Starting work should be an exciting prospect, especially for younger employees. It can be the start of financial freedom and a stepping stone to a long and fruitful career. That being said, younger workers are more likely to encounter work related issues and less likely to take action. According to the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety, 23 workers under the age of 25 died in workplace tragedies during 2017. While all workers are at risk for injuries on the job, young workers are at a greater risk due to their lack of training and experience. Unscrupulous employers may look to take advantage of younger employees on the premise that they are unaware of their rights in the workplace. Although there are different minimum wage rules applicable to ‘students’, young workers essentially have the same rights as older employees. Nevertheless, young employees may not be aware that they are covered by the Employment Standard Act, 2000 (ESA) and are therefore more susceptible to exploitation.
Sadly, because youths and students may not be consciously aware of their rights, they can often find themselves in jobs with poor pay and inadequate training. The Occupational Health and Safety Act provide employees with fundamental rights that extend to young and new employees. The three rudimentary rights are:
Right to know. As an employee you should be informed about all current and foreseeable dangers in the workplace. It is important to make sure you have received adequate information, training and instructions in order to adhere to correct health and safety procedures. The employer should always provide this at the start of an employee’s tenure.
Right to participate. Employees are entitled to identify and participate in correcting work-related health and safety issues. As a worker you have the right to participate in training and educational sessions that will help you to complete your job safely.
Organizations with 20 or more employees are required to have their own health and safety committee. As an employee you can participate through the health and safety representative or simply your supervisor.
Right to refuse. As an employee you have the right to refuse unsafe work if you have reason to believe that your workplace endangers you or another person’s health and safety.
It is easy to feel intimidated when you’re a new or young employee but it’s important to remember that you cannot be dismissed or disciplined in relation to these legislations.
Unfortunately, menial and sometimes dangerous tasks are handed to younger employees as a means to distinguish themselves. Like many young workers, you might be afraid to express discomfort for fear of losing your job but these kinds of reprisals are strictly against the law!
It is completely natural for young workers to feel like they cannot speak up for their health and safety rights within the workplace. However, as stated above, laws are in place to ensure your complete and utter safety at work. Whether you’re working for the local convenience store or a much larger organization, remember you are always entitled to work in the safest environment possible. Here at Sicotte Guilbault we can assist with younger workers who feel they have been exploited or that their health and safety has been compromised. If this is the case our team has the experience and personnel to help you get the results you deserve.