onboarding new employees

Hiring and Onboarding Employees in Ontario: FAQs

Onboarding is a critical process for both employers and employees in Ontario. Proper onboarding ensures that new hires integrate seamlessly into the workplace and understand their rights and responsibilities. It also helps businesses comply with legal requirements. In this article, we’ll address some of the most frequently asked questions about onboarding in the context of Ontario.

What Is Onboarding?

Onboarding is the process of integrating a new employee into an organization. It involves introducing them to the company’s culture, policies, and procedures. In Ontario, it’s not just a best practice; it’s often a legal requirement to onboard employees properly.

Legal Requirements in Ontario

Ontario has specific legal obligations that employers must meet during the onboarding process. These requirements are designed to protect the rights and well-being of employees and ensure fair treatment. Key legal aspects include:

  • Employment Standards Act: This provincial legislation sets out the minimum standards for employment in Ontario. Employers must adhere to these standards during onboarding, covering areas like wages, hours of work, and leaves of absence.
  • Human Rights Code: Employers must also comply with the Human Rights Code of Ontario, ensuring that discrimination and harassment are not tolerated during onboarding or any other workplace activities.
  • Occupational Health and Safety Act: Onboarding should include health and safety training to ensure that employees are aware of workplace hazards and know how to protect themselves.

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Hiring and Onboarding Frequently Asked Questions

What types of checks can employers 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.

Can I conduct drug and alcohol testing during the hiring process?

In Ontario, conducting drug and alcohol testing during the hiring process carries legal implications that employers must be aware of to remain compliant with the law. The key legal considerations include:

Human Rights Legislation: The Ontario Human Rights Code prohibits discrimination based on various grounds, including disability. Requesting drug and alcohol testing without a legitimate and justifiable reason could be seen as discriminatory, particularly if it leads to the exclusion of candidates with disabilities or perceived disabilities. Employers must ensure that any testing they conduct is job-related and consistent with the nature of the position.

Consent: It is essential to obtain informed and voluntary consent from job candidates before conducting any drug or alcohol testing. Candidates should be aware of the nature of the testing, the reasons for it, and how the results will be used. Without proper consent, testing may be deemed an invasion of privacy.

Privacy Rights: Job candidates have privacy rights, and any information collected during drug and alcohol testing should be treated with the utmost confidentiality. Employers must have stringent data protection measures in place to safeguard this sensitive information.

Discrimination and Accommodation: Employers must be cautious not to discriminate against candidates who may have addiction issues. In Ontario, substance addiction is considered a disability under human rights legislation. If a candidate has a history of addiction, employers should consider whether accommodation is required, such as providing support or reasonable adjustments.

Occupational Health and Safety: Some industries in Ontario, such as those involving safety-sensitive positions, may have specific requirements for drug and alcohol testing due to occupational health and safety concerns. However, even in such cases, the testing must be conducted in a way that respects the candidates’ rights and privacy.

Given the complex legal landscape in Ontario surrounding drug and alcohol testing during the hiring process, it is advisable for employers to consult with an employment lawyer to ensure compliance with the law and to navigate any specific industry requirements.

What should be discussed with an employee before they start work, and why is it important?

Before an employee starts their job, several important discussions should take place to ensure a smooth transition into the workplace. These discussions are essential for setting expectations and preventing misunderstandings. Here are key topics to address with a new employee:

Job Description: Review the employee’s job description, duties, and responsibilities. Make sure they have a clear understanding of what is expected of them in their role.

Reporting Structure: Inform the employee about their reporting structure. They should know who their direct supervisor or manager is and how to contact them if they have questions or concerns.

Introduction to Colleagues: If feasible, introduce the new employee to their colleagues or team members. This helps establish initial connections and fosters a sense of belonging.

Company Policies: Provide the employee with access to company policies and procedures. This includes policies related to workplace conduct, safety, and any specific guidelines, such as those related to COVID-19. A clear understanding of these policies can prevent future disagreements and ensure compliance with company rules and regulations.

Accommodations: Emphasize the company’s commitment to providing reasonable accommodations to employees with disabilities or other specific needs. Let the employee know that if they require any accommodations to perform their job effectively, they should inform the employer. Discuss the process for requesting and implementing accommodations, ensuring that the employee is aware of their rights and the company’s commitment to inclusion.

Benefits and Compensation: If applicable, discuss the employee’s benefits package, compensation structure, and any other relevant details related to their employment terms.

Questions and Clarifications: Encourage the employee to ask questions and seek clarifications on any aspects of their role, the company, or policies they are unsure about. Open communication is key to a successful onboarding process.

By addressing these important topics before the employee starts work, you can set the foundation for a positive and productive employment relationship, reduce the likelihood of misunderstandings, and ensure that the employee is well-informed about their role and the organization’s expectations.

Is formal training or orientation required during employee onboarding in Ontario?

In Ontario, there is no legal requirement for employers to provide formal training or orientation to new hires. However, it is considered a best practice to offer some initial training or orientation to help employees adapt more easily to their roles.

For instance, it’s beneficial for a new employee to have an understanding of who to approach with questions or concerns. Additionally, many employees may require support when learning new software, procedures, or company-specific processes.

If an employer chooses to implement a formal training period, it’s essential to consider relevant employment legislation, such as Ontario’s Employment Standards Act. Under this act, employers typically must pay employees for their training time. However, there are exceptions to this requirement, so seeking legal advice before implementing training programs is advisable to ensure compliance.

Moreover, having a check-in meeting with the employee shortly after their start date is a good practice. This meeting can be informal but should provide the employee with the opportunity to ask questions and raise any concerns they may have. Open communication and support during the initial stages of employment can contribute to a smoother onboarding process and a positive employee experience.

Key Takeaways

To ensure a successful onboarding process in Ontario, consider these best practices:

  • Plan ahead and create a structured onboarding program.
  • Provide clear and detailed job descriptions and employment contracts.
  • Offer training on health and safety, as required by law.
  • Foster a welcoming and inclusive workplace culture.
  • Communicate openly with new hires and address their questions and concerns.


Onboarding employees in Ontario is not just about paperwork; it’s about setting the stage for a positive employment experience. By understanding the legal requirements and following best practices, employers can ensure a smooth transition for new hires, fostering a productive and compliant work environment in the province.

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Contact Achkar Law

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 and onboarding process, our experienced team of human resources 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.