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The question

I work night shifts at my company, however, the HR department only works from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. I would like to book an appointment with them to discuss some concerns I have about my manager and they say that I need to come in during work hours to meet with them in person. It’s inconvenient for me to come in during the 9-5. Should I be compensated for the meeting time? Does the HR department have an obligation to meet with me during my working hours if I need to discuss workplace concerns?

The first answer

Marion Blight, associate, Randy Ai Law Office, Toronto

I’m sorry that you are having difficulty accessing your employer’s human resources, but there isn’t really a special obligation here for HR to be the one who accommodates your schedule. If you would like to have this meeting, then it can happen on their terms, within reason. However, whoever is required to come in during their off hours to handle this matter should at least be compensated.

HR would certainly be working during this meeting, and my belief is that you would be as well – we interpret the definition of “work” very broadly, and a mandatory meeting certainly qualifies. If you are working, then you should be paid.

Under the Employment Standards Act, 2000, which governs most employment here in Ontario, an employee that is asked to report to work is paid at least three hours under the Three Hour Rule, even if they work less than that, so long as they would be available to work the full three hours if required to. HR should also consider how long the breaks between working hours must be (at least eight hours); whether they are violating the maximum time worked in one day (eight hours); and whether this qualifies as overtime, then compensate you (or themselves) accordingly.

These limits will likely influence HR’s decision about when the meeting will take place and under what circumstances. Make sure to raise any issues which may require accommodation, like childcare responsibilities or health concerns, and check the specific rules which apply to you in your province or field of employment.

The second answer

Nicola Watson, lawyer, Pink Larkin, Halifax

While the ultimate answer to this question depends on a number of factors, including the terms of the employment contract, the applicable workplace policies and the nature of the employee’s concerns, typically, the answer to each of these questions is “no.”

An employer has a legal obligation to provide employees with a safe workplace that is free from discrimination. In some circumstances, an employee’s workplace concern may relate to these legal obligations. If this is the case, the employer may have a duty to investigate and address this concern. This does not mean, however, that an employer is required to make a human resources employee available to meet with night-shift employees about workplace concerns during the night shift.

If an employee has difficulty attending the workplace to discuss their concerns during business hours, the employee should ask to communicate with the human resources department via phone, video conference or e-mail. That being said, in circumstances where an employer orders an hourly employee to attend a mandatory meeting outside of the employee’s working hours, the employee will often be entitled to compensation for that time.

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