Earlier this week the Ontario government announced that controversial changes to the province’s labour laws were on the horizon. While none of these changes will come into effect immediately, since any statutory changes are subject to the regular legislative process to be passed into law, employers should expect the government to move full speed ahead, notwithstanding that the proposed changes face harsh criticism from employers, chambers of commerce and the broader Ontario business sector generally.
If the proposed Fair Workplaces, Better Jobs Act, 2017 comes to pass there will be a number of impacts for employers: in general, it would appear that an employer’s ability to adapt to changing circumstances will be greatly reduced. While the government may ostensibly be looking to improve individual workers’ conditions (and leaving aside the question of political motivation and election timing), we have to question whether the general employment landscape will be better off with employers being forced to change numerous practices to comply with changes to the Employment Standards Act, 2000 (ESA), including:
General Minimum Wage Increase
- $14 per hour on January 1, 2018
- $15 per hour on January 1, 2019
Equal Pay for Equal Work Provisions: Casual, Part-time, Temporary & Seasonal Employees
The proposed legislation would allow casual, part-time, temporary and seasonal employees to request a review of their wages to ensure that they are paid equally to full-time employees when performing the same job for the same employer.
Equal Pay for Equal Work Provisions: Temporary Help Agency Employees
The proposed legislation would also ensure that temporary help agency employees are paid equally to permanent full-time employees when performing the same job for the same employer.
The proposed legislation would set out new scheduling rules, including (among others):
Employees would have the right to request schedule or location changes after having been employed for three months, without fear of reprisal.
Employees who regularly work more than three hours per day, but upon reporting to work are given less than three hours, must be paid three hours at their regular rate of pay.
Employees can refuse to accept shifts without repercussion if their employer asks them to work with less than four days' notice.
The proposed legislation would ensure that employees are entitled to three weeks of paid vacation after five years of service with the same employer.
Paid Emergency Leave
Under the ESA, Personal Emergency Leave (PEL) currently applies only in workplaces with 50 or more employees. Under the proposed amendments, this threshold would be eliminated.Additionally, two of these PEL days would be paid PEL days.
There are also proposed changes to enforcement provisions and penalties under the ESA, and a proposal from the government to hire an additional 175 ESA enforcement officers.
In addition to the ESA, this new proposed legislation would implement changes to the Labour Relations Act, 1995 (“LRA”). Like the changes to the ESA, not many of the proposed changes look particularly friendly to employers, particularly several proposed changes to the union certification process, including:
- Establishing card-based union certification – currently only available in the construction industry – for the temporary help agency industry, the building services sector and home care and community services industry.
- Eliminating certain conditions for remedial union certification, allowing unions to more easily get certified when an employer engages in misconduct that contravenes the LRA.
- Making access to first contract arbitration easier, and also adding an intensive mediation component to the process.
- Allowing unions to access employee lists and certain contact information, provided a union can demonstrate that it has already achieved the support of 20 per cent of employees involved.
The proposed legislation, if passed as currently drafted, may well usher in a new era for employment in Ontario. As always, CCPartners will continue to monitor the progress of this proposed legislation through the legislature. In the meantime, if you have any questions about your statutory obligations or rights, contact our team for advice and assistance.