Decent Work Checklist

Decent Work Checklist

A major aspect of sustaining a decent work environment is through organizational practices and cultures. This checklist can help you think about what decent work practices look like for your organization and identify areas where you are achieving impressive decent work practices and areas where you would like to improve.

1. Decent Wages

Fair income is one common aspect of decent work. This involves not only salaries, but also income security: paid holiday, parental and sick leave, and steady work hours that allow for a predictable income. Support for fair income might mean promoting and adopting “living wage” policies or other standards that promote income fairness within, and between, workplaces.

Indicator A: Adequacy of lowest paid positions in our organization Rating
Government-mandated minimum wage Basic
Between minimum wage and the goal of the current $15 and Fairness Campaign Better
More than $15 an hour ("Living Wage" research has identified $18.75 as the wage needed to live adequately in the City of Toronto, given current costs of living in our urban setting) Best

Indicator B: The spread between the lowest and highest wages in our organization Rating
Highest paid staff are paid more than 5 times the average wage of lowest paid 10% of our organization's positions Basic
Highest paid staff are paid no more than 8 times the average wage of lowest paid 10% of our organization's positions (WageMark proposed ratio) Better
Highest paid staff are paid less than 8 times the average wage of lowest paid 10% of our organization's positions Best

Indicator C: Annual salary increases across position levels Rating
No salary increases have been granted over the past year Basic
A modest salary increase (below cost of living or approximately 2%) Better
A salary increase at or above the cost of living Best

Indicator D: Wages reflect market rate (internal and external to the sector) and job description Rating
At the outset wages are set at in consultation with market rate and job description Basic
Regular reviews of market rates and job descriptions ensure wages are up-to-date Better
Changes in wages for a position are documented with changes in market rates and job description Better

Indicator E: Eliminating Gender Bias Rating
There are no wage discrepancies between male class jobs and female class jobs Basic
Wage gaps between genders are identified (including within pay scales) at all levels and upward adjustments are made Basic
If it applies, pay equity and pay transparency plans are in place with obligations being met as mandated Basic
Pay scales for positions are provided in job descriptions Better
There is an equitable and consistent stance on salary and contract negotiations across position levels Better

2. Decent benefits

In addition to extended benefits (such as holiday pay, parental and sick leave, which are governed by the Employment Standards Act), retirement income security and access to essential healthcare are two of the most central elements of the ILO’s social protection pillar to improve the lives of many. These are especially important to the nonprofit sector as a key driver of dignity in the workplace and making our sector an employer of choice.

Indicator A: Key benefits for full-time staff Rating
Those mandated in Ontario's Employment Standards Act (ESA) Basic
Paid sick leave Better
Paid holiday time above ESA minimum Better
Employee has the flexibility to extend maternity and parental leave and use unused sick and vacation time Better
Co-pay (by employer) or sole pay health and dental benefits Best
Some kind of employer/employee pension or retirement savings plan Best
Maternity and parental leaves are supplemented with a “top-up” Best
Benefit plans are reviewed regularly Best

Indicator B: Pro rated benefits (or wages in lieu of benefits) for part-time and/or contract staff Rating
Those mandated in the ESA Basic
Paid sick leave Better
Paid holiday time above ESA minimum Better
Employee has the flexibility to extend maternity and parental leave, use unused sick and vacation time Better
Co-pay (by employer) or sole pay health and dental benefits Best
Some kind of employer/employee pension or retirement savings plan Best
Maternity and parental leaves are supplemented with a “top-up” Best
Benefit plans are reviewed regularly Best

Indicator C: Mental health support Rating
Staff are provided with mental health days Basic
Access to Employee Assistance Program (EAP) Better
Access to supports to ameliorate workplace stresses Best

3. Decent Contract Security

There is pressure in the labour market to increase the use of “precarious” part-time and limited-term job contracts to carry out work that used to be done by full-time permanent staff. In some instances, this is done to achieve flexibility, and is a necessary part of some staffing models (for example, with relief and emergency workers). However, this can also be a practice used to avoid the added costs associated with full-time and permanent contracts. The extent to which the nonprofit sector can resist these trends will determine whether or not we can continue to provide good jobs for many people in our workforce.

