Legislative ‘lumps of coal’ to look forward to after Christmas

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Howard Levitt of Levitt & Grossman has taken a look at what’s to come for employment law in 2015 and he says Ontario employers should expect a lump of coal in their legislative stocking this Christmas.

Two years too long?

“Workers have been granted their wish for quick, cheap and significant relief under the Ontario Employment Standards legislation,” reveals Levitt.

The changes allow employees to recover wages that may have gone unpaid, even due to payroll errors, for up to two years after the incident. It also means employees can recover termination and severance pay, even if they get another job immediately, without turning to the somewhat daunting civil court system. 

“Employers should ensure their payroll is error free or risk being placed on the Ministry's now extended naughty list,” says Levitt. “That unpaid overtime claim now potentially spans two years, rather than six months.”

Accessibility for Ontarians

The next phase of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, 2005 will come into effect in the new year. Organizations with more than 50 employees will be forced to train everyone on the new Integrated Accessibility Standards Regulation and Ontario Human Rights Code.

“The act aims to increase accessibility for the disabled but entails increasingly arduous procedures for employers to navigate,” says Levitt. Right now, there are limited consequences for failure but Levitt expects that to change too. 

Reminder to be good

According to the Human Rights Commission's new sexual harassment statement, “Employers must put in place clear and comprehensive policies that ensure access to and awareness of policies and sexual harassment training for all managers.”

The commission focuses on the greater vulnerability of employees who fall under more than one protected code.

Dealing with mental stress

“Stress-related leaves pose a major challenge for Canadian employers. If not properly flagged and accommodated, mental illness has potentially dire consequences for employers,” says Levitt.

A recent Ontario Ministry of Labour report recommends employers provide “psychological safety training” and update return to work procedures to include “prevention principles, supports and recovery practices.”

“It is unclear what this will look like in practice and what changes in current workplace violence, harassment and discrimination policies will be mandated,” says Levitt.

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