at LAWWhen determining the damages owed to an employer by an employee that has wrongfully resigned, the courts may consider:

  • Advertising costs for the vacant position
  • Placement agency fees
  • Overtime costs to other employees who must cover the resigned employee’s shifts or duties
  • Business losses

These damages would all be offset by the money a business saves by not having to pay the former employee during what would have been the reasonable notice period.

The Cost of Wrongful Resignation – Gagnon & Associates Inc. et. Al. v Jesso et. Al.

The costs to employees who wrongfully resign are well illustrated in the case of Gagnon & Associates Inc. et. Al. v Jesso et. Al..

Gagnon & Associates hired Mr. Jesso in 1996 for their shipping department. However, Mr. Jesso quickly worked his way into a sales role and by 2006 was the company’s top sales associate. Alone, Mr. Jesso accounted for 30% of Gagnon & Associates’ total sales. In 2006, while still employed with Gagnon & Associates, Mr. Jesso found employment with a competitor and tendered his resignation, effective immediately, to begin working for the other business.

Gagnon & Associates subsequently lost clients to this competitor and had a hard time finding an equally experienced sales associate. At trial, Gagnon & Associates argued that Mr. Jesso’s abrupt resignation did not give them adequate time to transition the position and had cost the company significant sales.

Mr. Jesso insisted he wasn’t a manager and didn’t have any fiduciary obligations to the company and therefore hadn’t owed any notice. Agreeing with Gagnon & Associates, the judge determined that reasonable notice would have been two months because of Mr. Jesso’s long tenure with the company and his invaluable sales expertise. Mr. Jesso was ordered to pay Gagnon & Associates $35,164.

Wrongful Resignation Takeaway for Employees

Before resigning without notice, employees – especially those in senior or specialized positions – should first consult with an employment lawyer to determine any obligations, contractual or otherwise, they may owe to their employer. KCY at LAW will make sure that you know your resignation rights and obligations to guarantee you a smooth and successful employment transition. Call us today on 905-639-0999 or contact us online to book your consultation.

Fixed Term Contracts

Sometimes, employers find themselves in need of a new employee, but know that they will not need this employee indefinitely. Perhaps they need someone with specialized knowledge to spearhead a project, or maybe they require a little extra help during their busiest season. Whatever the case, one option available to employers to fill these temporary employee needs is to hire someone on a fixed-term contract.

Indefinite vs. Fixed-Term Contracts: What’s the Difference?

What's The Difference Between Indefinite and fixed-term contracts?Indefinite contracts do not set an end date to the employment relationship between employer and employee. Employment is ongoing without a fixed or foreseeable end to the working relationship. Indefinite contracts can be terminated by the employer at any time so long as the employer gives appropriate notice or pay in lieu thereof according to the employee’s contract as well as employment law standards. If you hire an employee on a permanent basis, they have an indefinite contract.

By contrast, fixed-term contracts provide a set duration to the employment relationship between parties. With a fixed-term contract, both the employer and employee know exactly when the employment relationship will end.

Why Choose A Fixed-term Contract?

There are several scenarios that would make a fixed-term contract a practical employment arrangement. For example, an employer may to cover a permanent employee’s parental leave or a sabbatical. They are also a good option to create a temporary position for the purpose of a particular project.

Another advantage of this type of contract is that they minimize employers’ severance obligations to the fixed-term employee. Since the employee already knows the end date of their employment when they sign their contract, there is no need for reasonable notice before their last day of work. They essentially receive their termination notice before they even begin their job.

Fixed-Term Contract Termination Obligations

While avoiding certain termination obligations may be appealing, fixed-term contracts present a challenge to employers should they wish to terminate employment before the fixed-term contract is fulfilled.

Without a termination clause in their fixed-term employee’s contract, employers do not have the right to end the contract early. However, there are several reasons an employer may wish to end a fixed-term employment relationship early. Perhaps the project the employee was working on finished early or funding for the position has run out. Whatever the case, if an employer decides to prematurely terminate a fixed-term employment contract without cause, damages are not the same as common law notice periods. Rather, the employer must pay the employee the balance of their wages for the remainder of the original employment term.

For example, if an employee was given a six-month contract with a salary of $4,000 per month and their employer decides to terminate the employment relationship after five months, the employer would owe the employee that final month’s salary of $4,000.

As you can see, the amount owed to a fixed-term employee who is terminated without cause before the end of their contract can be more that the pay in lieu of notice that they would have received if they had an indefinite contract.

Termination Clauses in Fixed-Term Contracts

In order to terminate a fixed-term employee before their contract’s end date without having to pay them the balance of their contract, employers need to have a termination provision drafted into the employee’s contract.

However, employers should note that a simple termination provision for a certain number of week’s notice will override the balance owed if a contract is terminated early. Such was the outcome of Thompson v. Cardel Homes Limited Partnership. In this case, Cardel Homes had hired Mr. Thompson as a senior executive on a two-year contract that was subsequently extended for another year. The contract contained a detailed termination clause that guaranteed Mr. Thompson a 12-month severance payment in the event of an early termination. One month before the end of the contract, Mr. Thompson was informed that his contract would not be renewed again and was told that he didn’t need to come in for the final month of his contract and that he should pack his things. At trial, the judge ruled that, in being told to pack his things and not return to work before the end of his contract, Mr. Thompson had been constructively dismissed and was therefore entitled to the full 12 months of severance as was outlined in his employment contract, not the one-month balance remaining in his contract.

Fixed Term Contracts Info for Employers

Fixed Term Contracts Takeaways for Employers

Before hiring someone on a fixed-term basis, employers should seriously consider why it is that they do not want to hire this person on a permanent basis and have a clear sense of how long the employment relationship will last. Otherwise, the fixed-term contracts employers present to employees need to have clear, unequivocal language concerning severance entitlements in the event of early termination.

KCY at LAW can draft you fair and enforceable fixed-term employment contracts to protect your interests and serve your needs. Call us today on 905-639-0999 or contact us online to book your consultation.