May 22

Here are a bunch of possible essay topics off the top of my head in no particular order. If none of these interest you, and nothing else is coming to mind, I recommend you email me and tell me in a general way what interests you. We can then think about possible topics.

Possible Essay Topics

1.  The Ontario government is presently reviewing both employment standards and collective bargaining legislation in light of the “changing workplace”.  Examine what is meant by “the changing workplace”, and what are some of the proposals that have been submitted to address them?

2. The use and legality of ‘unpaid interns’ is getting a lot of attention in Canada today.  Explore how the law deals with unpaid interns and the policy challenges associated with dealing with their use.

3. In HRM literature, the shift to ‘flexible’ employment and ‘self-employment’ is often described as beneficial for both business and workers.  However, the OECD has said that the move to more ‘self-employment’ is a major cause of growing income inequality in Canada. Should governments be concerned about the trend towards more self-employment and if so what might they do about it?

4. Canadian judges long ago implied a term into employment contracts requiring that ‘reasonable notice’ be given of the termination of the contract. That requirement was later adopted by governments and incorporated into statutory ‘minimum notice’ provisions. However, in the U.S., the courts went another direction completely. They decided that employment contracts are ‘at will’. This means that either side can terminate the contract at any time without giving notice. Examine the origins of the divergent approaches and the philosophies used to justify them. Which model do you believe is ‘preferable’?

5. “It is true that unions have measurable effects on wages and benefits, which usually benefit workers, but they also impose considerable restraints on the ability of employers to implement progressive HR policies and strategies.” Evaluate this comment, with reference to the academic literature on union effects and labour arbitration law relating to management rights.

6.  Explore the debates about the impacts of unions on such things as productivity, profitability, and employment levels.

7. While the Canadian collective bargaining model that began with P.C. 1003 did a lot to build a middle-class in Canada, it was principally men (mostly white men) that benefited. The model was never designed to influence working conditions in the sorts of jobs where most women were employed. Yet today over 50 percent of union members are women. What explains this dramatic turnaround, and does it mean that women are in a position to take the leadership role in the Canadian labour movement?

8. The question of how far the ‘right to strike’ should go has been a topic of debate in recent years because of strikes at universities and high schools and in public transit and garbage collection. The TTC was recently declared an ‘essential service’, and the Harper government prohibited strikes at Air Canada and Canada Post. Last year, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that the Charter of Rights and Freedoms protects a right to strike.  Explore the debates in Canada about the ‘right to strike’ and the possible affects of the Supreme Court’s ruling.

10. Select a subject related to HR and examine in depth how that subject is governed by the law.

11. Compare a feature of Canadian labour and employment law to the laws of another country dealing with the same subject matter. Or, compare and contrast how different Canadian jurisdictions deal with the same or similar issues related to employment. (you can talk to me about possible subjects where there are differences).

13.   Explore the law that governs an HR issue that you or your organization has had deal with.  Do you think that law strikes an appropriate balance between the employer’s interests and the employees’ interest?

14.  Choose an academic in the field of industrial relations or employment/labour law and explore themes and ideas in their work.

15.  Explore the debates about whether the minimum wage laws reduce poverty.

16.   Explore the literature that explains why workers join unions, and assess the potential for workers in your workplace or industry to look to unions in light of those findings.

17.    Examine and evaluate  the various studies that have looked at the “demand for unionization” in Canada and the U.S. (the assessment of whether workers would like to belong to unions if given the opportunity).  What issues do these studies raise for public policy reform, if any.

19.   The HRPA is implementing a new ‘jurisprudence’ exam.  This suggests a new concern that HRM professionals be well versed in the law.  For example, “employment law” was never a required course in the certification program.  However, a little legal knowledge can be dangerous because the risk and exposure to an employer of misinterpreting or misapplying the law can be very high.  Discuss the relationship between the HR role and the law, and assess the decision of the HRPA to test legal knowledge.

20.   The Ontario government recently enacted Bill 32, An Act respecting the Human Resources Professionals Association.  Explain the background of this Bill and assess its likely impact.

21.  How does the Human Rights Code deal with employees with addictions and what is the extent of an employer’s duty to accommodate those employees?

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