onboarding new employees

Best Practices for Onboarding Employees in Ontario

Hiring a new employee is an exciting time because of the addition of a new member with their own unique set of skills to add to the team. It can also be daunting for the new employee because of the uncertainty in starting a new role. As such, it is important for employers to have an organized onboarding process to ensure that the employee feels supported while the employer covers all its bases when hiring a new team member, and also to ensure that employers are adhering to human rights legislation. So, what are the best practices for onboarding employees in Ontario? Some common questions and tips are outlined below. 

What checks can an employer request during the employee onboarding process?

When an employer has narrowed down candidates, many want further information to guide their decision-making process. However, there is a limit to how much and the type of information an employer can request. 

It is commonplace to request personal reference checks from a candidate. It may also be appropriate to request criminal background checks, depending on the nature of the position. For example, certain sectors require a vulnerable sector check, while others may also seek a criminal record and judicial matters check. Legislation limits the amount and type of information that can be disclosed through criminal background checks, so ensure your request is reasonable and compliant.

During any background check, an employer must remember their obligations under human rights legislation. In Ontario, the Human Rights Code protects candidates from discrimination based on protected characteristics such as age, sex, disability, race, and on the basis of a record of offences, among others.

Additional types of checks that are contentious include pre-hiring drug and medical testing. There are limited circumstances where it may be appropriate to conduct such testing. If you are considering this for a prospective employee, we recommend you contact an employment lawyer to discuss your options.

After you have chosen a candidate, what should an employer due to promote their success?

Prior to the employee’s first day, the employer should ensure that it has everything in place for the employee to hit the ground running. For instance, an executed employment contract, completed income tax forms, complete payroll information, and providing the employee with an Employee Handbook (if any). It is advisable to create an employee file to organize the information, which should also include the employee’s application package and pre-hiring checks.

To ensure the employee feels welcome and supported, announce the employee’s arrival to the staff and prepare the employee’s workspace for use. Having the minor details such as an assigned email address, phone number, and a security pass can start the employment relationship on a positive note.

Is there anything I should discuss with the employee before s/he starts work?

Although there are set rules that cover everything you should discuss with an employee before they begin, it is advisable to review the employee’s job description with him/her and discuss expectations. The employee should be aware if they are required to report to someone, and an introduction to this individual ahead of time may be beneficial.

In addition, an employee should have access to employer policies. For example, many employers have developed new policies in relation to COVID-19. Providing the employee with a clear understanding of the organization’s expectations can prevent disagreements in the future.

Do I have to provide a training period or orientation when onboarding employees?

There is no legal obligation for an employer to provide a new hire with formal training or orientation. However, it is good practice to provide some initial training so that the employee can adapt more easily. For instance, an employee should have a sense of who to approach with their questions or concerns. It is not uncommon to need support when learning new softwares and procedures.

Where an employer chooses to have a formal training period, we recommend reviewing the relevant employment legislation. For instance, employers generally must pay employees for their training time under Ontario’s Employment Standards Act. However, there are exceptions to paid training, so we recommend seeking legal advice before imposing training.

It is also a good idea to have a check-in meeting with the employee shortly after s/he has started working. This can be informal, but the employee should have the opportunity to ask questions and raise concerns.


It is advisable for employers to have an organized and seamless onboarding procedure that goes beyond basic legal obligations. This will encourage a positive employment relationship and contribute to the new employee feeling welcome and supported. 

Contact Us

If you are an employer and need assistance with your hiring or onboarding process, or an employee who believes that you have been discriminated against during a hiring process, our experienced team of workplace lawyers at Achkar Law can help. Contact us by phone toll-free at +1 (800) 771-7882 or email us at [email protected] and we would be happy to assist.

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