All provincially-regulated employers in Ontario are governed by the EmploymentStandards Act, 2000 (ESA) and/or the Labour Relations Act, 1995 (LRA) – two major bedrocks of labour and employment law in Ontario. The Ontario Ministry of Labour has just commenced a consultation process/review to consider reform to this legislation. The consultation process/review represents a critical opportunity for employers in Ontario to engage with the Ontario government on key legislation that has far-reaching and long-lasting impacts on the workplace. For any employer that has input on those two Acts, now is the time to act.

On May 14, 2015, the Ministry announced the commencement of the review to consider “what changes can and should be made in the context of Ontario’s labour and employment law regime to continue to protect works while supporting businesses in today’s changing economy”. Two special advisors have been appointed by the Ontario government to conduct the review: Michael Mitchell, formerly of Sack Goldblatt Mitchell LLP, and the Honourable John C. Murray, a former justice of the Ontario Superior Court and prominent management labour lawyer.

The special advisors will determine what changes, if any, should be made to the legislation, and make recommendations to the Minister of Labour.

General considerations during the consultation include the changing nature of the workplace, the workplace itself, and the economy, including the increase in non-standard employment (e.g. on-call work, telecommuting, temporary employment, and “involuntary part-time employment”).

The Ministry has released a consultation paper for the purpose of the review. The paper poses sixteen questions, including:

  • In light of the changes in workplaces, how do you feel about the employment standards that are currently in the ESA? Do the particular concerns of part-time, casual and temporary workers need to be addressed, and if so, how?
  • Are changes needed to support business in the modern economy? How could the Act be simplified while remaining fair and comprehensive? Are there standards in the ESA that you find too complex? If so, what are they and how could they be simplified?
  • Should there be a number of job-protected sick days and personal emergency days for every employee? Are there other types of leaves that are not addressed in the ESA that should be?
  • In the context of the changing nature of employment, what do you think about who is and is not covered by the ESA? What specific changes would you like to see?
  • As workplaces change, new types of employment relationships emerge, and if the long term decline in union representation continues, are new models of work representation, including potentially other forms of union representation, needed beyond what is currently provided in the LRA?
  • Are changes required to the LRA with regard to the ground rules for collective bargaining?
  • Are there any other issues related to the topics addressed in the review that you feel need to be addressed? Are there additional changes, falling with the mandate of the review, that should be considered?

The review, however, will not consider the construction industry provisions in the LRA, the minimum wage and any policy discussions for which other independent processes have been initiated.

Employers in Ontario can provide input to the Ministry through two avenues:

  • At one or more of the ten public consulting meetings that have been scheduled to take place at various locations in the province from June 16, 2015 to September 18, 2015, including Toronto on June 16, 2015 and Ottawa on June 18, 2015. Parties can make a presentation of up to ten minutes at those public consultation meetings, but have to pre-register to do so, and/or
  • By email, mail, or fax to the designated Ministry contacts by September 18, 2015.

However, developing and delivering detailed and effective submissions and/or presentations to the special advisors leading the review is just the first step. To ensure that the Ontario government understands the potential impacts of any changes being made to the ESA and the LRA, it will require business organizations to effectively advocate their positions beyond the formal consultation process. This will require effective advocacy on multiple fronts, including key political advisors, interest groups, media and senior policy makers.