Decent Work Checklist

The Checklist

Decent work practices are not simply limited to financial rewards and benefits. Organizational practices and cultures are part of a decent work environment. This simple 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.
If you download the checklist, please let us know by sending an email to [email protected].

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 organizationRating
Government-mandated minimum wageBasic
$15 hourly wageBetter
More than $15 an hour is required to live adequately in many cities in Ontario
Visit Ontario Living Wage Network to see living wage rates in your region.
Indicator B: Annual salary increases across position levelsRating
No salary increases have been granted over the past 2 yearsBasic
A modest salary increase (below cost of living or approximately 2%)Better
A salary increase at or above the cost of livingBest
Indicator C: Eliminating Gender BiasRating
Wage gaps between genders are identified (including within pay scales) at all levels and upward adjustments are madeBasic
Pay equity and pay transparency plans are in place with obligations being met as mandatedBetter
Pay scales for positions are provided in job postings.

Note: In terms of bias, there is still opportunity to pay people less if they are not strong negotiators. Having a single pay amount is more transparent
There is an equitable and consistent stance on salary and contract negotiations across position levelsBest

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 decent work. 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 staffRating
Those mandated in Ontario’s Employment Standards Act (ESA)Basic
Paid sick leaveBetter
Paid vacation time above ESA minimumBetter
Co-pay (by employer) or sole pay health and dental benefitsBest
Some kind of employer/employee pension or retirement savings planBest
Maternity (EI) and parental leaves (ESA) are supplemented with a “top-up”Best
Benefit plans are reviewed regularlyBest
Pro rated benefits (or wages in lieu of benefits
Those mandated in the ESABasic
Paid sick leaveBetter
Paid vacation time above ESA minimumBetter
Employee has the flexibility to extend maternity benefits (EI) and parental leave (ESA)Better
Co-pay (by employer) or sole pay health and dental benefitsBest
Some kind of employer/employee pension or retirement savings planBest
Maternity and parental leaves are supplemented with a “top-up”Best
Indicator C: Mental health supportRating
Staff are provided with mental health days counted as regular sick daysBasic
Access to Employee Assistance Program (EAP)Better
Access to supports to ameliorate workplace stressesBest

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 positionsRating
Part-time staff represent over one-third (33%) of our workforceBasic
Part-time staff represent between 20% and 33% of our workforceBetter
Part-time staff represent less than 20% (one in five positions) of our workforceBest
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 organizationBasic
Stayed about the sameBetter
Decreased. There are fewer limited-term or contract positions relative to permanent positionsBest
Indicator C: Do our part-time staff receive increased salary to compensate for the lack of full-time hours?Rating
Yes, pro-rated benefits or pay in lieu of benefits are added to wagesBetter
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 contractsBasic
Staff working on long-term projects are provided contracts for duration of projectBetter
Staff working on long-term projects are given pathways to permanent employment when possibleBest

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
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
Yes, all the timeBest
Indicator C: To support work-life balance, staff are allowed flexibility in their schedule, if it does not impact their work activitiesRating
Not at allBasic
Indicator D: If staff accumulate lieu time, it is tracked and they are able to use it in a timely mannerRating
Not at allBasic

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 payrollBasic
1.0% of payrollBetter
1.5% of payrollBest
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, and provide support to do so”?Rating
Less than 40%Basic
40% to 70%Better
Over 70%Best
Indicator C: Informal training sessions on various topics are offered in the organization (ex: brown bag lunch series)Rating
Indicator D: Management, senior leadership, and board positions are gender-balanced, and reflect the diversity of the communityRating
An evaluation of positions is in processBasic
Policies, plans, and targets are in placeBetter
All position levels are gender-balanced and reflect the diversity of the communityBest

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 practiceBasic
If not unionized: policies are in place, and are regularly used to identify and address conflictsBetter
If not unionized: policies are in place, are regularly used, and staff have access to support or third party assistance as part of such processesBest
Under our union collective agreementBest
Policies and collective agreements are reviewed regularlyBest
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 followedBasic
There is a policy, sometimes followedBetter
There is a policy and it is always followedBest

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 (such as health and safety, advocacy, equity and inclusion, anti-violence)?*Rating
No worker-management committeesBasic
One or two committeesBetter
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 policyBasic
There is a policy, but it is not always followedBetter
There is a policy and it is always followedBest
Indicator C: Have we surveyed our staff on issues of workplace culture and work satisfaction?Rating
Yes, but not in the last yearBetter
Yes, within the last yearBest
Indicator D: Does our organization involve/consult staff when developing program/project proposals?Rating

* Note: The Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA) sets out roles and responsibilities of workplace parties with respect to workplace violence and workplace harassment, including developing and implementing policies and programs, and providing information and instruction on these. The Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) also sets out regulations for identifying, removing, and preventing barriers to employees with disabilities.

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 practicesRating
We are aware of some good decent work practices in our organizationBasic
We have documented case studies of our positive decent work practices, and have shared them with othersBetter
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 practicesBest
Indicator B: Our organization is aware of the pressures and challenges we face to sustain or expand decent work practicesRating
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 controlBetter
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 workBest
Indicator C: Our organization has been speaking with our funders, seeking modifications to restrictions so we can provide staff with better wages and benefitsRating
No, we have not discussed this with fundersBasic
We have discussed this with funders, but with limited successBetter
We have discussed this with funders and have been able to get some modificationsBest


Checklist – pdf

Liste de contrôle du travail décent – pdf

Checklist – editable document

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.

We are grateful to Definity Foundation for being a Connector+.
Support ONN
Definity Foundation
A newsletter with public policy, network, and funding updates.
Get updates
Email graphic