Indicator A: Ratio of part-time to full-time staff positions Rating
Part-time staff represent over one-third (33%) of our workforce Basic
Part-time staff represent between 20% and 33% of our workforce Better
Part-time staff represent less than 20% (one in five positions) of our workforce Best

Indicator B: Over the past 10 years, the ratio of contract to permanent staff positions has: Rating
Increased. There are now a greater number of limited-term or contract positions relative to permanent positions at our organization Basic
Stayed about the same Better
Decreased. There are fewer limited-term or contract positions relative to permanent positions Best

Indicator C: Do our part-time staff receive increased salary to compensate for the lack of full-time hours? Rating
No Basic
Yes, pro rated benefits or pay in lieu of benefits are added to wages Better
Yes, pro rated benefits and higher wage levels are provided (ex: "living wage" rates) Best

Indicator D: Which contracts provide job security for project positions? Rating
Staff working on long-term projects are provided one-year contracts Basic
Staff working on long-term projects are provided contracts for duration of project Better
Staff working on long-term projects are given pathways to permanent employment when possible Best

4. Decent Scheduling

Many programs in the nonprofit sector rely upon flexible and on-call scheduling to meet the needs of the people served. At the same time, the capacity of staff to plan their non-work activities, attend to personal and family needs and attain a positive work-life balance depends on having reasonable ability to plan ahead. Efforts to provide as advanced scheduling are critical.

Indicator A: For program models that require changing shifts and schedules for staff, we set these schedules: Rating
Weekly Basic
Monthly Better
Quarterly Best

Indicator B: For flexible programs, part-time staff can stipulate the days they are available to work (this enables them to coordinate with another part-time job, if they wish) Rating
No Basic
Sometimes Better
Yes, all the time Best

Indicator C: To support work-life balance staff are allowed flexibility in their schedule, if it does not impact their work activities Rating
Not at all Basic
Sometimes Better
Yes Best
Frequently/regularly Best

Indicator D: If staff accumulate lieu time, it is tracked and they are able to use it in a timely manner Rating
Not at all Basic
Sometimes Better
Yes Best
Frequently/regularly Best

5. Decent Opportunities for Advancement

Decent work also means thinking about the opportunities available for training, learning, and advancement. This may include formal training and advancement opportunities, and having a workplace and sector culture that is focused on learning and the development of its employees.

Indicator A: Professional development and training opportunities are made available to staff, and we seek to spend a percentage of our organization’s payroll budget on these opportunities (include PD funds plus time off for training). Rating
0.5% of payroll Basic
1.0% of payroll Better
1.5% of payroll Best

Indicator B: If we surveyed our staff, what percentage do we think would agree with the statement: "My organization encourages me to take on new challenges and pursue opportunities for advancement within my organization and externally"? Rating
Less than 40% Basic
40% to 70% Better
Over 70% Best

Indicator C: Managers are promoted from within the organization Rating
Rarely Basic
Sometimes Better
Frequently Best

Indicator D: Informal training sessions on various topics are offered in the organization (ex: brown bag lunch series) Rating
Rarely Basic
Sometimes Better
Frequently/regularly Best

Indicator E: The organization has an up-to-date succession plan Rating
Only at the board level Basic
For senior leadership Better
Performance check-ins are regularly scheduled Better
For all position levels Best
Across all position levels, coaching and mentorship structures exist and are accessible Best
Succession plans are reviewed regularly Best

Indicator F: Management, senior leadership, and board positions are gender-balanced and reflect the diversity of the community Rating
An evaluation of positions is in process Basic
Policies, plans, and targets are in place in order Better
All position levels are gender-balanced and reflect the diversity of the community Best

6. Decent Processes for Resolving Conflicts

An environment where people can express their concerns, participate equally and feel included and safe in the workplace underpins all aspects of decent work. This includes strong employment standards, establishing codes of conduct, developing proactive policies for diversity and inclusion, ensuring the safety of workers, respecting the mental and physical health of employees and ensuring that employees understand they have the right to organize and speak up about workplace concerns.

