Skip to main content
nine to five
THE QUESTION

My workplace instituted a new policy that all employees should have first aid training. However, we are being asked to pay for the training ourselves and complete it in our own time. Is this legal? Should my workplace pay for the training and allow us to do it during work hours?

THE FIRST ANSWER

Hamoody Rahal, barrister and solicitor, Randy Ai Law Office, Toronto

Under Ontario’s Employment Standards Act, employers are generally required to compensate employees who perform training required for the job, with only a few exceptions that apply to certain industries (for a full list of those industries, visit Ontario’s Ministry of Labour’s website). An exception also exists for any training an employee performs that is not required by the employer – for example, an employer has no obligation to cover the costs of any voluntary training programs an employee chooses to enroll in that the employee believes will help develop their skills or increase their chance at a promotion.

In this case, if the employer is requiring that the employees receive first aid training to perform their job duties, the employer is legally obligated to both cover the training fees and to compensate the employees for all time spent while training during work hours. Furthermore, the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB) mandates certain rules regarding first aid training specifically, requiring that employers cover the costs of first aid training and supplies, including covering the wage costs for an employee’s time while they are completing an accredited first aid training program.

If an employee has already completed unpaid training for a first aid course that they were entitled to payment for, they can make a claim for unpaid wages to their provincial ministry of labour or through the civil court system with the assistance of a lawyer.

THE SECOND ANSWER

Carly Poissant, lawyer, HHBG Lawyers – Employment Justice, Vancouver

Your employer’s policy states that all employees “should” have first aid training, but it is unclear if your employer now requires or expects you to complete this training to perform your job duties.

In British Columbia, employer-directed training that an employee must complete to perform their job duties is generally considered “work” for which the employee is entitled to be paid. This can include a variety of job-related training, but does not usually extend to general permits or licenses, such as a driver’s license or food handling permit.

An employer is also not permitted to pass on or deduct “business costs” from employee wages. A “business cost” is an expense paid for the purposes of the employer’s business and for which the employer benefits.

Assuming that you are expected or directed by your employer to complete this training, it is my view that your employer is responsible for paying the cost and wages associated with this training. If you must complete this training outside of normal work hours, you should be paid at the appropriate rate for this work.

Your employer is not permitted to make deductions from your pay without your prior written authorization.

For further information or to seek reimbursement for wages and/or costs for training already incurred, I recommend you contact your local employment standards office or a lawyer in your area. If you are a unionized employee, please consult your collective agreement or speak to a union representative.

Have a question for our experts? Send an e-mail to NineToFive@globeandmail.com with ‘Nine to Five’ in the subject line. Emails without the correct subject line may not be answered.

Stay ahead in your career. We have a weekly Careers newsletter to give you guidance and tips on career management, leadership, business education and more. Sign up today.