Social Services

With many Canadians feeling vulnerable and overwhelmed due to the events of recent years, the importance of the social services sector is more apparent now than ever before. What is even more obvious, however, is how underfunded organizations within this sector still are. As the country focuses on economic recovery and defining a “new normal,” the social services sector continues to face challenges delivering its core services. With budgetary and government funding pressures, human resources and labour relations matters—such as collective bargaining and fair wages for lower-paid/higher-risk work—grow in their complexity.

Many social services employers must contend with potential and actual changes in how they do business, whether through government-mandated mergers, shared-services arrangements or other large-scale restructurings. Countless organizations within this sector provide essential services and those employers face the additional challenges of increased work loads, improper staffing, overworked employees and job vacancies. These challenges and changes can have a significant impact on ongoing operations as well as human resources and labour relations.

With our extensive experience working with clients in the social services sector, our Social Services Industry Group understands these challenges and is always mindful of the primacy of our clients’ service mandate: to support and protect the most vulnerable and marginalized members of society.

We recognize that issues in this sector can rarely be viewed in simple “employer/employee” or “employer/union” terms—and we are keenly aware of the political, cultural and socio-economic dynamics that are at work whenever legal issues arise. We are mindful of the practical realities of our clients’ operations and strive to provide advice that is not only helpful, but cost-effective.


  • children’s aid societies
  • family counselling organizations
  • children’s and youth services centres
  • community living organizations and other services for the developmentally disabled
  • seniors’ services
  • women’s shelters and crisis centres
  • immigrant and cross-cultural organizations
  • local organizations providing services to those in need of assistance


We apply a creative and strategic approach to the broad range of human resources and advocacy offerings we provide to social services employers including:

  • participation in collective bargaining negotiations and collective agreement interpretation and administration
  • representation of employers at arbitration hearings, labour board disputes and wrongful dismissal proceedings
  • advice on human rights matters and representing employers at human rights tribunal hearings for both employment-related and service-related complaints
  • advice on issues related to accommodation and diversity, employment standards, attendance management and occupational health and safety
  • advice on service and employment contracts, structuring and documentation of severance packages, resolution of pay equity issues and handling of freedom of information requests
  • consultation on policy development and analysis

We work collaboratively with social services sector associations such as OASIS, speaking frequently at association conferences and keeping their officials and members up-to-date on the legal issues that affect them. We also publish Reaching Out, a periodic newsletter specifically dealing with issues of significance to our social services clients.