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Summary of Proposed Major Changes to Ontario’s Labour Laws


The Government of Ontario has recently announced its intention to introduce a new piece of legislation called the “Fair Workplaces, Better Jobs Act, 2017.” If passed, the legislation would represent broad and major changes to Ontario’s Employment Standards Act and Labour Relations Act, and impact hundreds of thousands of businesses across the province from small firms to large enterprises. Here is a summary of the proposed changes:


Minimum Wage


  • The general minimum wage would increase to $14/hour on January 1/18, and to $15/hour on January 1/19.
  • The special minimum wage for liquor servers, students under 18, hunting and fishing guides, and homeworkers would increase by the same percentage, and on the same dates, as the general minimum wage.


Temporary Workers


  • Temporary Help Agency (THA) employees (a.k.a. assignment workers) would be paid the same as permanent employees of the THA employer when doing the same job.
  • THA employees would be protected from penalties or repercussions if they inquire about the wage rate of a permanent employee of the THA employer who does the same job.
  • THA employees would be entitled to receive at least one week’s notice when an assignment that is scheduled to last more than three months is terminated early. Without such notice, an affected THA employee would be paid the difference, unless he or she is offered at least one week’s worth of reasonable work during the notice period.


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  • Employees would be protected from repercussions if they ask for schedule and/or location changes after being employed for three months.
  • Employees who routinely work more than three hours each day, but are given less than three hours on any particular day, would be paid three hours at their normal rate of pay.
  • If an employer asks an employee to accept a shift with less than four days of notice, the employee would be able to refuse the request without repercussions.
  • If an employee’s shift is cancelled within 48 hour of its schedule start, he or she would be paid three hours at their normal rate of pay.
  • Employees who are on-call, but not called into work, would be paid three hours at their normal rate


* Note: If a collective agreement exists or is made between an employer and a union, the agreement would prevail in place of some of these proposed new rules.


Overtime Pay


  • Employees who have more than one position with the same employer, and who are working overtime, would receive overtime pay at the rate of the position that they are working on during the overtime period.


Employee Classification


  • Employers that misclassify employees as independent contractors would be subject to penalties, including prosecution, public disclosure of a conviction, and fines.
  • In the event of a dispute, the onus would be on the employer to prove that a worker is not an employee vs. the worker proving that he or she is an employee.



Joint Liability


  • It would no longer be necessary to establish that related businesses intended to circumvent the purpose of the Employment Standards Act, 2000. They could be held jointly and/or severally liable for monies owed under the Act.


Vacation Pay


  • Employees would be entitled to three weeks of paid vacation after five years of employment with the same employer.


Public Holiday Pay


  • For the purposes of calculating public holiday pay, employees would receive their average daily wage rate.

Personal Emergency Leave (PEL)


  • All employees would be entitled to PEL of up to 10 days per year, including two paid PEL days (currently, PEL only applies in workplaces with 50 or more employees).
  • Employees who are experiencing sexual or domestic violence, or the threat of either, would be entitled to take PEL.
  • Employers would be prohibited from asking or demanding that employees who take PEL provide a physician’s note.


Leave for the Death of a Child & for Crime-Related Disappearance


  • An employee would be entitled to take leave for up to 104 weeks for the death of a child, caused by any cause.
  • An employee would be entitled to take leave for up to 104 weeks for a crime-related child disappearance.


Family Medical Leave


  • Family medical leave would increase from 8 weeks in a 26-week period, to 27 weeks in a 52-week period.


Investigations & Notices


  • The Director of Employment Standards would no longer be allowed to refuse assigning an Employment Standards Officer to investigate an Employment Standards Act (ESA) claim due to insufficient information provided an aggrieved worker.
  • An Employment Standards Officer would be allowed to order that money owed by an employer to an employee or THA client be paid to them directly.
  • Employees would no longer be required to contact their employer prior to filing a claim under the ESA.


Penalties for Non-Compliance  


  • The maximum administrative penalty under the ESA levied against employers for non-compliance would increase from $250, $500, and $1000, to $350, $700, and $1500, respectively.
  • Employment Standards Officers would be allowed to award interest on employees’ unpaid wages, and on fees that were unlawfully charged to employees.




Electronic Agreements


  • Electronic agreements between employers and employees would be considered as valid as an agreement in writing.


Unionizing (proposed changes to the Employee Relations Act)


  • If 20% of employees in a bargaining unit support a union, employers would be required to provide it with a full list of names and contact information of employees in the bargaining unit.
  • More occupations would be entitled to unionize, including domestic workers, hunters and trappers, along with architectural, dental, land surveying, legal and medical professionals.
  • Bargaining units from different franchisees of the same company in a given region would be required to centrally bargain together.


Getting Ahead of Proposed Changes


All of the above are scheduled to come into force either on January 1, 2018, or with Royal Assent. And while there is the possibility that adjustments will be made as legislators engage in debate and witnesses from different stakeholder groups testify before committees, it is a foregone conclusion that major changes will happen. It is just a matter of how soon and to what extent.


To ensure that your organization and its various HR and labor management policies, processes and protocols are prepared for these imminent changes, contact the PIVOTAL team today. We will provide your executive, management and HR teams with the information and guidance required to safely move forward.


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