Worker Co-ops and Employment Law in Canada

Prepared for: Canadian Worker Co-operative Federation and Saint Mary’s University
By John McNamara, Student, Master of Management
Co-operatives and Credit Unions, St. Mary’s University


1.0 Introduction

Worker co-operatives occupy a unique place in the economy and employment law. The employees of the organization also control the organization as owners. As a result, the workers set the rules, which they must follow. Organizationally, the government sees these co-operatives as employers and treats them as any other employer. It may be a sentiment of members in a worker co-operative that they should be able to do what they want since they are both employer and employee, but the state has different considerations. Worker co-operatives must act within the law. Among other things, this means determining if there is an employer-employee relationship. If there is such a relationship, then the co-operative must also abide by employment standards. Even if there is not, the co-operative must still comply with other legislation including human rights, occupational safety and health, and workers’ compensation.

This paper will examine the relationship between worker co-operatives and employment law in Canada. It will consider the definition of an employee, the rights of members, the rights of employers, the method of proper termination and the role of labour unions. It will provide recommendations for worker co-operatives to consider as they navigate the legislation in order to create a strong co-operative and a workplace beneficial to its membership.

As a disclaimer, this paper should not be considered to provide any sort of legal advice. It merely analyzes the existing statutes and the role of employment and labour law within worker co-operatives. Before acting on recommendations set forth, directors and managers should consult a lawyer, especially one knowledgeable about worker co-operatives and employment law.

Employment Law Paper Final