The Ontario Ministry of Labour recently announced that it would be conducting public consultations on “the changing nature of the modern workplace” entitled the Changing Workplaces Review. The Ministry indicates that the public consultations will lead to a final written report with recommendations to the Minister of Labour. Consultations began on June 16.

The public consultations come on the heels of Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne announcing that her government will explore changes to the Employment Standards Act, 2000 (“ESA”) and the Labour Relations Act, 1995 (“LRA”).

The Ministry of Labour indicates that the consultations will consider how both the ESA and theLRA “could be amended to best protect workers while supporting businesses in our changing economy.” 

The ESA regulates employment standards, such as minimum wage, hours or work and breaks, and leaves, in both non-union and unionized workplaces. The LRA regulates unionized workplaces and the collective bargaining process, including certification, strikes and lock-outs, and arbitration. 

The last major amendments to employment standards legislation in Ontario occurred in 2000, with additional changes occurring periodically since then. The LRA underwent substantive reforms in 2005 but the major framework of the act has been in place since 1995.

The Ministry indicates that the review will focus on the following workplace trends:

  • the increase in non-standard working relationships such as temporary jobs, part-time work, and self-employment;
  • the rising prominence of the service sector;
  • globalization and trade liberalization;
  • accelerating technological change; and
  • greater workplace diversity.

The Ministry advises that the review will not, however, consider any of the following:

  • construction industry provisions of the LRA;
  • the minimum wage (which was recently subject of a separate review);
  • policy discussions for which other independent processes have been initiated, such as:
    • the gender wage gap;
    • some specific issues regarding migrant workers;
    • legislation dealing with compulsory interest arbitration for groups, such as police, firefighters and hospital workers; and
    • broader public sector bargaining structures.

Based on recent media coverage, one aspect of the ESA that will likely be considered are the industries and professions that the ESA excludes from certain minimum standards, such as managers, students, construction workers, and information technology professionals. Workers employed through temporary help agencies or labour supply services is another area which may see further reform under the ESA. It is also possible that the enforcement and compliance provisions under the ESA could be amended.    

It is less clear what possible reforms will be considered to the LRA. The most likely aspects of the LRA to be examined are the access to collective bargaining provisions. This might include, for instance, what professions and industries are excluded from collective bargaining under the LRA and the threshold and process for unions to be certified and decertified.  The powers of the Ontario Labour Relations Board are another area for possible reform as the Labour Board currently handles appeals from decisions by Employment Standards Officers under the ESA. 

Comments on the areas covered by the consultations are being accepted until Sept. 18, 2015 and can be submitted to the Ministry of Labour via e-mail, fax or mail:

E-mail: CWR.SpecialAdvisors@ontario.ca

Fax: 416-326-7650

Mail: Changing Workplaces Review, ELCPB, 400 University Ave., 12th Floor, Toronto, ON M7A 1T7