Looming Changes to Ontario's Employment and Labour Laws

June 1, 2017

The government of Ontario is proposing broad reforms to the province’s employment laws. The Fair Workplaces, Better Jobs Act, 2017 (the Act) goes beyond a simple increase in minimum wage and includes a number of amendments to Ontario’s Employment Standards Act, 2000 (the ESA) and Labour Relations Act, 1995 (the LRA). The proposed legislation is based on the 175 recommendations made in the government mandated Mitchell and Murray’s Changing Workplace Review. If passed, most changes would be implemented at various dates in 2018 and 2019.

Reforms to Employment Standards Act

An overview of reforms to the ESA include: increasing minimum wage to $14 an hour by January 1, 2018, rising to $15 an hour in 2019, (currently, minimum wage is $11.40 an hour); increasing paid vacation to three weeks after five years of service; increasing pay for other workers who receive lower wages than full-time workers when doing the same work and enabling employees to request a review of their wages. Emergency leave days would apply to all employers and 2 of the 10 leave days would have to be paid.

In addition, the proposed legislation would prohibit employers from misclassifying employees as “independent contractors” or face prosecution, public disclosure and monetary penalties.

The proposed Act will also provide employees who are “on-call” with a minimum of three hours pay even if not called into work and employees will be granted the right to refuse to accept a shift if provided with less than four days’ notice of the shift.

Enhanced Enforcement

In addition to reforms under the Act, the province will enhance the enforcement of employment standards. The province announced plans to hire up to 175 more employment standards officers to investigate complaints and other matters under the ESA as well as launch a program to educate small and medium businesses employees about the ESA. Also, monetary fines for non-compliance will increase.

Easier to Unionize under the Labour Relations Act

The Act also proposes sweeping changes to the LRA to make it easier for unions to organize and certify workplaces. Changes to the certification process include: giving unions access to automatic certification when an employer contravenes the LRA; increasing the steps employees must take to pursue a decertification application; providing unions access to employee lists and contact information; and increasing fines under the LRA to $100,000 for organizations from $25,000.

We will keep you updated on the status of the proposed Act. In the meantime, employers should keep these proposed legislative amendments in mind when creating mid and long-range employment related business strategies.

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