Indicator A: Does our organization have clear, accessible and confidential grievance procedures, policies and practices in place to support staff in addressing and resolving conflicts with co-workers and supervisors? Rating
If not unionized: policies are in place, but are not often used or followed in practice Basic
If not unionized: policies are in place, and are regularly used to identify and address conflicts Better
If not unionized: policies are in place, are regularly used, and staff have access to support or third party assistance as part of such processes Best
Under our union collective agreement Best
Policies and collective agreements are reviewed regularly Best

Indicator B: Does our organization have policies to ensure the safety of workers? (for example, case workers are paired when going to see high-risk clients) Rating
There is a policy but it is rarely followed Basic
There is a policy, sometimes followed Better
There is a policy and it is always followed Best

7. Decent Workplace Culture of Participation

Effective leadership and a participatory work culture are crucial to decent work. The leadership norms and management styles practiced in workplaces impact the ability of workers to sustain their passion and commitment to work, and contribute their ideas and skills to advancing the broader mission of the organization. They also impact the ability of workers to balance work, family and personal time. A participatory work culture also goes beyond compliance with human rights and accessibility legislation, and actively fosters inclusion and engagement.

Indicator A: How many joint worker-management committees does our organization have (ex: health and safety, advocacy, equity and inclusion, anti-violence)? Rating
No worker-management committees Basic
One or two committees Better
More than two committees (or for smaller organizations, a few committees that cover more than two areas of collaborative organizational planning) Best

Indicator B: Does our organization have policies that focus on diversity, equity and inclusion? Rating
There is no such policy Basic
There is a policy but it is not always followed. Better
There is a policy and it is always followed. Best

Indicator C: Have we surveyed our staff on issues of workplace culture and work satisfaction? Rating
No Basic
Yes, but not in the last year Better
Yes, within the last year Best

Indicator D: Does our organization involve/consult staff when developing program/project proposals? Rating
Never Basic
Sometimes Better
Always Best

8. Strategies to Promote Decent Work

Nonprofits can face significant structural barriers to providing decent work. These can be a result of program models that require flexible, part-time or casual contracts, or funders that do not allow funds to be used for certain costs (for example, identifying pension contributions as an “ineligible” expense). In the case of government-funded organizations, there is often restraint and flatlining of program funds for years at a time. Some organizations may be able to overcome aspects of these barriers over time (for example, not accepting low-wage contracts). However, to make systemic change for government funders to include cost of living increases in their allocations, it will take concerted advocacy efforts collectively by our networks and the nonprofit sector as a whole.

Indicator A: Our organization has demonstrated achievements to sustain and/or expand decent work practices Rating
We are aware of some good decent work practices in our organization Basic
We have documented case studies of our positive decent work practices, and have shared them with others Better
We are actively engaged in collaborative efforts to promote the importance of decent work, and build our sector's capacity to champion these values and practices Best

Indicator B: Our organization is aware of the pressures and challenges we face to sustain or expand decent work practices Rating
We have completed an assessment of our decent work practices (like this one) Basic
We have identified key decent work challenges that as an organization we would like to address, and have developed a plan to tackle the ones within our control Better
We have plans to address key challenges within our control and are participating in collective efforts to advocate for the systemic changes that would remove some barriers our organization faces in providing decent work Best

Indicator C: Our organization has been speaking with our funders, seeking modifications to restrictions so we can provide staff with better wages and benefits. Rating
No, we have not discussed this with funders Basic
We have discussed this with funders but with limited success Better
We have discussed this with funders and have been able to get some modifications Best

We’re grateful for the financial support of the Atkinson Foundation and Status of Women Canada, which is helping us to explore and build decent work in Ontario’s nonprofit sector.