As Canada continues to make the work place more enticing, in an effort to increase immigration, the hospitality industry is face with serious complications.

Seasonal Workers

The Christmas season is a managerial nightmare in almost any hospitality establishment. It doesn’t matter whether it is a restaurant in Halifax, a Night Club in Toronto, a Hotel in Winnipeg, or a Casino in Vancouver. There will be a high influx of seasonal staff over the next few weeks.

In the past there was an unwritten understanding that these people would work until after Christmas, or through January.  Hotels and restaurants are 90% staffed by seasonal workers at Ski Resorts.

The problem lays in the government changing the rules for Termination Pay. Laying off staff after 13 weeks in a 20-week period is deemed a ‘termination’ requiring the employee to receive termination pay.

Hiring for only 10 weeks reduces training and acclamation time. Management has solved one problem by creating another.


This is where you need to understand the law. I’ve seen smaller restaurants hit hard because they hired and laid off the same workers two or three times a year. The government accumulates these times, so you may only hire the person on for 10 weeks, but the government may consider the accumulated value of the employees time.

Employment Contracts

This is becoming the trend. Hire someone, or sub contract them, for a specific time period outlining the terms of their employment agreement. To many managers have a contract spun up ‘in house.’ The problem is faced by the fact that, if your contract is perceived as illegal, Labour Canada will be the one taking the business to court, not the employee.

This can be a confusing concept for managers who immigrate from other countries. Especially if those countries had an authoritarian style of business management. Or in some counties where society had a hierarchy system.

No contract should ever be written without the assistance of an employment lawyer. Even if that employee’s position does not carry weight within the company. I’ve seen a few employment contracts that violated the Human Rights Code. This contract is illegal.

When writing a contract, compensation cannot be limited to an employee’s regular pay.  It includes cash bonuses, incentives and commissions, pension plan contributions, group benefits, club or membership dues, and any other items of value which the employee was receiving while employed.


The problem isn’t really with the hospitality industry. It is in the wording of the ESA termination guidelines. You may see termination of a seasonal employee as a fact of business. The ESA sees all terminations in the same light. This means the same rules apply.

If you terminate a person but you do not plan to hire them next season, be very careful how you word the termination in any document, or how you speak to people. Managers know they must give a good reference, or speak positively about an employee they terminated for negligence or theft. Many mangers do not realize that these same laws apply to seasonal workers.

Surviving the Holiday Season

 Many smaller hotels, or independent restaurants need season workers. They are a fact of life in the hospitality industry. But they can also become a legal nightmare. Know the employee’s rights. Know the law. Hire a lawyer

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