On November 20, 2014, Bill 18, the Stronger Workplaces for a Stronger Economy Act, 2014 (“Bill 18”) received Royal Assent. Bill 18 made a number of amendments to various employment related statutes and regulations, including the Employment Standards Act, 2000 (“ESA”) and the Occupational Health and Safety Act (“OHSA”). The following shall examine the more significant changes made by Bill 18 that impact employers directly. It should be noted that some of these changes are already in effect.
The Definition of “Worker” Amended in the OHSA
Effective November 20, 2014, the definition of “worker” in subsection 1(1) the OHSA was broadened. It now includes individuals who are performing unpaid work, such as secondary students who perform work for no monetary compensation under a work experience program or unpaid trainees/interns.
The Cap for Unpaid Wage Claims has Been Eliminated Under the ESA
Effective February 20, 2015, all claims made pursuant to the ESA for unpaid wages incurred after that date will no longer be subject to the $10,000.00 cap. It should be noted that for claims filed after February 20, 2015, but relating to unpaid wages that became owing prior to February 20, 2015, the previous $10,000.00 cap will continue to exist. The elimination of the cap is intended only for unpaid wages arising after February 20, 2015.
Additionally, changes were made to the recovery period. It used to be that employees could only claim unpaid wages for a period going back six (6) months. This has now been increased to two (2) years. Again, this relates only to claims for unpaid wages that become due after February 20, 2015.
Information Poster for Compliance with the ESA
As most employers will know, the ESA has long required employers to post the most recent ESA Poster, prepared and published by the Ministry of Labour, in their workplaces. Effective May 20, 2015, in addition to posting the most recent ESA Poster, employers will also be required to provide employees, both current and new, with a copy of the ESA Poster, as well as any revised versions as they are published in the future.
Self-Audit for Compliance under the ESA
Also effective May 20, 2015, employment standards officers will have the power to request that employers conduct self-audits of their organizations to determine whether they are compliant with the various aspects of the ESA. It should be noted that the results of the employer’s self-audit may be used as the basis for an investigation and enforcement action may be taken as result of the self-audit.
Minimum Wage Set to Increase October 1, 2015
The general minimum wage in Ontario will increase to $11.25/hour effective October 1, 2015. This is due, in large part, to provisions in Bill 18 which have resulted in a formula being introduced into the ESA for the calculation of minimum wage. In essence, effective 2015, minimum wage increases will be tied to the Consumer Price Index for Ontario. Each year, by April 1 of that year, the government will publish the new minimum wage which shall be effective October 1 of that particular year.